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Using the SWH to Support NGSS-Aligned Instruction NH SHP 2020 ACS

Using the Science Writing Heuristic to Support NGSS-Aligned
Nina Hike* and Sara J. Hughes-Phelan*
Cite This: https://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.9b00472
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sı Supporting Information
ABSTRACT: To be literate in modern society no longer means that one can simply read and write. In our rapidly changing world
where information is available with a few taps of our fingers, critical thinking and process-oriented learning have become an essential
part of being literate. Therefore, when many of the states decided to create a unifying set of science standards, they included the
process of how scientific knowledge is attained as one its central components, following the recommendation of a National Research
Council panel. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emphasize the need to teach students the process of science
through the science and engineering practices (SEPs). The SEPs go beyond traditional instruction of factual science and describe
how scientific knowledge is attained, evaluated, and revised over time. Since the adoption of the NGSS, teachers all over the nation
have been looking for ways to incorporate this instruction into their classroom. The science writing heuristic (SWH) is an inquirybased laboratory report format that is a tool for students to use to process how scientific knowledge is gained when engaging in
laboratory activities. This paper describes how the SWH was adapted into a laboratory report rubric aligned to the NGSS and
incorporated into a high school chemistry curriculum to teach and assess students on the SEPs within core chemistry content.
KEYWORDS: High School/Introductory Chemistry, Laboratory Instruction, Communication/Writing, Testing/Assessment,
Physical Properties, Kinetic-Molecular Theory
and others5 to connect chemistry concepts to laboratory
investigations. The SWH is both a format for structuring lab
reports and an instructional tool to make laboratory
investigations inquiry-based as opposed to verification-based.
For example, the SWH prompts students to write beginning
questions related to the science content that lead to students
asking questions, making predictions, identifying and using
experimental design, making claims based on evidence, and
reflecting on the process. The instructor takes on the role of
facilitator, guiding students through the thought process instead
of explaining well-defined steps or how a piece of data verifies a
known science concept.
The SWH has been explored in many contexts. The SWH as
an instructional approach compared to traditional verification
laboratories has also been researched to determine the impact on
student’s critical thinking skills and academic achievement. For
example, Gupta et al.6 used Oliver-Hoyo’s Rubric for Critical
Thinking and reported that college students in SWH lab
instruction increased their critical thinking skills compared to
students in traditional lab instruction. Poock7 and his colleagues
studied the ability of teaching assistants (TAs) to execute
inquiry-style pedagogy and their impact on college chemistry
students’ academic performance by observing and scoring TAs’
laboratory instruction. The results showed that the most
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were
developed by writing teams from 26 states that included science
teachers, the National Science Teachers Association, American
Association for the Advancement of Sciences, National Research
Council, and Achieve and have been adopted by over 19 states.1
The NGSS envision science as a fully realized system of science
education.2 The NGSS collaborative effort created standards
that reflected the three-dimensional nature of science.3 One
dimension, the Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), describes the
actual science content.1 The Science and Engineering Practices
(SEPs), another dimension, detail the processes of science. Last,
Cross-Cutting Concepts (CCC) aim to “bridge disciplinary
boundaries, uniting core ideas throughout the fields of science
and engineering”.1 The three dimensions are to be taught
simultaneously during a teacher’s lesson and, when presented
together, form the basis of the NGSS’s Performance Expectations.1 Although the standards are a wide-reaching set of
statements, they are not curricula. Therefore, teachers,
researchers, curriculum designers, and other stakeholders need
to develop specific ways to implement the new standards. Many
different approaches can be used. For example, one way to
manage this is to use engaging phenomena (a tanker imploding,
condensation on the outside of a metal container that contains
water, etc.) and storylines to engage students in inquiry-style
In this paper, we report on one flexible method to structure
high school chemistry laboratory instruction that aligns with the
NGSS, using a well-developed, literature-based structure: the
Science Writing Heuristic (SWH). It was developed by Hand
© XXXX American Chemical Society and
Division of Chemical Education, Inc.
Received: May 17, 2019
Revised: December 15, 2019
J. Chem. Educ. XXXX, XXX, XXX−XXX
What are at least 2 sources of error, weakness, or limitations in the lab design? How might I improve the lab design to account for the issues addressed above? What
new EXPERIMENTAL question(s) do I have, and what new things do I have to think about? How does this work tie into concepts I have learned about in class and
the research of others?
See ref 13. bSee ref 1.
What is my interpretation of my data (graphs, class data, trends, or other analysis) to support my claim(s)? Why did we see the observations that we did in the lab?
What did those observations mean? Have I connected the proper evidence with the proper claim?
What can I claim to answer my beginning question(s) or the class beginning question(s)? (Write a one-sentence statement.)
