Authentic Learning Opportunities

My issue with Outcomes Based Education is, as stated in your videos, twofold:  first, it does not fit with the current teaching requirements which are definitely Competency Based; and second, it requires more time from the teacher when class sizes are already so large that time is a precious commodity.  So it is with those two heavy obstacles blocking my view that I look at Outcomes Based Education, and I am not in the least bit able to budge those boulders. 

Furthermore, I wonder how effective Outcomes Based Education is in an introductory class.  Would it be more suited to the college level, after the lower levels of Understanding and Applying have been achieved?  How can you Create and Evaluate if you don’t already Understand?  Chemistry is not a tested subject, so I am not under intense scrutiny.  However, there are TEKS that I am required to teach.  How can I be sure these TEKS were taught to the level of Bloom’s required?  I also teach AP Chemistry, and these tests are scrutinized.  If the student learns Chemistry in an OBE style, how comprehensively did they learn what they need to for success in AP Chemistry?

Chemistry is a very full year that demands a lot of growth from the students just to reach the Applying stage, and it differs from many other subjects in that you build each unit upon the previous topics.  For example, you cannot properly name a compound (in December) without knowing if it is Ionic or Covalent. (November.)  But to understand if a compound is Ionic or Covalent you need to know how different their Electronegativities (Early November) are from each other, which is based on their positions on the Periodic Table (October).  However the Periodic Table was developed by the similarities in the properties of Elements (Early October) which stem from their Valence Electrons (October).  However, Valence electrons are those in certain Orbitals (October) that have different Energy Levels (September) based upon the Quantum Atomic Model (September) which is the latest of the Atomic Models (September.)

So in August, how can I ask them to Create anything that has to do with a compound or molecule?  And interaction of molecules in reactions doesn’t begin till January, so we can’t use a chemical reaction as the starting point.  Furthermore, if they fail in semester one, they are doomed in semester two where we take all this information and react the compounds with each other. 

The students just don’t have the knowledge to work from in High School Chemistry and the TEKS recognize that fact, with verbs such as: “knows”, “calculate”, “describe”, “identify”, “classify”, and “name” being prevalent. For these students, Authentic Learning will probably be geared more towards tying the topic at hand to their own goals.

However, with AP Chemistry, there is strong potential for OBE.  These students are much more self-directed learners and the focus is on understanding “Why” the phenomenon learned in regular Chemistry occur.  Here, the AP Chemistry test is moving away from calculation and rote learning questions and trying to create a test that explores student’s understanding and ability to apply this understanding.

In AP Chemistry, while there are techniques needed to be learned, the difficulty lies in comprehension of the concepts.  Class size is much smaller as well.  As I think about it, this class lends itself very well to OBE.  Experiments can be done, and then explained.  Why? Is a fair question to ask given their base of knowledge.

The risk here, and it is a risk, is that you are trying to change behavior of students who probably have succeeded in the CBE model, and you and the school are evaluated based on their performance on the AP Chemistry test.  (As well as the obligation to do your best to help them get college credit they hope for by taking your class.)

For this, the research I would do would be to try to find a successful OBE AP Chemistry already in place and adopt their model whole.  Because I agree that the students, at the AP level, need to be operating and thinking at the levels you state OBE demands – Create, Evaluate, and Analyze.  The AP College Board is working very hard to design tests that ask questions at this level.