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Teaching Chemistry in Context-ULFA RAHMI

Teaching Chemistry in Context-ULFA RAHMI

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Published by Ulfa Rahmi
at Deakin University
at Deakin University

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Published by: Ulfa Rahmi on Feb 28, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Teaching Chemistry in Context: UsingIssues-based and Community-basedApproach
Currently, in Indonesia particularly in Aceh, most teachers are using content-based instruction.This is happening because teachers emphasize a wide range of topics in the written curriculumto prepare students for the standardized assessment. As a consequence, most teachers teachsuperficially and seem to forget the main purpose of teaching science, that is, to make studentsscientifically literate. Additionally, students are disenchanted with science and find itunimportant, un-engaging, and irrelevant to their life (Rennie, 2006).New research has confirmed that teaching science contextually is more effective in order tomake students scientifically literate as they can build a relationship between context andconcept. Hence, this paper will discuss how contextual learning could benefit students inmaking meaning about the knowledge. Additionally it will present as example of learningchemistry in context by using an issues-based approach and a community-based approach.
Many students view and experience chemistry as a difficult subject to understand. This isbecause chemistry has a lot of abstract concepts with its technical terms which are very difficultfor the students to relate with their everyday life. The situation is aggravated since most
teachers tend to use a “chalk and talk” or “drill and practice” instruction. As a result, the
knowledge that the students receive is overloaded yet superficially understood and isolated asthey are unable to give meaning to what they have learnt. This situation could lead to lowengagement in classes and the forgetting of material afterward. Lack of relevance also could bethe case where the students can solve problems only if it is presented in the ways they weretaught and lack of transfer where the students are unable to relate the concept with the real
life context (Gilbert, 2006). Also, the emphasis on “solid foundation”, “correct explanation” and
“scientific skill development “ seems to
be inadequate emphasis since science should be morefocused on the  development of scientific literacy (Pilot & Bulte, 2006:1088).Context-based learning is considered as solution of the unsatisfactory outcomes of traditionalschool science. It is believed that teaching in context will give students a clear understanding onthe canonical science concept. Teaching contextually is not about teaching the chemistrycontent and then providing real application but it is about using the real situation that can beexplained by the use of chemical concept (Corrigan & Rodriguez, n.d). It is expected that the
recognizable context could attract students’ attention and the desire of finding
out thephenomena will drive
the “need
stimulus for understanding the chemical concept(Bulte, Westbroek, Jong & Pilot, 2006:1063; Gilbert, Jong, Justi, treagust & Driel, 2002). Hence,an issues-based and a community-based approach will be used as the way of teaching thechemical concept contextually.It is a human nature that when faced with controversial issues in society, we tend to havediscussions in seeking explanations. Similarly, students are more interested in learningchemistry when they are given an issue or problem that they can relate to. An active learningapproach which places science content within a social context in a way that supplies bothmotivation and the ownership of learning to the student is known as issues or socio-scientificbased approach (Pedagogy in action, 2010). With this approach, students might find the issuesraised by the teachers are personally relevant and socially shared and might be in conflict with
one’s existing conception. Compare
d to the conventional instruction that uses a closedquestion and often works in isolation, the question that is raised by the teachers in the socio-scientific approach is an open-ended one which requires the students to explain the problem byusing a conceptual understanding and evidence. Generally, this approach requires cooperativelearning which could promote students communication skills, scientific problem-solving andsocio-scientific decision-making skills (Holbrook, 2005). Wongsri and Nuangchalerm (2010) alsoexplain that by learning using socio-scientific, it could increase learning achievement asstudents could understand the conceptual knowledge, analytical thinking and moral reasoning.

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