Syllabus: Modeling Instruction in Chemistry

Summers at Arizona State University (ASU) and other locations nationwide


Summary: This STEM workshop course focuses on how to address core concepts (first semester +) in high school and post-secondary introductory chemistry from a model-centered perspective. A follow-up workshop that ASU offers in alternating summers (for two weeks) addresses 2nd semester and advanced chemistry concepts.


Prerequisites: In-service or pre-service teacher of chemistry or physics, or instructor approval.


Course objectives: The emphasis is on plans and techniques for helping students to learn concepts in chemistry from the perspective of systematically developed particle models for matter.  Instructional strategies include a coherent approach to the role of energy in physical and chemical change.


Course plan: Participants are introduced to principles of Modeling Instruction, and then learn how organizing a chemistry course around a series of particle models of increasing complexity can make the experience more coherent to students. They are given tested instructional materials for the nine units that we consider the core of a high school or post-secondary introductory chemistry course, and they work through the activities alternately in roles of student or teacher. They practice Socratic questioning techniques necessary to promote meaningful classroom discourse. They study publications in chemistry education research and reflect on them.


Modeling Instruction overview:

        A three-week Modeling Workshop course provides pre-service and in-service teachers with a deep understanding of core concepts that they are likely to teach in a semester. To exemplify effective instruction, the course is taught using a robust pedagogy, Modeling Instruction. Modeling Instruction corrects many weaknesses of the traditional lecture-demonstration method, including the fragmentation of knowledge, student passivity, and the persistence of naive beliefs about the physical world.

            Content of an entire semester course is reorganized around basic models to increase its structural coherence. Participants have access to a complete set of course materials (resources) and work through activities alternately in roles of student or teacher.

            Thematic strands woven into the course include scientific modeling and use of computers as scientific tools. Mathematics instruction is integrated seamlessly throughout the entire course by an emphasis on mathematical modeling.

            Participants are introduced to Modeling Instruction as a systematic approach to design of curriculum and instruction. The name Modeling Instruction expresses an emphasis on making and using conceptual models of physical phenomena as central to learning and doing science. Adoption of "models and modeling" as a unifying theme for science and mathematics education is recommended by NSES and NCTM Standards, AAAS Project 2061, Common Core Standards, and the NRC “A Framework for K-12 Science Education”.

            Student activities are organized into modeling cycles that engage students systematically in all aspects of modeling. (For a modeling cycle, see .) The teacher guides students unobtrusively through each modeling cycle, with an eye to improving the quality of student discourse by insisting on accurate use of scientific terms, on clarity and cogency of expressed ideas and arguments. After a few cycles, students know how to proceed with an investigation without prompting from the teacher. The main job of the teacher is then to supply them with more powerful modeling tools. Lecturing is restricted to scaffolding new concepts and principles on a need basis.



* STEM: integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

* aligned with Common Core Math Standards and ELA.

* aligned with Arizona Science & Math Standards for high school.

* includes all 8 scientific practices of NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education.

* addresses multiple learning styles.

* addresses naive student conceptions.

* collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking.

* systems, models, modeling.

* coherent curriculum framework, but not a curriculum; thus flexible.

* compatible with Socratic methods, IB, project-based instruction.

* science & math literacy.

* authentic assessments.

* high-tech and low-tech options for labs.


STUDENT LEARNING GOALS: At successful completion of this course, students will have

-           improved instructional pedagogy by incorporating the modeling cycle, inquiry methods, critical and creative thinking, cooperative learning, and effective use of classroom technology in instruction,

-           understood content in 1st semester chemistry (see details below), storage and transfer of energy, scientific thinking skills, and related skills in mathematics,

-           learned instructional strategies: Socratic questioning/whiteboarding/discourse, use of standardized evaluation instruments, improved content organization,

-           strengthened coordination between mathematics and physical science,

-           experienced all eight scientific practices recommended by the National Research Council in “A Framework for K-12 Science Education.” Models and theories are the purpose and the outcomes of scientific practices. They are the tools for engineering design and problem solving. As such, modeling guides all other practices.

-           deepened understanding of chemistry education research in students’ naēve conceptions.



Course content (Major topics in bold. Suggested topics below each major topic.)


I    Particulate structure of matter

      Macroscopic vs microscopic descriptions. compounds, elements and mixtures.

      Explanation of (observed) macroscopic properties using microscopic models.

      Systematic explanation of details with models of increasing complexity.

      Macroscopic evidence for microscopic structure (ionic vs molecular substances).


