The influence of didactic innovations on the effectiveness of chemical education

M.C. Sklodowska University, Lublin, Poland

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Abstract

Introduction

In every educational level a number of pupils not achieving satisfactory effects despite much effort increases. Such pupils exhibit specific difficulties in learning called dyslexia. The difficulties are usually incomparable with the pupils’ age and other cognitive abilities as well as school skills. They do not result from mental retardation or sensorimotor disturbances [Augur J., 1997]. Dyslexic pupils are often characterized by a higher level of intelligence than the average. However, they cannot work effectively in the traditional educational system. Despite their hard work they usually achieve worse results contrary to the pupils without dysfunction [Ragkousis A. 2000; Kaminska-Ostep A. Gulinska H. 2004]. Promoting teaching chemistry of pupils with dyslexia is a new area of research in chemical education.

Theoretical perspective

There is no typical dyslexic person model. However, a set of symptoms typical of dyslexia can be distinguished. These include;

  • divergence between the mental development level and the reading level
  • lower capability of visual – auditory analysis and synthesis
  • poor short term memory for words
  • language and speech difficulties
  • difficulties in element arrangement and sequence separation
  • lack of distinct hand lateralization
  • frequent spelling mistakes, lowered graphical level of writing
  • disturbances in time –space orientation
  • disturbances in motorial development and manual competence.

The above mentioned symptoms are observed in most dyslexic pupils, which does notmean that each of them possesses all these features. This group of learners requires individual didactic-educational influence [Brejnak W. 1999].

The way dyslexic pupils learn is different from the one characteristic of dysfunction free pupils. Therefore, methods applied for work with dyslexic pupils should be changed forming a differentiated system of education adjusted for their needs. Efficacy and success of chemical education for dyslexic pupils depends largely on proper teaching and learning processes. Arousing interests and motivation for spontaneous participation in the teaching and learning process is of particular importance. The arrangement of classes should have comprehensive and polysensory effects, i.e. it should make use of various methods and forms of teaching. Application of didactic means promoting acquisition and consolidation of new skills seems to be indispensable [Selikowitz M. 1999].

As follows from literature, strategy of educational work with dyslexic pupils should consist in enabling overcoming difficulties in the learning process. Taking the above factors into account should give dyslexic pupils a chance of achieving better effects in every educational level of chemical education. Traditional methods are not satisfactory and only enhance existing difficulties and problems. They do not take into account the specific character of mental processes of people characterized by nonverbal thinking. Effective methods of teaching dyslexic pupils should:

  • create in a pupil’s mind a proper image of a concept and then associate it visually and aurally
  • enable frequent revision of acquired knowledge and skills
  • use all senses to acquire new knowledge
  • maintain concentration of attention in the learning process
  • present knowledge in an interesting and attractive way
  • arouse interest and motivation for learning.

Research procedure

As a result of searching for new methods and didactic means promoting the teaching-learning process of chemistry for dyslexic pupils, a few educational solutions were elaborated:

  1. chemical mathematical tasks (calculations using proportions and mathematical formulae)
  2. chemical experiments (printed instructions and films)
  3. educational games (board games and computer games)
  4. exercise-problem tasks (using of ball and spoke models as well as computer animations).

The elaborated educational means satisfy the demand for modern chemistry teaching-learning ways as well as effective methods for dyslexic pupils [Gulinska H. 1997].

Research of chemistry teaching efficacy using the elaborated educational means was carried out in three junior secondary schools in Lublin (Poland) in the period 2002-2005. The I-III grade pupils were subjected to it. The research group included 90 dyslexic pupils and 370 without dysfunction. The research was carried out with reference to choose chemical content. In each stage of the research dyslexic pupils’ knowledge was examined by means of tests and open tasks.

Results

As follows from the studies, very good results were achieved by dyslexic pupils when the following were applied:

  • methods of proportion for solving tasks consolidating knowledge and skills in the section “Water –Aqueous Solutions”
  • instructions in the form of a film sequence for making chemical experiments by pupils
  • educational computer games consolidating knowledge and skills in the section “Acids, Hydroxides and Salts”
  • ball and spoke models for solving exercise-problem tasks in the section “ Hydrocarbons and Their Derivatives”

Conclusion

The research proves educational efficacy of the applied teaching methods. They show various possibilities of getting pupils acquainted with chemical knowledge and of its consolidation. Satisfactory results are achieved for the whole group of pupils but greater efficacy is observed for pupils with specific difficulties in learning.

The applied educational means make it easier for pupils to search for information and integrate it by themselves. They counteract mechanical acquisition of knowledge and consolidation of skills thus affecting their duration and usefulness. They enable teaching individualization and activation of learners appealing to their interests. Their accomplishment in the educational processes seems necessary, particularly in the chemical education of dyslexic pupils. This is the group which requires teachers’ support and help. To summarize, the research confirms that arousing interests, activity and motivation for spontaneous action in the educational process is essential in chemical education of dyslexic pupils. It is possible thanks to application of various teaching methods, conducive to acquisition and consolidation of new skills. Having a polysensory effect on pupils, these means promote stimulation of important brain parts and make recording in the long-term memory easier.

References

Augur J., Early Indicators of Dyslexia. [w:] The Dyslexia Handbook. London: British Dyslexia Association, 1997

Ragkousis A., Dyslexic students in chemistry classes: their difficulties with chemical formulae. CERAPIE-Chemistry Education: Research and Practice in Europe, 1 (2), 2000

Kaminska-Ostep A, Gulinska H. Difficulties of dyslexic pupils in learning chemical problems concerning Salts. Materialy XIth IOSTE Symposium, Lublin 2004

Brejnak W., Zablocki K., Dysleksja w teorii i praktyce. Warszawa 1999

Selikowitz M., Dysleksja. Prószynski i S-ka, Warszawa 1999

Gulinska H., Strategia multimedialnego ksztalcenia chemicznego. Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, Poznan 1997

Key words: chemistry education, teaching of dyslexic pupils

Corespondence

Department of Chemical Education

M.C. Sklodowska University
pl. M. Curie-Sklodowskiej 3
20-031 Lublin, Poland
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