September 5, 2009
Chemistry Teaching Musings (I)
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
I don’t know if this will become a series (I actually found content for my Chemistry in the REAL World segment) but I was contemplating about my first lab on Thursday and this post was born.
I want to teach students to ask the right questions.
NOTE: I didn’t say I want to teach students to find the right answers. (Which seems to plague most educators and government standards.)
I was thinking about typical General Chemistry (gen chem) labs that I have been doing for what: two years, one semester and a quarter of a semester? Not until I had my lab on Thursday did I finally ask–is it really about the answers or the questions we ask when doing a lab?
The first question in my lab report wasn’t about the results or calculating something else. It was a critical thinking and analytical question. And that just fired the shotgun heard all over my brain. I don’t think I EVER had a lab where the lab report asked a genuinely analytical/critical thinking question. (It could be that I had incompetent Chemistry professors until now….)
So with that super long intro, I want to jump in–Chemistry is a subject that if studied correctly, will not just teach you about different properties of compounds, reactions, atomic behavior, etc. Chemistry helps develop critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, logic and reasoning skills, and patience. =) These skills can stay with you no matter where you go in life, so long as you had a good chemistry teacher to help you develop them. So I thought that labs can be a lot more beneficial to students’ intellectual growth by making them solve problems, but also asking them questions that require them to think critically, interpret data, make conclusions and correlations and heck, even a little creativity. By asking the right questions, it can help students think in a different way and in turn, help them ask the *right* questions.
I think labs can be improved if students find the answers the teacher was looking for and asking questions about the answers they found AND THEN coming up with a procedure(s) on how to address them. And as a teacher, I can read this and see the student’s logical train of thought, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and see if there are any holes or room for improvement.
…Well, I don’t know if this was worth the post (seeing as I am not a teacher yet and I don’t know jack about any chem labs) but maybe this can be beneficial for teachers in other areas of discipline in teaching their content from a different lens. I hope I can speak for all future teachers that we want to improve on how most of our (or at least my) education was TERRIBLE and that a younger generation deserves better. They already inherited a trashed up world–we ought to at least try to teach them tools on how to fix our errors. But hey–we might grow some brains and fix our hyper consuming life style. That, or we are all in trouble.