Tracing matter and energy in the high school chemistry classroom
Curran, Daniel Thomas
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The purpose of my project was to improve students' understanding of matter at an atomic and molecular level and better address how energy flows during chemical changes. This action research project was administered to 3 honors chemistry classes consisting of 74 students. Within a chemical bonding unit, I incorporated an additional learning target on bonding energetics. In order to provide a more comprehensive, complete understanding of energy during chemical bonding, I studied the impact of additional energy instruction involving energy diagrams and energy conservation during different reaction types. Also incorporated were lab activities where students first model bond energy and then apply these concepts during a series of chemical reactions. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention, a pre- and post-unit assessment probed student understanding of carbon-transforming processes, a pre- and post-unit survey collected data on student attitudes, student interviews collected in-depth verbal feedback, and instructor field observations made qualitative observations throughout the unit. The results of this study show how students are clearly able to distinguish between matter and energy in explaining the effects of chemical reactions, explain how matter and energy are conserved, and explain the results of bonding energetics on the energy change that occurs within a chemical system.