Practice 8
Practice 4
Practice 7
Practice 6
Practice 5
Practice 3
Practice 2
What general point(s) can I make about staying safe in this experiment? Look up one Safety Data Sheet (SDS sheet)What are the specific safety concerns for the
What is the procedure needed in order to perform this experiment?
What qualitative observations did I make? What quantitative raw data have I collected, and how have I transformed (calculations) my data?
Practice 2
Practice 2
Predict the answer to your Beginning Question.
Identify the independent, dependent, and controlled variables as well as the control group.
Practice 1
Using mathematics and
computational thinking
Engaging in argument
f rom evidence
Analyzing and
interpreting data
Obtaining, evaluating,
and communicating
Planning and carrying out
Developing and using
Asking questions and
def ining problems
Planning and carrying out
Planning and carrying out
NGSS Science and Engineering
What question is driving my investigation?
Data, Observations,
Calculations, and
Variables and
Science Writing Heuristic Sections
Table 1. Relating the Science Writing Heuristica and the NGSS Science and Engineering Practicesb
Journal of Chemical Education
J. Chem. Educ. XXXX, XXX, XXX−XXX
Journal of Chemical Education
Table 2. ChemCom Units and Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations
NGSS Physical Science and Earth and Space Science Performance Expectationsa
Unit 0
Unit 1
Unit 2
Plan and conduct an investigation to gather evidence to compare the structure of substances at the bulk scale to infer the strength of electrical
forces between particles.
Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level
of atoms.
Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in
the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
Use mathematical representations to support the claim that atoms, and therefore mass, are conserved during a chemical reaction.
Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost−benefit ratios.
Apply scientific principles and evidence to provide an explanation about the effects of changing the temperature or concentration of the
reacting particles on the rate at which a reaction occurs.
Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
See ref 1.
successful students, in terms of their final class average,
comprised the group who were with a TA rated highly in
inquiry methods using SWH for both semesters of general
chemistry. In another study, Rudd et al.’s8 results on college
students’ conceptual understanding of equilibrium in SWH-style
laboratories versus traditional verification laboratories showed
that the SWH group was better able to conceptualize
equilibrium by selecting and explaining equilibrium points
than their traditional peers.
Researchers have also studied how SWH-style lab experiences
connect to student understanding of chemistry concepts. Legg9
and her team found that college students who had instructors
who effectively used inquiry strategies and the SWH had
consistently higher performance on lecture exams compared to
students in traditional laboratories, when physical equilibrium
was exclusively taught during laboratory. Putti’s10 research
focused on evaluating the effectiveness of using the SWH lab
approach in advanced placement (AP) chemistry and students’
self-reported higher mastery levels of class topics when prelab
and postlab discussions were used.
Numerous authors have studied how implementing inquirybased prelab and postlab discussions facilitated with the SWH
effects student learning. For example, Burke et al.11 investigated
college students who engaged in SWH inquiry-style lab
discussions with their instructors and gained a deeper understanding of chemistry concepts and experimental design. Then,
Wink et al.12 used the SWH instruction to teach and model for
preservice elementary education teachers the processes of
inquiry, which resulted in the students demonstrating a higher
level of understanding of the nature of science and inquiry. The
purpose of this paper is to show how the SWH can be used not
only as a device to structure inquiry-based pedagogy but also as a
tool to implement the NGSS SEPs in high school chemistry
laboratory instruction and assessments.
Planning and carrying out investigations. Also, the Data,
Observations, Calculations, and Graphs section of the SWH
guide students to transform the data they gather in a way that
addresses the SEPs of Developing and using models and Using
mathematics and computational thinking. The SWH Claims and
Evidence sections provide scaffolding for students to make
associations between the variables observed and discuss and
interpret trends in the data during the lab investigation to
explain scientific content, engaging students in the SEPs of
Constructing explanations, Engaging in argument f rom evidence,
and Analyzing and interpreting data. Finally, the Claims,
Evidence, and Reflection of the SWH and conclusions sections
of the SEP align well with the SEP of Obtaining, evaluating and
communicating Information.
The structure of the SWH presented here is used in a
consistent manner throughout the school year. In the
Supporting Information, we also present how this is handled
in an assessment using a rubric that includes the specific sections
of the SWH. As students carry out different SWH-based
procedures, different aspects of the rubric (see the Supporting
Information) are used until, at the end of the units, entire
activities are covered by the rubric.
