John Zenchak

Professor of Biology



+1 630 637 5182

My philosophy of science teaching stems from select role models and from observations of students of all ages in science classes. From a learning perspective, understanding scientific processes conceptually is far more important than acquiring overwhelming amounts of information with little or no understanding. Teaching for conceptual understanding and relating material to the students’ real world seems to motivate even some individuals who initially show no interest in the subject matter.

Involvement with undergraduate research stems from four perspectives: the animal behavior course, the human sexuality course, the epilepsy project, and the K-8 science education project. In the animal behavior course, students conduct original basic research. In the human sexuality course, student research involves surveys and questionnaires - three students presented their findings at a selective national research conference.The epilepsy project involves developing an animal model that can be used to study a product of the ketogenic diet that may reduce the effects of human childhood epilepsy. Three NCC students and I developed a technique which seems to have promise in further research of the biological mechanism involved. The work of students resulted in two peer-reviewed publications.

The science education project addresses the critical need to improve the scientific literacy of elementary and middle school teachers so that they can make science more accessible and understandable to students of different genders, ability levels, ethnic/cultural backgrounds, and socioeconomic levels. Our discrepant event approach uses a demonstration with two similar setups that provide students with both the “prior experience” to form an expectation and the discrepancy to grab their attention. We follow the demonstration with a structured exploration format that gives students a method for experimenting to find the one built-in difference (i.e., the variable) that caused the ... 

Selected Scholarship

Lynch, M.J. and J. Zenchak.  2013.  Water pressure in depth.  A revamped lesson on water gets students excited to create their own investigations.  In: Froschauer, L. (ed.).  A Year of Inquiry: a collection for elementary educators.  NSTA Press.  Arlington, Virginia.  pp. 149-154.

Zenchak, J. and M.J. Lynch.  2011.  What’s the next step?  How to keep students engaged and on track when teaching inquiry skills during an experiment.  Science and Children  48(6): 50-54.

Lynch, M.J. and J. Zenchak.  2011.  Water pressure in depth.  A revamped lesson on water gets students excited to create their own investigations.  Science and Children  48(7): 54-57.

Zenchak, J.J. and M.J. Lynch.  2005.  Teacher-friendly scientific inquiry: A summer workshop for K-8 teachers from high-need Chicago metropolitan-area schools.  Success in High-Need Schools (The Online Journal of The Associated Colleges of Illinois ACI’s Center for Success in High-Need Schools)  1(1).   9 pp.

Chez, M.G., R.J. Tremb, and J. Zenchak.  2001.  Oral supplementation of beta-hydroxybutyrate in rats.  (American Epilepsy Society Abstract)  Epilepsia  42(Suppl. 7) Abst. 2.048.

Courses Taught

BIO 108 Water, Food, and Sex (team-taught with T. Morris)

BIO 147 Anatomy & Physiology

BIO 300 / GWS 301 Human Sexuality: A Clash of Values (team-taught with M. Berkland)

BIO 302 Physiology

BIO 405 Animal Behavior

SCI 109 Science Inquiry (team-taught with M.J. Lynch)