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General Chemistry Course Reform Initiatives

Project Goals

  • Improve student’s enthusiasm and engagement inside and outside the classroom
  • Increase instructional consistency within and across institutions
  • Seek real comprehension of chemistry concepts versus merely algorithmic problem-solving skills from students
  • Improve student success, attrition and the WDF rate

How was the redesign achieved?

  • Financial Supports:

UNM STEM Gateway Program, Depart of Education Title V Grant


  • Timeline:

               Summer 2012: redesign CHEM 122 course material

               Fall 2012: first implementation of CHEM 122 in one section

               Winter break: assessment and refinement

               Spring 2013: second implementation of CHEM 122 in three sections

               Summer 2013: redesign CHEM 121 course material

               Fall 2013: first implementation of CHEM 121 in three sections, and the third implementation of CHEM 122

              Winter break: assessment and refinement

              Spring 2014: second implementation of CHEM 121 and the fourth implementation of CHEM 122


  • Themes of the re-design:

           1.Revising learning outcomes to coordinate with skills and competencies needed in STEM majors requiring CHEM 122.

           2. Converting traditionally taught lecture courses into learner-centered environments by incorporating active learning in the classroom.

           3. Developing interdisciplinary exercises pitched at higher cognitive levels to provide a strong basis for student engagement and deeper learning.

           4. Assessing student, class and re-design performance via multi-component measures of student learning and student opinions on how the class structure facilitates their own learning.


  • How is success to be evaluated?

    • The success is measured against Course Learning Outcomes (SLO).
    • Modified chemistry concept inventories for CHEM 121 and 122 were given to all students as pre- and post-tests. The normalized gains (loss) were calculated.
    • The common core questions were written by all CHEM 121 and 122 faculty members and used in midterm exams.
    • A common final exam was also used each semester to measure student’s achievements on SLO.
    • Surveys were given to students to collect feedbacks.
    • Colorado Learning Attitude  for Science (CLASS) surveys were conducted
    • Item analysis of concept inventories and final exams were conducted for the refinements of the course material


Learning strategies planned for students:

Students will be given a detailed preparation assignment including a short multiple choice quiz and muddy point question to be completed before EACH class to enable them to acquire the basic facts and concepts necessary for each class.

In class, students will engage in a variety of active learning activities (clicker questions with peer-instruction) and application based in-class exercises.  These activities will be designed to focus on the areas of student difficulty that the team has identified in the development phase of the course, and to help the students relate the concepts to real world situations.  The instructor will deliver short lectures on the most difficult parts of the subject as identified by the students (the muddy points), and if needed, to correct common misconceptions identified during the clicker questions or exercises.

 After class, students will work on assignments (e.g. in Mastering Chemistry) designed to help them practice, consolidate, synthesize and integrate the outcomes into their 'big picture'.  Students will have access to optional extension reading/resources for topics that spark their interest and they would like to learn more about.

Course materials being developed:

Before class:  

  1. Structured preparation assignment that may include one or many of the following: 
    1. textbook reading (possibly from multiple textbooks if copyrights are not violated)
    2.  video lecture (of existing online resources e.g. Khan Academy)
    3.   online tutorials or simulations iv. simple 'do it at home' or thought experiments.  Students will be given clear directions on what outcomes should be mastered before class.
  2. a multiple choice quiz on the assigned preparation
  3. a 'muddy point' question to be completed before class. 
  4. In some cases, we may wish to save the 'discovery' part of a topic for the class, and in these cases, we may recommend the students read the textbook section after the class (possibly in the next class preparation assignment).

In class:

1.Bank of clicker questions covering common misconceptions and higher level topic-based outcomes.

2. Application-based in-class exercises on higher level topic-based outcomes that have been developed to address common difficulties and reinforce key concepts.

After class:

1.Mastering Chemistry homework set using topic-based outcomes.

2. Some form of assignment after each chapter to help students assess their own understanding of the concepts (metacognitive) and make connections within the topic and between topics - e.g. concept map project.