This paper reports on the implementation of NGSS-aligned
instruction using the SWH at an urban high school in Chicago,
IL, building on SWH use to support students during laboratory
investigations. The implementation of SWH began in 2012, and
NGSS alignment was carried out beginning in 2014. The school
has 2910 students from the ninth to twelfth grades. The racial
makeup is 82.7% Hispanic, 12.9% Black, 1.7% Asian, 2.0%
White, 0.7% other. 83.4% of the students are low income; 11.4%
are diverse learners, meaning they need additional support
during the lesson. 13.1% are limited English (English language
learners).14 The students that use the SWH are 10th−12th grade
in regular, honors, and International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle
Years Program (MYP) chemistry courses. The class periods are
50 min in length, 5 days a week, with 4−5 students sitting at six
hexagonal tables. Students are instructed to use the SWH to
design a lab, write the prelab, perform the lab, and have postlab
discussions with their groups and during assessments.
Dr. Dena K. Leggett13 developed a version of the Science
Writing Heuristic Rubric that we have adapted by adding
sections on hypothesis, control group, diagram of the procedure,
and uncertainty. We also direct students to compare their lab
results to other scientists, and process or transform their raw
data. The Science Writing Heuristic version we have
implemented and its alignment to the NGSS Science and
Engineering Practices are shown in Table 1. In our
implementation, students use the SWH to address scientific
questions that contain variables needed to design or execute
procedures, elements of the NGSS SEPs of Asking questions and
Our chemistry curriculum uses the Chemistry in the Community
(ChemCom)15 textbook, which incorporates an adaptation16 of
the SWH into the Investigating Matter (Laboratory Investigations) sections of the textbook. We aligned the units of
instruction (Table 2) with several NGSS Physical Science and
J. Chem. Educ. XXXX, XXX, XXX−XXX
Journal of Chemical Education
Table 3. Teaching ChemCom Unit Laboratory Investigations and the Science Writing Heuristic
Instructional Strategy by Science Writing Heuristic Components
Laboratories by Units
Bunsen Burnera
Investigating Matter:
Density of Solids
and Liquidsb
The Floating Egg Problemc
Exploring Properties
of Matterb
Metal or Non-Metalb
Periodic Trendsb
Activity Series of Metalsb
Extracting Zincb
Striking It Richb
Properties of Gasesb
Boyle’s Lawd
Charles’ Lawb
Phase Changesb
Colliding Particlese
Investigating Air-Quality
Science and Engineering
Practice Focus
Evidence Reflection
Planning and conducting
Planning and conducting
Unit 0
Planning andconducting
Asking questions
Unit 1
Constructing explanations
Constructing explanations
Constructing explanations
Using mathematics and
computational thinking
Engaging in argument f rom
Asking questions
Developing and using models;
Constructing explanations
Developing and using models;
Constructing explanations
Using mathematics and
computational thinking
Constructing explanations
Asking questions; Planning and
conducting investigations
Unit 2
Adapted from ref 18. bSee ref 15. cSee ref 24. dAdapted from ref 26. eUnpublished work of Sara J. Hughes-Phelan. fIS, instructor-scaffolded:
Students were provided guiding questions or assistance to lead them toward a certain goal. gIP, instructor-provided: Students were provided with
this piece of information. hSG, student-generated: Students created this information on their own. iCS, computer-simulated: Data were generated
via a computer simulation instead of a hands-on lab. jSection is not included in this lab. kComputer-simulated version of these laboratories available
for differentiation.
Earth Space and Science Performance Expectations. We revised
Unit 0 to intentionally teach elements of all eight Science and
Engineering Practices and introduce students to the SWH. For
the final assessment of this unit, students use the SWH to design,
execute, and produce a full lab report on the bulk property of
density. From Unit 0 on, we revisit specific parts of the SWH to
reinforce specific knowledge and skills, as relevant to the
assignment. We come full circle at the end of the year by having
students design, but not execute, an investigation into an air
quality issue of their choice.
Table 3 above provides a detailed listing of how the
laboratories in our curriculum are taught with the SWH and
SEPs throughout the school year. The first column indicates the
activity and its source: directly from the textbook, adapted from
the textbook, or written by the teachers and others. Students
typically complete all parts of the SWH to continually practice
their writing, reinforce previously taught scientific skills, and/or
formatively assess new skills. Initially, each laboratory
investigation focuses on one specific Science and Engineering
Practice. In later units, multiple SEPs are incorporated in the lab
instruction and assessment. Since our curriculum is done with
students of varying skill levels, we often use differentiation to
make it accessible to our students. Differentiation in these cases
ranges from the use of word walls and sentence stems to
computer-simulated data to group lab reports.
Each lab presented in Table 3 takes up a minimum of three 50
min instructional periods, which includes prelab time, a data
collection day, and postlab time. During prelab time, students
work on their beginning question, hypothesis, variables, safety,
and procedure. On data collection day, they execute the
experimental design provided or designed to collect their data.
