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Brian Hand, College of Education, (515) 294-0033
Thomas Greenbowe, Chemistry, (515) 294-7815
Cathy Curtis, College of Education, (515) 294-8986
Kevin Brown, News Service, (515) 294-8986


AMES, Iowa -- A new science, language and computer simulation research project focused on freshman chemistry courses at Iowa State University appears to eliminate the gap between male and female students in science courses and improves student achievement at all levels of science comprehension.

The project, "Technology Enhanced Guided Inquiry Workbook for General Chemistry," was funded in 2001 with a $480,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Lead co-researchers are Brian Hand, professor of curriculum and instruction, and Thomas Greenbowe, professor of chemistry.

"This research has the potential to change the way universities teach chemistry, both nationally and internationally," Hand said.

Data from the study of 700 students in two general chemistry courses shows that students using the new teaching method that combines the computer-simulated science experiments created by Greenbowe and his team with Hand's science-writing-heuristic (using writing to learn strategies linked to inquiry) teaching curriculum improved student learning and comprehension above traditional teaching styles.

"When the simulations are combined with the science-writing-heuristic teaching methods, student achievement on chemistry exams is significantly higher," Hand said. "High achieving students also learned better by using the heuristic and simulations, but low achievers gained even more benefit, narrowing the achievement gap.

"In addition, women who score lower on a chemistry pre-test than men and who experience this combined curriculum, on average, score similar to the average men's score," Hand said. "This virtually eliminates any gender gap."

The simulations are on the Web at sections/projectfolder/animationsindex.htm. Educators both in the United States and other nations have already used the site. The feedback is that others are seeing the same results as Greenbowe and Hand.

The simulations allow students to work on classroom material through several interactive lab, lecture, tutorial and animation programs. Some of the topics covered include electrochemistry, stoichiometry, acid-base equilibria, thermochemistry, conductivity and kinetics.

Hand's science-writing-heuristic teaching strategy engages students in inquiry, reasoning and constructing logical arguments from investigations. The science-writing-heuristic format is used as the basis for the chemistry laboratory notebook. A key part of the program also teaches students how to communicate their findings to others. The program also has been successful in K-12 classrooms at two central Iowa school districts.

The professors will apply for a new National Science Foundation grant to distribute this science teaching method to chemistry courses nationwide.

Iowa State graduate students Han-Chin Liu, Rohini Vanchiswaran, Jason Poock and Kathy Burke have assisted on the research.


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Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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