Schank, P., & Kozma, R. (2002). Learning chemistry through the use of a representation-based knowledge building environment. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 21 (3), 253-279.
Many students leave high school chemistry courses with profound misunderstandings about the nature of matter, chemical processes, and chemical systems. The ChemSense project is addressing this problem through a multidisciplinary program of research and development to examine the impact of representational tools, chemical investigations, and discourse on chemistry learning and teaching in high schools and colleges. This work intersects several theoretical approaches to learning, including collaborative project-based investigations, representational competence, knowledge building, and the design of chemistry curriculum. The ChemSense Knowledge Building Environment allows students and instructors to collaborate in the investigation of chemical phenomena, collect data, build representations of these phenomena, and participate in scaffolded discourse to explain these phenomena in terms of underlying chemical mechanisms. Research indicates that ChemSense is effective in supporting student representational use and chemical understanding. In this paper, we present our theoretical approach, describe the ChemSense learning environment in the context of actual use by high school students, summarize our research findings, and discuss the implications of these findings for future work.