During postlab, students process their data and produce the
claim, evidence, and reflection sections. This three-day
minimum for all laboratories not only allows ample time for
students to engage in the inquiry process but also reduces the
number of lesson plans the teacher needs to develop within a
given week. Having an established SWH rubric and points
system used for all laboratories facilitates a quicker grading
process and eases teacher workload. Other time management
strategies employed are peer grading and offering students extra
credit to help set-up, clean-up, and/or organize laboratory
equipment after school.
To illustrate the specific way that the SWH and NGSS Science
and Engineering Practices are integrated, we present two
examples. One is from the very beginning of the course and the
other from the second semester.
ChemCom Unit 0, NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
and the Science Writing Heuristic
Our first unit of the school year is How to Float an Egg?. This
provides students with an introduction to the SWH and NGSS
Practices embedded in lessons on Phenomena and Developing
J. Chem. Educ. XXXX, XXX, XXX−XXX
Define and practice collecting repeated data values and comparing the data to the true or known value.
Final revision of drawings, labels, description, and explanation of the Coca-Cola phenomenon.
Design and execute an experiment to manipulate the density of water to float a raw egg using the ingredients contained in Coca-Cola soft drinks. (See Table 3.)
The Dead Sea YouTube video shows a man visiting the Dead Sea and stating that everyone floats, and no lifeguards are needed. He also holds up large chunks of salt and explains that it is the
reason everyone is floating. Students make connections to the Coca-Cola phenomenon and identify potential experimental design components. (See Table 1, SWH Variables and Control,
and NGSS Practice 2 coverage.)
Write notes on the three states of matter: solid, liquids, and gases. Electrostatic forces are defined, and their impact on density is discussed.
“Learn the rules for determining whether a zero digit is significant or not.”
Revise drawings, labels, description, and explanation of the Coca-Cola phenomenon.
“Calculate the density of a variety of materials and determine the effect of density on sinking and floating behavior.” (SeeTable 3.)
Calculate the density, mass, and volume of various objects using the water displacement method and the density formula.
Practice “the proper way to record valid measurements from any instrument”.
Practice measuring volume with graduated cylinders (water displacement), measuring mass with electronic balances, measuring length with a ruler, lighting a Bunsen burner, and measuring
temperature with a thermometer using beakers, spatulas, and weigh boats.
Student groups make a prediction, select variables and control, identify safety concerns, design and execute procedure, collect and analyze data, and write claims, evidence, and reflection. (See
Table 3.)
Students analyze experiments to identify the variables and control, and then design their own experiment for the Mentos and diet Coke reaction. (See Table 1, SWH−Beginning Questions,
Hypothesis, Variables and Control, Safety and Procedure and NGSS Practices 1 and 2.)
Define density and explain the law of buoyancy by drawing and labeling the experiment detailing Archimedes’ principle. Identify the variables and the control of Archimedes experiment.
Perform calculations using the density formula, D = m/V. (See Table 1, SWH Variables and Control and NGSS Practice 2.)
Read and discuss lab safety rules.
Apply lab safety rules to their everyday lives and evaluate consequences if they are not followed.
Two beakers filled with the same amount of tap water with Coca-Cola cans in the front of the chemistry classroom. The regular Coke is at the bottom of the beaker of tap water and the Diet
Coke is floating in another beaker of tap water.
Draw and label an explanatory model of the Coca-Cola phenomenon. Describe the model and explain why they think the phenomenon is happening. (NGSS SEPs Practice 3)
Write observations, reasoning, experimental design ideas and clues for the Coca-Cola phenomenon for Unit 0 assignments.
See ref 17. bSee ref 15. cUnpublished work of Nina Hike and Sara J. Hughes-Phelan. dSee ref 18. eSee ref 19. fSee ref 20. gSee ref 21. hSee ref 23. iSee ref 24
PowerPointStates of Matter,
Electrostatic Forces and Density
Accuracy and Precision Labh
Coca-Cola Phenomenon Model
The Floating Egg Problemi
POGIL Fundamentals of
Experimental Designe
Close Reading: “Eureka!”The
Story of Archimedes and the
Golden Crownf
Density Practice Problems
POGIL Significant Digits and
POGIL Significant Zerose
Coca-Cola Phenomenon Model
Section C.3: Investigating Matter:
Density of Solids and Liquidsb
Dead Sea Video Phenomenon
Coca-Cola Phenomenon Model
Coca-Cola Phenomenon Summary
Section C.1: Investigating Safelyb
Section C.2: Developing Skills:
Safety in the Laboratory and
Everyday Lifeb
Scientific Tools and Techniques
Bunsen Burner Labd
Coca Cola Density Phenomenon
Table 4. ChemCom Unit 0 and Supplemental Resources
Journal of Chemical Education
J. Chem. Educ. XXXX, XXX, XXX−XXX
Journal of Chemical Education
the SWH as well as addressing aspects of these SEPs: Planning
and carrying out investigations; Constructing explanations;
Engaging in argument f rom evidence; and Analyzing and
interpreting data (see Table 1). The Dead Sea YouTube
video21 is a second phenomenon we use to make the molecular
scale visible to students at the macroscopic level. Due to the
supersaturated nature of the Dead Sea, beach goers can be seen
picking up salt crystals in the video. This provides a tangible
explanation to why an object, such as a Coca-Cola can, might
float in some solutions. In the Electrostatics PowerPoint,
patterns caused due to electrostatics forces having an impact on
density are discussed and related back to the densities of the
regular and Diet Coke in relationship to water’s density, allowing
students to have a deeper meaning of why the cans are floating or
sinking in tap water in the Coca-Cola Phenomenon. The CocaCola Phenomenon provides a context or storyline to teach
density, the NGSS Disciplinary Core Idea, instead of it only
being taught in “isolated scenarios for numerical problems, like
D = m/V”,22 and also is a platform to teach the NGSS CrossCutting Concept Patterns.
