Design Research on the Teaching and Learning of Conceptual Understanding in High School Chemistry Though the Use of Dynamic Visualizations of Physical and Chemical Changes

The project will establish a sustained community of practice for high school teachers skilled in the VisChem Approach and a group of new teaching and research scholars with expertise in building conceptual understanding through the effective use of visualization. The project will help students move from describing phenomena to explaining their causes from a molecular-level perspectives (e.g., carbon dioxide in climate change, DNA changes in genetically modified organisms).

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This is a late-stage design and development proposal in the teaching strand which addresses the teaching and learning of chemistry at the secondary level, grades 10-12. There is a critical need to transform chemistry teaching and learning from an emphasis on description of phenomena to deep understanding consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will establish a sustained community of practice of teachers skilled in the VisChem Approach and a group of new teaching and research scholars with expertise in building conceptual understanding through the effective use of visualization. The project will help students move from describing phenomena to explaining their causes from a molecular-level perspectives (e.g., carbon dioxide in climate change, DNA changes in genetically modified organisms). With a focus on traditionally under-served groups including English Language Learners, the project will impact up to 80,000 high school chemistry students from a broad range of socioeconomic, geographic, and racial backgrounds.

This project will develop teachers' knowledge and skills to help their students build accurate molecular-level mental models to explain phenomena as opposed to the overemphasis on description with abstract symbolism and language. Three chemistry teacher cohorts (N = 64) will participate in intensive nstitutes to learn the research foundation and pedagogical moves for the VisChem approach. The approach uses carefully produced dynamic visualizations with teaching strategies informed by a cognitive learning model. Key to VisChem is communication of internal visualizations using storyboards (drawings with explanation) of chemical and physical changes. The project will use an iterative research design examining teacher and student learning in the Institutes and how they implement the learning in classrooms. Data collected will include teachers' storyboards, classroom videos, and pre/post student assessments. Evaluation will provide iterative feedback to incrementally improve the institutes during the project.

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