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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Think for yourself : a writing- based chemistry curriculum

  • Author(s): Morgan, John Andrew
  • et al.
Abstract

Colleges and universities require applicants to have completed chemistry because students develop scientific literacy and critical thinking skills by learning and applying chemistry content. Due to the factual nature of standards assessments, chemistry curriculum is focused on student memorization of facts. As a result, many high school chemistry students are learning chemistry test facts rather than critical thinking skills. Students at Orange County high school, in southern California, participated in a critical thinking chemistry curriculum called Think for Yourself. Students learn to think critically by constructing scientific theories and analyzing problem solving methods. Through a conceptual writing activity, implemented in this curriculum, students constructed scientific theories from common observations by applying their prior knowledge to explaining those observations. Through group and classroom discussions students tested, reaffirmed, and analyzed individual ideas to develop group theories and then scientific theories; applying the scientific method rather than learning about it. I collected conceptual writing and discussion data during the six week implementation and examined the effect of the curriculum on student's scientific literacy development. I analyzed student essays for the use of academic vocabulary and level of conceptual reasoning. Additionally, I analyzed discussions for participation and conceptual change. Collected data supports a development in critical thinking. Students developed their ability to apply prior knowledge to an observation, analyze rationale to adjust ideas and explanations, and derive accurate scientific concepts. Student development in these three areas supports the overall project goal of developing high school student's' ability to think critically by approaching problems scientifically

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