At the end of the unit, students are expected to synthesize,
evaluate, and communicate scientific information (NGSS SEP
7) to explain the science behind density by completing the
summative assessment task, The Floating Egg Problem, that was
adapted from Working with Chemistry.24 In this lab assessment,
students use the full SWH and the SEPs to demonstrate their
mastery of the NGSS Performance Expectation: HS-PS1-3.
During the assessment, the student-generated Coca-Cola
Phenomenon model is used by students to design and execute
an experiment to manipulate the density of water to float a raw
egg using the ingredients (sodium ∼ table salt, sugar, carbonated
water) contained in Coca-Cola soft drinks. Students select one
or more of the ingredients to make the egg float to address the
instructor-provided Beginning Question: How can you
manipulate the density of water to make an egg float? Students
make a prediction and write a detailed procedure with specified
amounts of water and ingredient(s) they used to alter the density
of the water as well as how they will collect and process the data.
Density calculations, buoyancy data, and students’ knowledge of
electrostatic forces are used to write the claims, evidence, and
reflections for the lab. The implementation guide for this
assessment is provided in the Supporting Information.
and using models (NGSS SEPs Practice 3) to address NGSS
Performance Expectation (PE): HS-PS1-3. The Coca-Cola
Density Phenomenon is used to frame the unit with the
Disciplinary Core Idea (PS1.A.: Structure and Properties of
Matter) and the Cross-Cutting Concept (Patterns). Students are
introduced to a bulk property, density, and “patterns of
interactions between particles at the molecular scale are
reflected in the patterns of behavior at the macroscopic
scale”.1 Students “develop, revise, and/or use a model based
on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships
between systems or between components of a system”1 by
creating student-generated Coca-Cola Phenomenon explanatory models, and then incorporating their ideas into group
models. The Unit 0 Summary Table, adapted from the
Ambitious Science Teacher Web site17 and provided in the
Supporting Information, is used to keep track of student
observations, reasoning, experimental design ideas, and clues to
explain why the Coca-Cola Phenomenon is happening
throughout the unit. Then, the Safety Considerations section
of the SWH (See Table 1) is addressed using ChemCom Unit 0
Sections C.1 and C.2. Students are also given time to use
chemistry equipment and practice basic lab techniques in the
Scientific Tools and Techniques Lab. The sections and
expectations of the SWH are discussed with students using a
student exemplar. Next, students are expected to use the full
SWH to design an experiment to collect and analyze data to
answer the instructor-provided Beginning Question “What is the
hottest part of the Bunsen burner flame?” in the Bunsen Burner
Lab.18 Table 4 provides descriptions of Unit 0 activities
mentioned in this paragraph and the following paragraphs.
The NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, the SWH
(Table 1), and the Disciplinary Core Idea are used to build
students’ knowledge and skills during the remaining lessons in
Unit 0. Students complete the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry
Learning (POGIL) Fundamentals of Experimental Design
activity19 to practice the Beginning Questions, Variables and
Control, Safety, and Procedure sections of the SWH as well as
the SEPs of Asking questions and Planning and carrying out
investigations. To solidify understanding of the Disciplinary Core
Idea, “the structure and interactions of matter at the bulk scale
are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms,”1
students do a close reading strategy (read and annotate passage,
share with a partner, read again and answer text-based
questions) using the story “Eureka!”The Story of Archimedes
and the Golden Crown20 and density practice problems. The
Significant Digits and Measurement and the Significant Zeros
POGIL activities19 are used to teach students how to collect
reliable data for experiments addressing the Procedure section of
the SWH and SEP of Planning and carrying out investigations
(Table 1). Student groups are then asked to revisit their
individual and group Coca-Cola models to revise their initial
models and explanations with the science content and skills
learned thus far. Then, students are given their second
opportunity to use the full SWH to explore the instructorprovided Beginning Question “How does density affect the
buoyancy of solids and liquids?” for the ChemCom Unit 0
Investigating Matter: Density of Solids and Liquids Lab.15
The NGSS Cross-Cutting Concept of Patterns is used to
further illustrate the relationship between the macroscopic and
molecular scales in the final lessons for Unit 0. The Dead Sea
video21 and the States of Matter, Electrostatic Forces, and
Density PowerPoint lessons provide students with more science
reasoning for the Hypothesis, Claims, and Evidence sections of
ChemCom Units 1 and 2, NGSS Science and Engineering
Practices, and the Science Writing Heuristic
For the sake of conciseness, our implementation of Unit 1 of
ChemCom will not be discussed in detail in this paper. The
following information is an overview of the unit. The goals of
Unit 1 focus strongly on giving students a deep understanding of
essential chemistry such as atomic structure, the periodic table,
chemical reactions, and the law of conservation of mass. The
laboratory investigations in this unit are treated as alternate
access points into the content knowledge. As Table 3
demonstrates, all procedures are provided to students, and
most of the analysis is scaffolded. A lot of attention is given to
teaching students the connection between the macroscopic and
symbolic levels of chemistry, emphasizing the SEPs of
Constructing explanations, Engaging in argumentation f rom
evidence, and Analyzing and interpreting data in the Claim and
Evidence sections of the SWH lab reports. Great weight is given
for students to be able to read and understand the lab protocols
provided, and to collect quantitative and qualitative data.
J. Chem. Educ. XXXX, XXX, XXX−XXX
Word problems to build students’ basic understanding of the concept of pressure and their ability to use the equation.
A reading to introduce students to the concept and equation for pressure (P = A ), which will be necessary to provide reasoning in future claim and evidence explanations.
The first few pages of Unit 2 in ChemCom,a introducing students to the units anchoring problem. This lesson exposes students to potential beginning questions they can use
for their final project.
A stations lab with activities ranges from weighing the air in a balloon to using temperature to change the volume of a balloon to practice reading and executing procedures and
collecting data. (SeeTable3.)
A brief YouTube videob that shows train tank car crushing like a tin can after it has been steam cleaned.
See ref 15. bSee ref 25. cSee ref 26. dUnpublished work of Sara J. Hughes-Phelan in Supporting Information.
Students use the Gas Properties PhET simulation to collect data about pressure and volume when temperature and number of gas particles is held constant. The simulation
shows the behavior of the gas particles and how their behavior changes when other variables are manipulated. (See Table 3.)
Section A.9: Investigating Matter: Exploring Volume− A laboratory investigation involving trapping some heated air in a capillary tube with an oil plug and measuring how the volume of that air bubble changes as it cools. (See
Temperature Relationships (Charles’ Law Lab)a
Table 3.)
Section B.1: Atoms and Molecules in Motiona
A reading that introduces students to the five formal postulates of the Kinetic Molecular Theory (KMT).
Section B.2: Modeling Matter: Understanding Kinetic A modeling activity in which students are asked to visualize a box filled with super balls and connect their super ball model to the KMT and their experiences regarding the gas
Molecular Theorya
laws. Students will need this information for future claim and evidence sections of SWH and NGSS Practices (Practices 4, 6, and 7).
Section B.8: Investigating Matter: Phase Changesa
Students monitor the temperature of water as it progresses from the solid to liquid to gas phase in this standard lab. Students are given guidelines for how to conduct the
experiment but must make many important decisions on their own. (See Table 3.)
Section C.5: Collision Theorya
A reading that introduces students to the idea that chemical reactions can only happen when energy is applied to break the existing bonds, with collisions being one way to
generate energy to break bonds. This information will be helpful for analyzing data in the next lesson.
Extending the Kinetic Molecular Theory: Colliding
Students collect data on how an independent variable of their choice (temperature or concentration) effects the rate of a chemical reaction. A procedure is provided for each
Particles Labd
variable and safety concerns identified for them. All the other parts of the SWH and NGSS Practices students must generate on their own. (See Table 3.)
Putting It All Together: Air Quality Investigationa
Students conduct research and design an experiment to investigate any topic of their choosing related to air quality. (See Table 3.)
