Especially JCE: February 2016

The extent of my involvement with football is to check scores to see who won the Super Bowl and to watch an online recap of the best commercials that aired during the game. Nonetheless, I was excited to read, appropriately enough, on Super Bowl Sunday, a football-focused activity in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education. What was the draw?

First was the title and author. I was happy to see the phrase “high school chemistry classroom” as part of the title Nature or Naughty: Bringing “Deflategate” to the High School Chemistry Classroom, along with a high school educator, Elizabeth J. Megonigal, as its author. The peak of high school author numbers during my time as JCE precollege editor was a little over 20 authors during a year—there is room for more! Do you teach at the high school level? Consider submitting your work to the Journal. Or do you know a high school teacher you could encourage and mentor in a submission? Please do!

The big draw was the activity itself. Students use real-life data from an investigation conducted to determine whether environmental conditions could have been the cause of underinflated footballs used in a championship game in 2015. It’s a real world event that many students have heard about, with an opportunity to connect it to gas laws. I also like the idea that students get a chance to grapple with figuring out what information they actually need from the investigation’s report. The author comments, “Too often in education we give students just the limited information they need to answer a question. This unrealistic situation does not require students to think critically about the wide variety of data that often accompany real-world problems.” Students analyze their selected data; decide whether nature was to blame (environmental conditions), tampering was to blame, or if it is inconclusive; then present their findings to the class. The suggested plan fits it into two 45-minute classes with homework. If instructors wish to spend additional time, the extension appealed to me—to read several articles before data from the independent investigation was published, then articles after the report was released. There were plenty to choose from in a brief Internet search I did, including a January 2016 article reviewing the controversy a year later.

Confused. Interested. Lost. Challenged. Frustrated. Anxious. Confident. These words all describe the feelings a chemistry student had about her chemistry lab course, both on a particular day and in general. They’re part of figure 3 in the other article that drew my attention in this month’s issue, Investigating Affective Experiences in the Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory: Students’ Perceptions of Control and Responsibility. Researchers had students fill out a matrix like that shown in Figure 3, but also interviewed them to get a better picture of why they chose certain feelings. Even if you just have a chance to read through the Results and Discussion section, it would be valuable, with its excerpts from student interviews and a discussion of implications for teaching, including how students and instructors feel differently about carrying out a lab. A list of feelings would be so easy to ask students in a range of grade levels to mark. How do they feel? How does it affect their learning in your classroom?

For the entire issue, see Mary Saecker’s JCE 93.02—February Issue Highlights. 

Idea Exchange at the ChemEd Xchange

What are your thoughts on this month’s issue? If you see an article that sparks your interest in this month’s table of contents or any article in the “Articles ASAP (As Soon As Publishable)” tab on the JCE home page, please share! Contributors can submit an article or a “Pick” or even simply comment on this post. Submit a request to contribute, explaining you’d like to contribute to the Especially JCE column. Questions? Contact us using the XChange’s contact form.