I teach Phy-Chem in an urban magnet high school. Phy-Chem is understood to be a freshmen general science class with an emphasis on physics and chemistry. The Phy-Chem curriculum covers approximately half of the state science framework learning objectives that will be assessed on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) of a student’s sophomore year. This high school is a performing arts magnet school drawing students from within New Haven as well as the surrounding districts. There are approximately 650 students all of which are focused on an art for their four-year high school enrollment. We utilize a block schedule wherein classes are 85 minutes long and repeat every other day. This presents many challenges concerning homework and turn-around time for feedback on in class work because of the long gaps between class meetings. Conversely it does allow for long class periods that lend themselves to activities that utilize multiple modalities.
The challenge in teaching and assessing the concept of phase change revolves around the difficulty of explanation. Phase change, although something one can witness in its gross form, perhaps as ice melting, involves many factors that cannot be seen and must be conceptualized. There is in inherent difficulty teaching students about something that which they cannot see. For example the energy that is being absorbed or released by matter. Consider science instruction, using evidence of the phenomenon to validate that it is occurring. On the surface level the reason for why ice melts is very straightforward, water will transition from a solid state to a liquid state as its temperature rises above zero. The difficulty resides in teaching students to be able to explain why this happens at the molecular level.
For one to effectively teach about the phase changes of water I believe it is necessary to first understand the need for teaching students understanding. One needs to consider the over whelming evidence of the importance of understanding over the memorization of facts. Understanding a concept allows one to apply their understandings to other situations impacting their ability to learn new concepts. Taking the approach that understanding is the goal of teaching a teacher can revisit their teaching methods and adjust them with that goal in mind. Assessing understanding can be difficult because it does not always lend itself to the typical assessment task such as a paper and pencil test. Different methods of assessment will be discussed.
Following the rationale behind teaching for understanding, will be the content needed to deliver effective instruction to meet the learning outcome of understanding the connection of water to life on Earth and the phase changes of water. This section will include a discussion about matter, intermolecular bonds, phases of matter, water and the emergent properties thereof, energy, molecular movement, and phase change.