Monday, March 20, 2017

Electron Configuration

Contrary to what people might believe, traditional, lecture-based teaching is actually quite simple. As a lecturer, teachers simply display a presentation or write notes on the board while explaining a topic. In this scenario, students are simply required to stay seated in place, listen, and take notes. Some students don't even take notes anymore, but rather take pictures of the presentation using their devices, or ask their teachers to send them a copy of it.

However, one might question: Are teaching and deep learning truly being achieved in lecture-based learning? Are students being provided with learning opportunities that involve questioning, critical thinking, and reflecting on their own learning? The answer to all these questions is simply "No."

These are some of the questions I ask myself when designing inquiry-based and concept-based lessons. My students learned about electron shell configuration in chemistry this year. My goal was for them to discover this topic rather than simply lecturing its contents using visual a presentation.

The first step involved accessing my students' prior knowledge to ensure they thoroughly understood the properties of protons, electrons, and neutrons, and their location within an atom. My students had to also recall what they learned about the groups and periods of the periodic table, and the significance of numbers and symbols in this table. Since I have taught most of my students for several years, it was easy to determine how much they already grasped from their previous years.

Students were then provided with a piece of paper and each one was designated an element from the periodic table. They had to display the symbol, atomic number, mass number, number of subatomic particles, and use the Internet to search for and draw a diagram of how the electrons in that element were arranged in an electron cloud. After completing this assignment in class, my students had to figure out on their own how to arrange the elements. They eventually arranged them into rows, whereby each row contained atoms that had the same number of electron shells, and the atoms in each row were arranged in increasing atomic number. Based on their arrangement, my students then had to make conclusions and reflect on the following:

* The maximum number of electrons in a shell
* The relationship between the number of electron shells and an element's position in a designated row of the periodic table

It is through these conclusions that my students were truly able to acquire new knowledge on electron configuration and how elements are arrange in the periodic tabled based on their electron configuration.