Category Archives: B. T-GEM

T-GEM and Atomic Structure

From previous experience in teaching the chemistry portion of Science 9, it is apparent that Isotopes remain a difficult concept for many students to grasp. It is very common to see the same mistakes emerge on assignments and tests and remains a persistent issue for many students.

Using the concepts of TGEM (Khan, 2007), I have found generated an activity which works to teach atomic structure and isotopes using the Bill Nye Video and PhET simulation below.

Bill Nye: Atoms and Molecules

PhET Simulation: Build-an-Atom


Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-905.

T-GEM and Magnetic Fields

I’ve found that one of the more challenging science topics in the grade 5 curriculum is magnets and electricity. In particular, setting up tasks that allow students to engage with, and readily observe, magnetic fields is especially difficult, and the rate of success that students have with these concepts vary greatly depending on the results and observations that their experiments allow them to make. Essentially, some of the students find the concepts quite abstract if they are unable to engage with visual conceptions of magnetic fields. From this, I’ve found two simulations from the PhET library that provide students with the opportunity to explore magnetic fields, while ensuring that they achieve visible results that they can observe and make/modify conclusions upon.

Specific Learner Expectations (Grade 5 Alberta Curriculum):

  • students will describe and demonstrate example activities that show that electricity and magnetism are related
  • students will demonstrate and interpret evidence of magnetic fields around magnets


  • students will explore the following PhET simulation on Magnets and Electromagnets: Simulation #1
  • students will examine the interactions between a bar magnet and a compass, as well as how to create a magnet using a battery and wire
  • How can we create a stronger magnet? How can we reverse the magnetic field?
  • Through observing magnetic fields in the simulation, can you predict the direction of the magnetic field around different types of magnets? What are the variables involved with electromagnets, and how do the variables affect the strength and direction of the magnetic fields?


  • based on their predictions and the identification of variables through interacting with Simulation #1, students will apply and evaluate their findings through working with a games that incorporates these concepts: Electric Field Hockey
  • by placing electric charges in the field of play, students will further experiment with magnetic fields through the challenge of getting the puck into the goal
  • students will observe the magnetic fields and experiment with their previous findings to identify variables that impact the strength and direction of magnetic fields


  • students collaborate in small groups to discuss their findings and observations and share how their initial ideas and predictions have been changed through their interactions with the two simulations
  • students will further apply their understanding of concepts by playing more challenging levels of Electric Field Hockey through adding walls and obstacles that require deeper problem solving skills
  • students groups will decide how they would like to compile their observations and understandings to be shared with the whole class (this could include demonstrations of the skills and strategies that students applied within Electric Field Hockey, as related to their initial thoughts and predictions within Simulation #1)


Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-905.

Khan, S. (2010). New pedagogies for teaching with computer simulations. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 20(3), 215-232.

T-GEM for cardiovascular physiology

A commonly cited conceptual challenge in medical education is cardiovascular physiology. This seems to be a consistent finding at different educational levels (Mikkila-Erdmann, 2012). If applying the T-GEM model (Khan, 2010)to teaching this, I would organize it as follows:

  1. I would provide some background content information, such as the definition of cardiac output, mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and systemic vascular resistance (total peripheral resistance)
  2. Have the students pair up and access the following simulator: 
    • on the Home tab, have the students look at the relationship between cardiac output, mean arterial pressure, and heart rate
    • have students generate a relationship between the above variables (by seeing what happens to these variables during different activities)
  3. Based on this relationship, have students predict what will happen to these variables with postural change
  4. Have students run the postural change simulation and evaluate the relationship
  5. Have students review their initial predictions and compare to the relationship that was observed through the simulation.
    • ask students to modify their initial predictions/relationships based on new data.


I think this method will offer students a chance to challenge their conceptual models by simulation and make modifications as needed. In trying to find software for TGEM in the medical context, I ran into a significant challenge. This is because a lot of medical simulations were for clinical skills or other technical skills improvement, and not for the purposes of understanding certain phenomena. But I do think this is a great way to learn and really understand concepts in a deeper more meaningful way (compared to the superficial rote memorization that is still common in medical education). I hope that simulations that examine concepts in my field become more readily available as time goes on.



