skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Ralph, Vanessa R."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. 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
  2. The identification of students at risk for academic failure in undergraduate chemistry courses has been heavily addressed in the literature. Arguably one of the strongest and most well-supported predictors of undergraduate success in chemistry is the mathematics portion of the SAT (SAT-M), a college-entrance, standardized test administered by the College Board. While students scoring in the bottom quartile of the SAT-M (herein referred to as at-risk) perform significantly worse on first-semester chemistry assessments, little is known of the topics on which these students differentially struggle. The purpose of this study is to provide insight as to which first-semester chemistry topics present an incommensurate challenge to at-risk students. Students were identified as either at-risk or not at-risk via SAT-M scores. Students’ assessment responses were collected across four semesters of first-semester chemistry courses at a large, public university ( N = 5636). At-risk students struggled consistently across all topics but disproportionately with mole concept and stoichiometry. Analyzing the trend in topics suggests that the struggles of at-risk students are not entirely attributable to topics that rely heavily on algorithms or algebraic math. Moreso, at-risk students found to have performed well on mole concept and stoichiometry went on to perform similarly as theirmore »not at-risk peers. The results support an instructional emphasis on these topics with reviewed literature offering promising, practical options to better serve at-risk students and broaden representation in the sciences.« less