New Prep, New Digs

The chemistry room I'll be sharing with 4(!) other teachers.

A quick update: Starting tomorrow, I’ll be picking up a section of Chemistry 2 (second semester conceptual chemistry). Our school’s conceptual science courses are split into semesters to make student and teacher scheduling easier. I usually have a section of conceptual physics or astronomy, but this year it’s chemistry.

There’s also no mandatory curriculum, so I am free to experiment. My plan is to implement the 3 modules about matter from the Operation Primary Physical Science (OPPS) curriculum. I’m really excited about it, especially since making my shopping list for the first module:

Hopefully no one will think I'm a terrorist.

Other things I like about the OPPS curriculum:

  • Inquiry-based
  • Structured around the learning cycle
  • Emphasis on student-created models and evidence-based reasoning
  • A detailed teacher guide and student workbook. (A must for a time-pressed teacher like me. I can tweak it next year if needed.)

I also plan on using the Thinking Science materials from Shayer and Adey (thanks to John Clement on the PhysLrnr list who is always talking about them). I’m going to do 2 pre/post tests: the Lawson Test of Classroom Reasoning Skills and an attitudinal survey (likely the CLASS, since that is what Carl Wieman has been using). I’m hoping to see some individual growth in these areas.

My chemistry class is also small — just 11 students. I’m aiming to get some real dialogue going in class and to leave detailed feedback in their journals.

The 3 OPPS modules (Nature of Matter, Mixing Matter, and Heating Matter) should keep us busy for most of the 3rd quarter. Not sure yet what we’ll be doing for 4th quarter.

Anyway, wish me luck! I’ll keep you all updated throughout the semester!


14 responses to “New Prep, New Digs

  1. Good luck and have fun!

  2. How will you tell if gains on the CLASS and attitudinal survey are caused by the curriculum? Will you have a control class?

    Should be fun!

    • Marcos,

      Unfortunately, no control class. However, if attitudes don’t decrease by the end of the semester, that’s actually rare and is considered a win according to the research data. If attitudes increase, that would be an epic win!


        Compared to traditional high school chemistry courses, will you cover more or less material?

      • Vpletap,

        We also offer 4 levels of chemistry at my school: conceptual, college-prep, honors, and AP. I am teaching the conceptual course. The conceptual chemistry class covers the least amount of material — in part due to the fact that we do not get additional lab periods like the other chemistry courses and in part due to the population of students who enroll in the course. While we will cover less material, my aim is to get them thinking deeply about the material we do cover — making observations, devising models to explain those observations, then applying the model to explain new scenarios and revising the model as necessary. Students are rarely asked to reason this way in traditional science classes.

  3. Good luck! Sounds like this will be an exciting experience.

  4. I’m interested to hear how it goes. I admit, I am not very familiar with OPPS (just glanced through the links you offered) but it seems like its designed for training primary teachers – will you be making many modifications to the curriculum?
    Good luck!

    • Jason,

      I found out about OPPS though the PHYSLRNR list. According to the prof who mentioned it, the program had an identity crisis: couldn’t decide if it was a curriculum for elementary students or their teachers. I don’t think I’ll have to make much modification except in places that might ask participants to reflect on their own elementary science curriculum and how they teach certain concepts.

  5. I look forward to hearing about this Frank. How versed are you in Chem?

  6. Hi, my name is Erica Roush and I’m a student at the University of South Alabama in the process of taking an EDM310 class,our class blog address is This semester I am learning about the importance of technology in today’s classrooms. Our assignment this week is to visit a teacher’s blog to explore and comment. I will be posting on my blog about what great information you are discussing in your blog,, feel free to check it out beginning 2-12-12.
    I really like your blog and I’m not at all surprised by your EduBlog nominations and awards. I especially liked your $2 Interactive Whiteboard post. I agree that fostering hands on interaction and encouraging reasoning is important in any education, not just college students. My professor, Dr. Strange, refers to the notion of memorizing and spitting back information for tests and then forgetting it as the burp-back method. In this environment there is little room for developing important questioning skills that allows new ideas to flourish.
    As an adult student I feel when I look back to my days in school that I was merely a zombie, taking what I was told at face value without question or even at times understanding. Now as a college student the concept that it is up to me what I decide to do with the information I am learning is at times exhilarating. Your decision to incorporate OPPS curriculum in your classroom sounds like a definite step forward to shortening the distance between book-smarts and good ole fashioned common sense.
    Logical thinking is a skill and needs to be fine tuned. I wonder if there have been studies to determine whether there is a time sensitive window in which to foster skills in one’s ability to reason logically before this ability is weakened…..Good luck this semester with chemistry:)

  7. Hello Mr. Noschese,
    I, like Erica, am also a student at the University of South Alabama majoring in education also in EDM310. I find it strange that your school does not have a mandatory curriculum for chemistry. I glanced at the topics you are planning on teaching from the OPPS curriculum and it looks like your students will enjoy learning about them. Atoms is a very cool topic to study and it’s amazing that you only have 11 students in your class. It’s a lot easier for students to learn material with a small class rather than having an average of 30 like I did in my high school. Science is such an interesting subject to learn if you have a teacher who presents the information in a fun way. It seems to me like you are doing just that! I like how you will be doing a lot of hands on projects, it makes understanding science so much easier. Good luck to you and your students! I look forward to read how this semester went for you!

    Emily Nadeau

    This is my blog, Emily Nadeau

  8. I was on one of the original OPPS Lead Team member and have used many of the modules with my high school students, including special ed classes, before I retired. Unfortunately, I can only report anecdotal results but students seemed to learn how to ask and answer their own questions about phenomena and begin to build conceptual models. But I have no formal data to show this.
    When I used the materials with practicing elementary teachers they showed gains on content understanding using instruments developed by the outside evaluators. The teachers also said they had an “aha” moment when they realized they were “doing science” and their students could do the same.
    I’m looking forward to hear how your students react with the materials and what other ideas they come up with.

  9. Hi Mr. Noschese,
    My name is Ashley Phillips and I am a student at the University of South Alabama currently taking EDM310. I am an education major, and we are required to post on various blogs and have our own. I will be summarizing your post and my comment on myblog.
    I would love to be in a classroom like this one. It seems so interesting. The OPPS curriculum seem exciting and I am sure the students will enjoy it.
    I hope one day I get to teach in this manner. Science, especially Chemistry is a tough subject, so I think the emphasis on student-created models will help. The fact that you only have 11 students and plan to communicate efficiently is a great aspect. Are the class sizes always this small? I actually prefer small classes because the student and the teacher have more of a one on one relationship. This bond helps the students learn to a higher level in my opinion. I wish you all the luck for a successful year.

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