Khan S. New Pedagogies on Teaching Science with Computer Simulations. J Sci Educ Technol. 2010;20(3):215-232. doi:10.1007/s10956-010-9247-2.


Mikkilä-Erdmann M, Södervik I, Vilppu H, Kääpä P, Olkinuora E. First-year medical students’ conceptual understanding of and resistance to conceptual change concerning the central cardiovascular system. Instr Sci. 2012;40(5):745-754. doi:10.1007/s11251-012-9212-y.


For this assignment I wanted to look at an area of Math that students in grade 5 find challenging.  I decided to look at how to teach the concept of angles in numeracy using the T GEM approach and combine that with coding and art. You can teach students about what angles are but how do you have them apply that knowledge, share it, reflect and adapt.  This lesson assumes a basic understanding of Hopscotch which is a free blockly based coding app for ipads. Once they understand the basics of angles they can start to work that into creative play through the creation of Art.  Math and Art often go hand in hand with digital creation and I thought this lesson might be a good example of that platform. I created a short guide on which you can get to here.


Khan, S. (2010). New pedagogies for teaching with computer simulations. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 20(3), 215-232.


I don’t usually teach science, so am not quite sure how to state a known challenge of the students. I looked at the list of interactive simulations and picked a topic that I thought would be very useful in a classroom and build this short T-GEM lesson.

Topic: Solubility of Ionic Compounds

Generate – Create interest  in the topic by asking students open-ended questions to engage their thinking and learn more about how much the students already know about this topic.

  • What does soluble mean? Insoluble?
  • What are some things that are soluble/insoluble?

Evaluate – Learn from simulations, have students predict the solubility of elements from the periodic table, then have them try out the different combinations of elements on interactive simulation.


Salt and Solubility

I would even try bringing in some simple items found in the kitchen to have students test out solubility though hands-on research experiments.  Learn about how temperatures can affect solubility as well.

Modify – After trying elements out in the simulation, I would suggest that the students bring in safe items from home to test out their solubility, and experiment on how they can change the solubility if possible based on what they’ve learned.



Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistryScience Education, 91(6), 877-905.

Khan, S. (2011). New Pedagogies on Teaching Science with Computer Simulations. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 20(3), 215-232. Retrieved from


Transformations of functions – Using a Desmos Calculator activity

Being able to recognize how changes in the equations of a function could affect the shape of the function’s graph is a important component of BC’s Pre-Calculus 12 curriculum. The concept applies to all the different types of functions encountered in the course, and plays a role in helping students understand the shapes of different graphs.

This concept is challenging for students because it is easy to build misconceptions about the effect of changing certain variables in the equation. For example, adding a value of +k to a function f(x), would give an equation in the form of y=f(x)+k, and would translate the original graph k units up on the grid. On the other hand, replacing x with x+k, would give an equation of the form y=f(x+k), and would move the graph to the left, which is counter-intuitive because left is usually associated with negative numbers. This chapter has other similar concepts that could make it hard for students.

I have created a visual for a TGEM activity that could help students master the concepts in function transformation:

1. Generate: The teacher will preview two different graphs of parabolas and ask students to note the differences between the shapes of the graphs, or where they are located on the coordinate plane. Afterwards, students will be given the equations that correspond to each graph and be asked to make predictions on how different numbers in the equation could affect the shape and position of the graph.

2. Evaluate: The teacher will provide the Desmos activity “What is My Transformation”. The activity serves as an evaluative exercise for students and will allow them to determine whether the predictions they have set in the beginning of the lesson were correct.

3. Modify: After working through the activity, the teacher will regather the class, and ask for students to provide some of the facts that they were able to establish about modifying the equation of a graph. The teacher will also ask students to name some of the misconceptions that they came up with, and be asked to explain what led them to these incorrect assumptions. The point of emphasis is to crowdsource a list of possible areas where students could make mistakes.


