Is there a way to engage those who struggle with chemistry and help them do well?
— M., Utah
When asked to name their hardest class in high school, people often list pre-calculus math, physics or English Language Arts, but I always answered chemistry! For most of us, chemistry was taught on a very theoretical level and concentrated on concepts foreign to everyday thinking: enthalpy, stoichiometry, orbitals, and so on.
I believe that the current movement toward using phenomena to teach science, connecting science to big ideas and learning more about the nature of science is a big step toward making chemistry more accessible and enjoyable for students. Science is more meaningful when we link real-life observations to scientific explanations. So, answering a question like, “How does soap work?” leads to a terrific discussion about an everyday (we hope!) event and the knowledge we need to explain it. We can even push that explanation further through the questions and investigations that arise from considering a bar of soap.
To make chemistry more engaging, get students to ask the questions and find the phenomena that they want to explore.
Hope this helps!
Photo credit: Lower Columbia College via Flickr