Centering Chemistry Class on Making Sense of Phenomena

Presented by Ryan Stowe, PhD & Adam Schafer, PhD
Wednesday, June 8, 2022 9:00 am to 12:00 pm

Chemistry courses, according to the Next Generation Science Standards, should focus on helping students make sense of the world by connecting molecular behavior to observable events. This presents significant challenges, as atoms and molecules are far removed from experience and behave in ways that are difficult to intuit from macroscopic experience alone. By carefully orienting class work toward constructing and refining causal accounts for phenomena, a learning environment can bound student sensemaking and support students’ use of science and engineering practices. This workshop will engage participants in reflecting on pedagogical tools and practices supportive of students’ molecular-level sensemaking. Teachers in attendance will have the opportunity to experience perplexing phenomena, construct questions about how and why those phenomena occur, and work as a community to make sense of what they observed. Participants will further reflect on how they would enact analogous phenomena-centered lessons in their local context. Throughout the workshop, teachers will work with materials developed for a NGSS-aligned, transformed chemistry curriculum including formative assessments, teacher guides, and student guides.

Target Audience: High School, Chemistry

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Ryan Stowe, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Ryan earned his Ph.D. from the Scripps Research Institute under the guidance of Prof. William Roush and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Michigan State University mentored by Prof. Melanie Cooper. The Stowe Group at UW-Madison focuses on understanding how chemistry learning environments could and should engage all learners in authentic, meaningful scientific work. Ongoing projects range from small-scale investigations focused on modeling student cognition to large-scale cross-sectional studies comparing transformed chemistry enactments that enroll thousands of students.
Adam Schafer, Ph.D., is a research associate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison mentored by Prof. Ryan Stowe. He taught high school chemistry and physics in Illinois for five years and subsequently earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry Education Research from Miami University under the guidance of Ellen Yezierski. Adam’s work in the Stowe group focuses on working with teacher colleagues to create, assess and refine high school chemistry learning environments.