Light & Colour

I decided to create a T-GEM cycle on light & colour as this is a challenging concept in primary education for many students. After having conversations with students, it is clear that many still have difficulty explaining how light and colour works, even after full units have been completed.

As such, I have created a T-GEM cycle on light and colour that included the PhET Colour Vision simulator. You can view it by following this link.


Colour Vision. (n.d) Retrieved July 11 2017, from

Khan, Samia (2011).  New pedagogies on teaching science with computer simulations. Journal of Science Education and Technology 20, 3 pp. 215-232.

How do Plants Eat? – Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is one of the essential concepts to learn in biology. It is the key chemical process that produces energy for life. However, this complex chemical reaction that occurs inside of plants is complicated for most students to grasp.  Therefore, there are many misconceptions that students have about the process of photosynthesis.  A common misconception is that plants obtain their nutrients from the soil instead of producing organic compounds through the process of photosynthesis.

3 Step T-GEM 


To generate information about the process of photosynthesis, educators can begin a discussion with open-ended questions to measure students’ current understanding. The questions are:

  • What do plants need to grow and survive?
  • Why do you think those needs are important for plants to grow and survive?
  • How do you think plants obtain nutrients?

After the activity, have students come up with answers and compile those answers in a Google Doc to share with the rest of the class. As a group activity, students will discuss and attempt to predict what the relationship between what plants need to grow and survive and how they obtain nutrients is.  Once the discussion is complete, add each student group’s prediction to the corresponding Google doc


Students will explore how plants produce food through a hands-on experiment and by exploring a computer simulation:

A hands-on experiment –  “How Do Leaves/plants Breathe and produce food?” 

In the first activity, students record observations and gather answers to the question as a group 

Exploring the computer simulation

Students will explore the simulation. It is chosen for this phase is to help students visualize the process. According to Khan (2011), computer simulations can enrich generating relationships and can provide students and teachers with the opportunity to observe trends and variables, as well as visualize the process in more specific ways which may lead to enhanced conceptual understandings.


In this phase, students can modify their ideas after the evaluation stage. The phase provides students with a rich environment where they can work collaboratively to help explain the process utilizing technology. The following activities are included:

  • Ask students to revisit their predictions and incorporate their new information or modify their predictions in the Google doc created during the Generate phase.
  • Ask students to work in groups and re-evaluate the relationship between what plants need to grow and survive and how plants manufacture food.
  • Once the relationship is re-evaluated, ask students to create a photosynthesis drawing/diagram with the help of any drawing software and then share the diagram with the class. For example, students can use Cacoo to create a diagram and share it with the class.


Khan, Samia (2011).  New pedagogies on teaching science with computer simulations. Journal of Science Education and Technology 20, 3 pp. 215-232.


Climate Change and T-GEM

As Khan (2007) states, model-based learning is a theory that allows students to learn from critiquing, building, and changing our way of thinking on how the world works. One of the big ideas from BC’s grade 6 science curriculum, is: Earth and its climate have changed over geological time. To investigate the challenging concept of how climate has changed and the repercussions it has on earth, the T-GEM model will be used to support student inquiry while using climate simulations and guided teacher strategies.

A possible T-GEM model could be:

Generate: Using the following link, students will use the simulator to view before and after images of cities, extreme events, water, land cover, human impact and ice. Students will analyze what they notice.  Are there any patterns? What relationships do you see with water and ice? Record your observations.

Evaluate : Students will be presented with different facts and figures that have been written about climate change using the following link. Ask students to explain in groups. Is this fact? Fiction? How do you know? Find new reports on climate change.

Modify : Students will review their findings and summarize their conclusion to the class in small groups. Why is our global climate changing? What will happen in the future if we don’t take action? How can we take action as a society? List the ways we can help climate change.


Khan, S. (2007). Model‐based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education91(6), 877-905.