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  1. Loertscher, Jennifer (Ed.)
    Introductory courses are often designed to cover a range of topics with the intent to offer students exposure to the given discipline as preparation to further their study in the same or related disciplines. Unfortunately, students in these courses are often presented with an overwhelming amount of information that may not support their formation of a usable coherent network of knowledge. In this study we conducted a mixed-method sequential exploratory study with students co-enrolled in General Chemistry II and Introductory Biology I to better understand what students perceived to be the “take-home” messages of these courses (i.e., core ideas) and the connections between these courses. We found that students identified a range of ideas from both courses; further analysis of students’ explanations and reasoning revealed that, when students talked about their chemistry ideas, they were more likely to talk about them as having predictive and explanatory power in comparison with reasons provided for their biology big ideas. Furthermore, students identified a number of overlapping ideas between their chemistry and biology courses, such as interactions, reactions, and structures, which have the potential to be used as a starting place to support students building a more coherent network of knowledge.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 8, 2023
  3. What we emphasize and reward on assessments signals to students what matters to us. Accordingly, a great deal of scholarship in chemistry education has focused on defining the sorts of performances worth assessing. Here, we unpack observations we made while analyzing what “success” meant across three large-enrollment general chemistry environments. We observed that students enrolled in two of the three environments could succeed without ever connecting atomic/molecular behavior to how and why phenomena happen. These environments, we argue, were not really “chemistry classes” but rather opportunities for students to gain proficiency with a jumble of skills and factual recall. However, one of the three environments dedicated 14–57% of points on exams to items with the potential to engage students in using core ideas (e.g., energy, bonding interactions) to predict, explain, or model observable events. This course, we argue, is more aligned with the intellectual work of the chemical sciences than the other two. If our courses assess solely (or largely) decontextualized skills and factual recall we risk (1) gating access to STEM careers on the basis of facility with skills most students will never use outside the classroom and (2) never allowing students to experience the tremendous predictive and explanatorymore »power of atomic/molecular models. We implore the community to reflect on whether “what counts” in the courses we teach aligns with the performances we actually value.« less
  4. The construct of active learning permeates undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but despite its prevalence, the construct means different things to different people, groups, and STEM domains. To better understand active learning, we constructed this review through an innovative interdisciplinary collaboration involving research teams from psychology and discipline-based education research (DBER). Our collaboration examined active learning from two different perspectives (i.e., psychology and DBER) and surveyed the current landscape of undergraduate STEM instructional practices related to the modes of active learning and traditional lecture. On that basis, we concluded that active learning—which is commonly used to communicate an alternative to lecture and does serve a purpose in higher education classroom practice—is an umbrella term that is not particularly useful in advancing research on learning. To clarify, we synthesized a working definition of active learning that operates within an elaborative framework, which we call the construction-of-understanding ecosystem. A cornerstone of this framework is that undergraduate learners should be active agents during instruction and that the social construction of meaning plays an important role for many learners, above and beyond their individual cognitive construction of knowledge. Our proposed framework offers a coherent and actionable concept of active learningmore »with the aim of advancing future research and practice in undergraduate STEM education.« less