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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Member, Texas Tech University System The Princeton Review - 373 Best Colleges, 2011 Edition

CHEM 1411 Redesign Project Abstract

The first semester general chemistry (CHEM 1411) course will be redesigned with the goal of increasing student outcomes, reducing attrition and both decreasing the amount and enhancing the effectiveness of faculty effort expended on the course. A major goal of the project is to design a curriculum that has the potential for use at other institutions. The project follows the course redesign mode promoted by The National Center for Academic Transformation.

The first strategy addresses the vast diversity and common deficiency in math backgrounds of the typical general chemistry student. In the first part of the course measurement, math and computational problem-solving skills will be taught independently in lab, and basic qualitative conceptual understanding will be developed in lecture. Thus, the development of conceptual understanding is not hindered or confused by the students’ struggles with the mathematical components. In the later part of the semester, these components will be integrated to demonstrate how chemical concepts are derived from and supported by experimental evidence.

The second strategy is to ensure that students master the most critical concepts and skills. Student mastery will be assessed at predefined points in the course sequence, called “Skill Gateways.” Students not demonstrating this mastery of a concept during the Skill Gateway assessment will be given immediate feedback and remediation opportunities. The goal is to ensure that failure to master these concepts does not become a hindrance to learning later concepts that build upon gateway concepts.

The third strategy is to use technology to enhance active learning. Some course content will be delivered in Internet-based modules that students complete before attending lectures. These multimedia modules will include audio-visual presentations accompanied by worksheets and requiring student interaction. The modules will be designed to require 30 minutes for completion to allow students with busy schedules to complete them in one sitting. Class activities will build on these modules, and presentation of material outside of class will allow more time in class for student and group interactions. These modules will be made available for later review by students in that course or to be used for concept review in later courses. Active learning will be further enhanced by the use of classroom response systems and online homework and Internet-based assignments.

A fourth strategy is to make application of chemical knowledge central to the presentation of core materials. Rather than covering a specific chemical topic (e.g., molarity) from A-to-Z and mentioning a few examples of how it may be applied, specific real-world issues will be presented and the concepts will be developed to better understand those issues. Students will then be challenged to apply the same concepts and skills to other real-world issues of similar complexity. The complexity of the skills and concepts learned, as well as the real-world issues addressed, will build together in the course.

Ensuring the adoptability of the designed materials to the widest range of chemical educators is a key aim of this project. Thus, it is essential that the widest range of innovation be enabled while developing materials that are highly supportive of traditional chemical pedagogical approaches. Thus, high quality individual materials will be designed to incorporate into any curriculum with an emphasis on covering key topics. In some cases, parallel materials may be developed to cover topics that are presented in different ways. For example, gas law materials may be developed from both a principally algebraic equation approach and from a principally ratio and proportion approach. In developing applications-based materials, applications will be chosen that allow the presentation of concepts in approximately the same order as a traditional general chemistry sequence.

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