Guided Inquiry Chemistry Lesson Plans


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Anatomy of a ChemQuest

How ChemQuests are Designed to Enhance Student Learning

To give you an idea of how a ChemQuest is designed, examine the following excerpt from Chemistry Inquiry #8: Structure of Atoms. (Click on the previous link to download a copy.) At this point, the students have not been taught about the structure of an atom. They are not familiar with terms such as atomic number, mass number or isotopes. The following is taken from the information section of ChemQuest #8.

After examining the diagrams and the information presented, the students are asked questions such as

The above questions will force the students to interact with the information and diagrams given previously. They will have to analyze and understand what the notation means. Remember, they have never seen it before and I did not explain it beforehand, nor did they read about it in their text.  In fact, I don't let them use their texts on this assignment! And after they begin to understand the notation, they are asked the following two questions:

Again, the students need to look at the previous diagrams. These questions guide them into discovering that the number of protons is fundamental in determining the identity of an atom rather than the number of neutrons. They will probably also realize that the number of protons and electrons are equal in all atoms. The next questions cause the students to begin forming their understanding for what the atomic number and mass number are:

Let me show you two more questions:

Students would usually much rather open up their books and look at the glossary to define terms such as "isotope" or "mass number", but I do not allow them to use their books on these ChemQuests. Many times I must tell them to put their books away because they are trying to get the "answer" without having to think. By forcing the students to interact with the concepts immediately, they learn instead of regurgitating information.

Every ChemQuest presents information in this manner. They are designed to guide students to understanding. It is literally impossible for them to merely copy down the answer--they must think and learn.

Students end up enjoying learning chemistry this way. None of the worksheets seem like "busy work" to them because they are always being challenged.

Every ChemQuest has a corresponding Skill Practice worksheet. The Skill Practice worksheets are not designed to teach new information; rather, they offer the students the opportunity to sharpen skills they have attained during the ChemQuests. After doing a ChemQuest worksheet, I assign the Skill Practice worksheet. For examples of ChemQuests and their corresponding Skill Practice worksheets that you may use in your classes, please click here.