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  1. Within chemistry education, there are various curricular and pedagogical approaches that aim to improve teaching and learning in chemistry. Efforts to characterize these transformations have primarily focused on student reasoning and performance, and little work has been done to explore student perceptions of curricular and pedagogical transformations and whether these perceptions align with the transformational intent. To complement our previous work on the Organic Chemistry, Life, the Universe, and Everything (OCLUE) curriculum, we developed this exploratory study to determine if students had perceived the goals of the transformation. As in our previous research on OCLUE, we compared perceptions between OCLUE and a more traditional organic chemistry course. Using inductive and deductive qualitative methodologies, we analyzed student responses to three open-eneded questions focused on how students perceived they were expected to think, what they found most difficult, and how they perceived they were assessed. The findings were classified into three superodinate themes: one where students perceived they were expected to learn things as rote knowledge, such as memorization (“Rote Knowledge”), another where students perceived they were expected to use their knowledge (“Use of Knowledge”), and responses that used vague, generalized language, were uninformative, or did not address the questions asked (“Other”).more »Students in these two courses responded very differently to the open-ended questions with students in OCLUE being more likely to perceive they were expected to use their knowledge, while students in the traditional course reported rote learning or memorization more frequently. As the findings evolved, our interpretations and discussions were influenced by sociocultural perspectives and other cultural frameworks. We believe this approach can provide meaningful insights into transformational intent and certain features of classroom cultures.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 4, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 13, 2023
  3. This study is a follow up to two earlier studies characterizing student real-time use of mechanistic arrows. In these previous studies, students were asked to predict a product by drawing a curved arrow mechanism using an interface that allowed recording and replay of student actions. In the present study two different student cohorts responded to the same tasks as the original studies: a cohort who were enrolled in a traditional organic course, and a cohort who were part of a transformed organic course (Organic Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything, OCLUE). Both cohorts improved in their ability to predict an appropriate product over the two semesters, and we found little meaningful difference in the ability of students from either cohort to predict the outcome of a familiar reaction. However, students in the OCLUE cohort were more likely to draw mechanistic arrows than the students from the traditional course. In contrast, when the task involved predicting the product of an unfamiliar reaction, OCLUE students were over three times more likely to draw mechanistically reasonable steps and produce a plausible product than students from the traditional cohort. We propose that the differences between the two cohorts emerge from the following: (1) explicitmore »attempts in the OCLUE course to link drawing reactions mechanisms using the electron pushing formalism to the scientific practice of constructing explanations. It is our contention that this approach changes the arrow pushing mechanism from a skill to the construction of a model which students can use to predict and explain outcomes; and (2) the numerous opportunities in the OCLUE course to try out ideas without penalty, leading to a willingness to try to determine outcomes in unfamiliar situations.« less
  4. The ability to predict macroscopic properties using a compound's chemical structure is an essential idea for chemistry as well as other disciplines such as biology. In this study we investigate how different levels of interventions impact the components of students’ explanations (claims, evidence, and reasoning) of structure–property relationships, particularly related to boiling point trends. These interventions, aligned with Three-Dimensional Learning (3DL), were investigated with four different cohorts of students: Cohort 1 – a control group of students enrolled in an active learning general chemistry course; Cohort 2 – students enrolled in the same active learning general chemistry course but given Intervention 1 (a 3DL worksheet administered during class time); Cohort 3 – students enrolled in the same active learning general chemistry course but given Intervention 1 and Intervention 2 (a 3DL course exam question administered after instruction); and Cohort 4 – a reference group of students enrolled in a transformed active learning general chemistry curriculum in which 3DL is an essential feature and includes Intervention 1 and Intervention 2 as part of the curriculum. We found that Cohort 2 students (with the 3DL worksheet intervention) were more likely than the control group (Cohort 1) to correctly predict the compound withmore »a higher boiling point as well as incorporate ideas of strength of intermolecular forces into their explanations of boiling point differences. When a 3DL exam question was given as a follow up to the 3DL worksheet, students in Cohort 3 were more likely than Cohorts 1 and 2 to correctly identify the claim. Further comparison showed that Cohort 4 (transformed general chemistry curriculum) were more likely than Cohorts 1–3 to also include the ideas of energy needed to overcome stronger forces for a more sophisticated explanation (50% of Cohort 4 students compared to 17–33% for Cohorts 1–3). In addition, 80% of Cohort 4 students were able to construct a correct representation of hydrogen bonding as a non-covalent interaction compared to 13–57% for the other three cohorts.« less
  5. We evaluate the impact of an institutional effort to transform undergraduate science courses using an approach based on course assessments. The approach is guided by A Framework for K-12 Science Education and focuses on scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas, together called three-dimensional learning. To evaluate the extent of change, we applied the Three-dimensional Learning Assessment Protocol to 4 years of chemistry, physics, and biology course exams. Changes in exams differed by discipline and even by course, apparently depending on an interplay between departmental culture, course organization, and perceived course ownership, demonstrating the complex nature of transformation in higher education. We conclude that while transformation must be supported at all organizational levels, ultimately, change is controlled by factors at the course and departmental levels.