Take-Home Quizzes: Learning to Learn in
Introductory Chemistry - by Holly Walter Kerby and
Types of Problems
About 50% of the THQ problems are similar to those found in most introductory chemistry texts. The purpose of these problems is to have students practice basic skills they need to be successful in chemistry. Some the problems are straightforward, other are quite complicated.
The other 50% of the problems are unlike those found in traditional texts. These nontraditional problems grew out of our realization that because students worked on THQs out of class and could consult notes, text, and each other, we could, quite literally, ask them to do anything we thought would help them learn chemistry.
Here are five types of these nontraditional problems:
- "Connection questions" are designed to help students make connections between the material and their daily lives. For example, one question asks students to make a solution of Kool-Aid and water, put it in their freezer, then pull it out periodically to determine which part of the popsicle freezes first. When the solution is completely frozen, students are directed to determine the solute concentration of various parts of the popsicle by taste. Follow-up questions ask them to speculate how one might freeze-separate components of a mixture.
- "Creative questions" invite the students to be playful and creative. The most successful of these is the "Dance of the Atoms." Here students choreograph, script, and choose the music for a "performance piece" for 9 to 12 atoms (played by people) experiencing a temperature change from 20 oC below the element's melting point to a temperature well above the element's boiling point.
- "Metacognitive Questions" ask students to think about how they learn. Students construct concept maps, plan test-taking strategies, analyze their mistakes on exams, and document their thinking processes in solving multiple-choice questions.
- "Trouble Spot Questions" challenge students with naive conceptions or misconceptions. For example, many students have a difficult time understanding why elemental chlorine is diatomic (Cl2), but chlorine in a compound may be present by itself (NaCl), in twos (MgCl2), threes (AlCl3), fours (CCl4), etc. One question asks them to explain this puzzle.
- "Symbol Questions" require students to get clear on the precise meaning of chemical symbols and how they are manipulated. These questions often have students draw atoms or ions in a compound undergoing physical or chemical change.
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