I recently watched Veritasium’s Youtube video “The Biggest Myth in Education". In the video, Derek Muller explains, “There is a large body of literature that supports the claim that everyone learns better with multimodal approaches.” He ends the video by saying, “The best learning experiences involve multiple different ways of understanding the same thing.” These statements got me thinking about my recent 2021 AP Chemistry Reading experience. For the past 5 years, I have spent a week in June scoring AP Chemistry Exams as an AP Reader. This year the reading was virtual and, for me, it involved scoring about 1500 long free-response questions. While I cannot discuss the question I scored directly, Veritasium’s video got me thinking about a skill many AP Chemistry students are lacking - multimodal understanding of concepts.
In recent years, the AP Chemistry exam requires students to translate their understanding between descriptions, graphs, equations, symbols, and/or particulate models. In addition, long free-response questions have students analyze a chemical scenario through various unit lenses like Bonding, Thermodynamics, Equilibrium, and/or Electrochemistry. As I score responses I notice students confuse terms and concepts from one unit to another. This becomes apparent when students are asked to translate their understanding to a different modality or unit.
Figure 1: Example of completed Concept Summary Sheet - Ionization Energy (editted 8/4/21)
AP Chemistry Concept Summary Sheet
This school year, I plan to explicitly help my students understand AP Chemistry concepts in different modalities. I am going to have students summarize a key concept at the end of the unit through various modalities using a Concept Summary Sheet. Students will show their understanding of a concept through descriptions, particulate diagrams, graphs, symbols/equations, make connections to other units and point out common misconceptions or other concepts students confuse this concept with. I made an Ionization Energy example for my students (see figure 1). To encourage students to think about a concept multimodally, like First Ionization Energy, I will encourage students to highlight part of the concept in all of the different boxes on the Concept Summary Sheet. For example, I highlighted the first ionization energy (IE1) in the particulate, graph, and symbolic boxes to make the different representations of the same idea explicit. I made the squares the size of a 3” by 3” Post-It note. This enables students to cover up each box with a Post-It note so they can flip up the Post-It note to quiz themselves to promote retrieval practice and help them actively study their notes (see figure 2). I made a version of the Concept Summary Sheet where the sticky area of the Post-It notes is grayed out so students know where to write without obstruction from the Post-It note. Download a copy of the document from the Supporting Information below. If you have ELL or foreign exchange students, I have found success in the past year allowing students to describe the concept in their native language in addition to English. I plan to have students complete this Concept Summary Sheet on their own at the end of a unit. During class, students will present their Summary Sheets to their peers on whiteboards. Students will be able to see different ideas so they can add to and improve their own Summary Sheet. I am hoping this activity will spark class discussions where I will be able to help clear up misconceptions and help solidify connections across modalities.
Figure 2: Completed Concept Summary Sheet with Sticky Notes
Chief Reader Report
The Chief Reader Report summarizes the student data and misconceptions for each question of each year’s released operational exam. It is a treasure trove of information and is worth a look at! You can find the Chief Reader Report linked in AP Central under previous AP exams: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-chemistry/exam/past-exam-questions?course=ap-chemistry. The 2021 Chief Reader Report will be discussed during the AACT Best of ChemEd 2021 virtual George Hauge AP Symposium on Wednesday, July 28th at 12:00 EST. During this symposium, AP Chemistry Chief Reader Paul Bonvallet will discuss this year’s reading, student data, and prevalent student misconceptions. You won’t want to miss it! You can register for this free event here: https://teachchemistry.org/news/sign-up-for-best-of-chemed-2021 and AACT members can access the recording on the AACT website and all AP teachers can access the pdf copy of the report on AP Central at a later date.
Becoming an AP Reader
If you are interested in becoming an AP Reader, log into your AP Central account and click on the Professional Development tab in the upper right. There you will find application information. College Board hopes to host a hybrid reading in Salt Lake City, Utah June 3-9, 2022 where some readers grade in person and others grade at home virtually. Paper tests will be scanned in and scored via computer. Find out more information here: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/professional-learning/become-an-ap-reader. It is a valuable experience where you can expand your AP Chemistry teacher network, gain confidence in applying the scoring rubric to student responses, learn about student preconceptions, and improve your grading efficiency.