Moving Students From Description to Explanation with VisChem

Presented by Dr. Ellen Yezierski
Tuesday, June 7, 2022 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Participants will experience the VisChem Approach. This approach uses carefully produced, dynamic particle-level animations, combined with constructivist teaching strategies, all informed by a cognitive learning model and the latest research on learning through multimedia, to foster conceptual understanding of chemistry. A key strategy of the approach is refinement of the learners’ internal visualizations using storyboards (drawings with explanation) of chemical and physical changes. Educational research has repeatedly shown that use of particle-level models is vital to building student understanding of reactions in solution. Participants will get access to a suite of VisChem resources during the workshop (animations and storyboard templates) and will be able to download them and use them indefinitely. The workshop builds teacher expertise in pedagogy that simultaneously implements molecular-level models and addresses the cognitive challenges of molecular visualizations. It supports teacher learning to help move students from phenomena description to explanation to deepen conceptual understanding in alignment with the NGSS.

1. Target Audience: Secondary Chemistry and Physical Science teachers

2. Learning outcomes:

A. Use the particulate level to explain core chemistry concepts; relate these explanations to macroscopic phenomena, symbolic representations (formulas, equations), and mathematical relationships (e.g., concentration as a crowding of particles in a given volume of solution represented as c = n/V).

B. Identify the limitations of dynamic molecular models generally (and specifically VisChem animations) and recognize how limitations influence student thinking and generate inaccurate ideas.

C. Experience VisChem tools (e.g., frames from animations, static models, sample drawings and graphics) and strategies (e.g., peer discussion, storyboarding, attention focusing, segmenting) in a learner role.

D. Begin to plan how to implement VisChem animations and the VisChem Approach in your classroom.

VisChem is aligned with the follow NGSS SEPs: developing & using models and constructing explanations; and critical disciplinary core ideas: matter & its interactions, motion & stability: forces & interactions, and energy.

3. Originals for required copies will be furnished at least a week before the event.

4. Presenter: Ellen Yezierski, Professor of Chemistry; Director, Center for Teaching Excellence, Miami University, Oxford, OH.

Return to Workshops


Dr. Ellen Yezierski received a B.S.Ed. in chemistry from the University of Arizona. and taught high school chemistry for seven years, while she earned an M.Ed. in secondary education from Northern Arizona University. Then she earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction from Arizona State University. While teaching at Grand Valley State University, she and collaborator Dr. Deborah Herrington designed and implemented Target Inquiry (TI). Results from TI have been presented to the Chemical Sciences Round Table at the National Academies. Lessons developed in the TI program have been widely disseminated to teachers across North America through the TI website, journals, and presentations at BCCE meetings. As a Professor at Miami University, Dr. Yezierski has implemented the TI model, and has built a professional development lab to investigate chemistry teacher learning. The Yezierski group is currently implementing VisChem, a new professional development and research program in high school chemistry. Dr. Yezierski has won teaching awards at all levels, as well as scholar awards, and is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society. Visit the Yezierski Research Group to learn more about their activities and outcomes. Dr. Yezierski currently directs Miami University’s Center for Teaching Excellence in addition to the VisChem project.