Section A.3: Developing Skills: Applications of
Boyle’s Law Labc
Anchoring Phenomena: The Crushing Tank Car
Section A.2: Pressurea
Section A.1: Investigating Matter: Properties of Gasesa
Unit Problem: Investigating Air Quality
Table 5. ChemCom Unit 2 and Supplemental Resources
Journal of Chemical Education
J. Chem. Educ. XXXX, XXX, XXX−XXX
Journal of Chemical Education
Lussac’s Law, and the Ideal Gas Law. Laboratory investigations
are not used to derive Gay−Lussac’s Law or the Ideal Gas Law,
as it is expected that students understand that these
mathematical equations are models for how gas particles behave
after engaging in laboratory investigations for Boyle’s and
Charles’ Law. The final lessons before the summative exam
enable students to Construct explanations by solidifying ideas
regarding particle behavior by examining the strengths and
weaknesses of kinetic molecular theory (Section B.1 and B.2)
and collision theory (Section C.5). 15 In Section B.8,
Investigating Matter: Phase Changes Lab,15 they apply these
ideas toward constructing an explanation about particle
movement during and between phase changes.
The grand finale for this sequence of lessons is the Extending
the Kinetic Molecular Theory: The Colliding Particles Lab (see
the Supporting Information) in which students synthesize all
this information to derive an equation for changing reaction rate
(Develop a model) and explain how reaction rate changes as a
result of another factor, either temperature or concentration
(Constructing explanations, Engaging in argumentation f rom
evidence, and Analyzing and interpreting data). The chemical
reaction explored in this lab is the one between hydrochloric
acid and calcium carbonate to produce carbon dioxide, water,
and calcium chloride. If students choose to explore the effect of
temperature, they heat their hydrochloric acid in a warm bath to
various temperatures and time the reaction. If they select
concentration, they are provided with six different concentrations of hydrochloric acid, and they time the reaction. From
the information provided, students make a prediction with
reasoning about whether their data will show an inverse or direct
relationship, collect highly accurate and precise data, process the
raw data using math to prove which relationship exists, explain
the underlying science to the relationship in terms of particle
behavior, and suggest improvements to the design of the lab to
attain higher quality data.
Sections C and D of ChemCom15 end the unit by exposing
students to various issues connected to air quality such as the
composition of the atmosphere, electromagnetic radiation, types
of pollutants, methods of measuring pollution, smog, acid rain,
and greenhouse gases. Unit 2, Putting it All Together,15 finally
comes, where students apply what they learned to develop their
own investigation into an air quality issue (Asking questions and
def ining problems). They receive explicit instruction on how to
narrow down and define their inquiries in a scientifically
appropriate manner and are provided with consistent feedback
as they research their topic. Their final product contains the
research behind their chosen topic, which incorporates the Data
and Observations and Claim and Evidence sections of the SWH,
which is then followed with a Beginning Question, Hypothesis,
Variables, and Safety and Procedure (which they do not
perform) sections for how to collect data on that topic. This
project assesses everything learned throughout the year as
students must apply their Unit 0 knowledge of planning
experiments; their Unit 1 knowledge of elements, chemical
reactions, and conservation of mass; and their Unit 2 knowledge
of gases and models to create a quality product.
Unit 2 is focused primarily on the gas laws and gas particle
behavior with extensions into rate of reaction as the final
assessment, NGSS PE: HS.PS1-5: “Apply scientific principles
and evidence to provide an explanation about the effect of
changing the temperature or concentration of the reacting
particles on the rate at which a reaction occurs.”1 The first
pedagogical laboratory focus is a continued emphasis toward the
SEPs of Constructing explanations, Engaging in argumentation
f rom evidence, and Analyzing and interpreting data. Students must
be able to explain the cause and effects changes seen in the data
in terms of particle movement. Students largely do this on their
own after receiving support in these Practices in Units 0 and 1.
The second laboratory focus of this unit is teaching students how
to derive mathematical equations from data (Developing and
using models) so that they may understand math as a model of a
physical phenomenon. For derivations to be possible, the data
collected must show a high level of precision. Though all
procedures are provided to students, the experiments are
challenging and require a greater attention to detail to carry
them out successfully. The CCCs of Patterns, Cause and effect,
and Scale are emphasized in this unit as students analyze these
phenomena at different scales (macroscopic and particulate) to
provide evidence of causality.
Table 5 provides descriptions of Unit 2 activities as they are
discussed in the following paragraphs; in many cases, the
description includes an indication of how each lesson connects
to SWH. The unit begins with two introductory activities: The
first few pages introduce students to the unit problem (designing
an experiment to investigate an air quality issue), and then, in
Unit 2 Section A.1 create a common set of experiences via a
stations lab that students call upon repeatedly as they learn new
information about gases. We then move to the anchoring
phenomenon for the gas laws portion of the unit: The Crushing
Tank Car.25 Students individually develop a macroscopic and
particulate explanatory model to explain the phenomenon and,
then, incorporate ideas from others in the group to come to a
consensus model. This phenomenon is revisited several times
throughout the unit to allow students to make modifications to
their model and explanation. A final model is constructed before
the Reaction Rate Lab. Following this, they get introduced to
their first mathematical model (P = A ) in Unit 2 Sections A.2
and A.3 of ChemCom,15 where students use this equation to
make predictions and construct explanations about the pressure
in different situations.