II   Energy and Kinetic Molecular Theory

      Visualizable models (macroscopic analogs) for solids, liquids and gases.

      Energy storage modes and transfer mechanisms.

      Role of energy in phase change.

      Distinction between heat and temperature.


III Stoichiometry

      The mole concept – relating how much to how many.

      Using equations to represent chemical change.

      Non-algorithmic approaches to chemical calculations.


IV. Energy and chemical change

      Attractions vs chemical bonds.

      Chemical energy, thermal energy and ∆H.


V.  Naēve conceptions about matter and interactions



     You will need the chemistry modeling manual, which includes Teacher Notes, sample worksheets, quizzes and tests, and labs. (Your workshop organizer will provide you with it.) You will also need a 9 x 12” quad-ruled lab notebook. This size will allow you to easily paste in data you collect and graphs you produce from the labs you perform during the workshop, as well as your reflections on the activities and readings assigned during the workshop.  A free textbook is available via pdf online.



Suggested resources and readings (prior to the workshop):


1.     Modeling website at ASU:  Many articles are available on one of the pages: 

2.     Modeling Instruction: An Effective Model for Science Education, J. Jackson, L. Dukerich, D. Hestenes, Science Educator, Spring 2008;


3.     Cognitive Resources for Understanding Energy, Gregg Swackhamer

Pre-publication (2003)

4.     Modeling instruction article by a physics teacher:


Any of the CHEM-Study high school curricula, e.g.

Chemistry; J Dudley Herron, David Frank, et al, D.C. Heath 1993 ISBN 0-669-20367-X


Chemistry: Experimental Foundations (3rd ed). Robert W. Parry, Herb Bassow, Phyliss Merrill, and Robert L. Tellefsen. Prentice Hall, 1982. ISBN 0-13-129254-4.


Workshop readings (in the manual that each participant receives):

Great Ideas of Chemistry.  Ronald Gillespie. J Chem Ed 74 (7) July 1997

Testing for Conceptual Understanding in General Chemistry. Craig W. Bowen and Diane M. Bunce. The Chemical Educator, Volume 2 Issue 2 (1997), S1430-4171(97)02118-3  [Abstract only]


Improving Teaching and Learning through Chemistry Education Research: A Look to the Future. Dorothy Gabel.  J Chem Ed 76 (4) April 1999


Secondary Students’ Mental Models of Atoms and Molecules: Implications for Teaching Chemistry.  Allan G Harrison and David F Treagust, Science Education 80(5) (1996)


Beyond Appearances: Students’ misconceptions about basic chemical ideas. A report prepared for the Royal Society of Chemistry, by Vanessa Barker Kind.

Online in pdf at


Exothermic Bond Breaking: A Persistent Misconception, W Galley, J Chem Ed 81 (4) April 2004


Supplemental readings:


Modeling Methodology for Physics Teachers, David Hestenes, Proceedings of the International Conference on Undergraduate Physics Education (College Park, August 1996)

Online in pdf at


Selections from our textbook- Introductory Physics: A Model Approach, R. Karplus & F. Brunschwig, 2011 The book is  online:  download free at 90% finished in May 2013.  Log in "guest", and password "guest". Or buy in paperback at search on Karplus or Brunschwig. To give feedback on web version, email


Download these documents at

* Whiteboarding: a learning process, by Don Yost (2 page article, 2003)

* Question Their Answers, by Brenda Royce (2-page article, The Physics Teacher 2004)

* Managing Discourse during Class Discussions, by Larry Dukerich & Brenda Royce

* Chemistry lab supplies list

* Chinn & Brewer: Anomalous Data (research summary)

* Daniel Schwartz & John Bransford: A Time for Telling (research summary)


Socratic Questioning Strategies: download at


Modeling Implementation rubric:


Eureka videos #16 to 21: solids, liquids, evaporation and condensation; expansion and contraction, measuring temperature, temperature & 'thermal energy'.  (Visit in the section called ‘flipped classroom’)


Video clips from Ring of Truth: video #2: Change, and video #5: Atoms


What is Modeling? (6-minute video for parents, about 9th grade physics, 10th grade chemistry, and 11th grade biology with Modeling Instruction. 2012)


Derek Muller's 4-minute videos on matter and energy, that include naēve conceptions: weblinks are at


Lindsey, Beth; Paula Heron & Peter Shaffer: Student understanding of energy: Difficulties related to systems (research summary at )



Websites for more resources:

American Modeling Teachers Association (as of  2012):

ASU Modeling Instruction (legacy website):