The next set of lessons builds further model development by
introducing students to deriving mathematical equations from
patterns in data. First, they derive Boyle’s Law using a computersimulated lab.26 Using a computer-simulated lab at this point
helps ensure precise data so that students may focus on
understanding the particle behavior and how to derive the
mathematical equation in the data, claim, and evidence sections
of their SWH lab reports. Next, they perform a real-life
laboratory investigation of Charles’ Law (Section A.9).15 Table
3 shows that students generate most of the parts of the SWH on
their own, especially when they engage in the SEP practices of
Using mathematics and computational thinking and Constructing
explanations. They receive support from the instructor to
extrapolate the data to absolute zero and to understand the
purpose of this extrapolation, both as a scientific law but also as a
measure of accuracy.
Throughout Sections A and B of Unit 2 students practice
traditional word problems of Boyle’s Law, Charles’ Law, Gay−
The SWH as an instructional strategy with the implementation
of the Next Generation Science Standards Science and
Engineering Practices has made designing and comprehending
experimental design as well as executing a lab investigation
accessible to our students. Students can identify and explain how
J. Chem. Educ. XXXX, XXX, XXX−XXX
Journal of Chemical Education
to manipulate an independent variable and measure dependent
variables in their student-generated procedures as well as the
prewritten procedures from the Chemistry in the Community
textbook.15 By the end of the school year, even the students that
initially struggle can select and measure a specific independent
and dependent variable in their procedures. However, students
consistently struggle with identifying and including how to
monitor controlled variables (constants) and control groups
within their procedures. The SWH also puts a great deal of
emphasis on scientific conventions, such as having titles, labels,
neat graphs, etc., to arrange collected data with minimum
attention being paid to the precision and accuracy of the data. All
students can support their claims with evidence after one year of
instruction but have a hard time using scientific reasoning to
connect their evidence with their claim. The most challenging
obstacle students face using the SWH is in reflecting on how to
improve the experimental design in the reflection section.
Students consistently focus on human errors made during data
collection rather than on flaws in the design itself.
Beyond the chemistry classroom, students have been able to
extend their learning experiences gained using the SWH, engage
in the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices by participating
in the City and State Science Fairs, and earn college credit in our
International Baccalaureate Diploma Biology course. Students
in the IB MYP (9th−10th grade) that matriculated to Diploma
Biology (11th−12th grade) during the 2014−2018 school years
used the SWH with NGSS SEPs in their science courses to
conduct lab investigations and prepare for the IB Biology
Diploma Internal Assessment. The “Internal Assessment
accounts for 20% of the final assessment and this is assessed
through a single individual investigation”,27 where students
show their mastery of using the SWH and NGSS Practices. The
number of students who earned college credit in IB Diploma
Biology increased from 52% in 2014 to 70% or higher by 2018.28
As teachers, its use has been a tool to evaluate how often and in
what capacity the Science and Engineering Practices are present
in the curriculum and to adjust our instruction accordingly.
The authors declare no competing financial interest.
Special thanks to Prof. Donald J. Wink of the University of
Illinois at Chicago for his guidance throughout the development
and implementation of the Science Writing Heuristic, Next
Generation Science Standards, and Chemistry in the Community curriculum at Curie High School and for his helpful
comments in the preparation of this paper. Thank you to the
Curie High School administration (Allison Tingwall, Principal,
and Sussan Oladipo, Assistant Principal) for allowing us to
develop and implement our curricula ideas. Portions of the work
in this paper were developed with professional development
support funded by the National Science Foundation (Chicago
Transformation Teacher Institutes, DUE-0928669) and the an
I-STEM Science Area Partnership grant from the Illinois State
Board of Education.
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sı Supporting Information
The Supporting Information is available at https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jchemed.9b00472.
Science writing heuristic rubric (PDF, DOCX)
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices and elements
aligned to SWH (PDF)
Coca-Cola summary table (PDF)
Floating egg lab implementation guide (PDF)
Extending the kinetic molecule theory: colliding particles
lab implementation Guide (PDF)
Corresponding Authors
Nina Hike − Curie Metropolitan High School, Chicago,
Illinois; Email: nhike@cps.edu
Sara J. Hughes-Phelan − Curie Metropolitan High School,
Chicago, Illinois; orcid.org/0000-0001-8675-2876;
Email: shughes1@cps.edu
Complete contact information is available at:
J. Chem. Educ. XXXX, XXX, XXX−XXX
Journal of Chemical Education
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