“We need to come out of the paradigm that we are providers of information. Information is on the web, it is in books, it is everywhere. It does not make sense to have all of that information in our brains … we need the strategic knowledge to be able to use the information that is available everywhere.”
“It seems an incredible travesty to have students walking in the door who devoutly believe that they want to be science majors, a lot of them chemistry majors, who walk out the door with a non-STEM degree. This is a huge loss for the nation.”
In the workshop’s final session, William Carroll, a vice president at Occidental Chemical Corporation and cochair of the Chemical Sciences Roundtable, moderated a panel discussion among chemistry department chairs to get their insights into the state of undergraduate chemistry education and their views on the types of innovations that had been presented in the previous sessions. Members of the panel included Michael Doyle from the University of Maryland; Miguel Garcia-Garibay from the University of California, Los Angeles; Sarah Green from Michigan Technological University; Susan Olesik from The Ohio State University; Jeffrey Reimer of the University of California, Berkeley; and William Tolman from the University of Minnesota. Carroll started the panel discussion by asking each member to take 5 minutes to react to the things they had heard and put them into the context of their own experiences.
Tolman was impressed by the number of creative approaches from dynamic, enthusiastic, and talented faculty who are striving to improve chemistry education. He noted that these cutting-edge approaches do not always produce easily discernible improvements in student learning, but added that the “enthusiasm and talent applied has to be an improvement.” He was also struck by Susan Hixson’s comments about the missed opportunities to promulgate these novel approaches beyond their home departments and institutions and agreed with her suggestion that chemistry education papers should be embedded in research journals and at scientific conferences. Spreading the word will be key, he said.
Reimer called the workshop presentations “thrilling and uplifting” and stated that he was looking forward to talking to his faculty colleagues about these novel approaches to chemistry education. He was surprised and pleased to hear the industry panelists were of the opinion that chemistry education needs to be fine-tuned to include multiple intelligences but not completely redone. Reimer emphasized that the chemistry community needs to turn “private empiricism”—individuals pursuing new course design based on intuition and experience—into a legitimate scholarly enterprise based on evidence developing in the chemistry education community.
The importance of student-driven activities stood out as a key point that Olesik took from the presentations. “We have to keep reminding ourselves that we need to be the facilitators and not the doers of this work,” she said. Angelica Stacy’s presentation was important because it drove home the point of how important the design of appropriate exam material is in terms of influencing how students learn and retain information. Finally, Olesik was impressed with the “incredible power that is starting to assemble and the changes that people want to make in teaching chemistry. The world of the biological sciences, and even of physicists, has been moving faster on these fronts and it is really great that the chemists are assigning themselves to this task at a higher level now.”
Change of this magnitude is taking years, said Green, and somehow the community must make change happen more quickly. She was struck by the emphasis on multidisciplinary teams and hands-on problem solving based on real-world issues that engages student creativity and worried that the conservative elements of the teaching enterprise will stifle these kinds of courses. Agreeing with Olesik, she said that assessment and evaluation can be important drivers of change.
Garcia-Garibay also agreed with Olesik’s point that students’ involvement is key and that students can be important agents who add value to knowledge. He noted that chemistry education had done a reasonable job training future chemistry professionals; however, chemistry education is not doing a good job of encouraging students to continue in the broader scientific field and in conveying the importance
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5 Final Thoughts and Discussion “We need to come out of the paradigm that we are providers of information. Information is on the web, it is in books, it is everywhere. It does not make sense to have all of that information in our brains . . . we need the strategic knowledge to be able to use the information that is available everywhere.” Miguel Garcia-Garibay “It seems an incredible travesty to have students walking in the door who devoutly believe that they want to be science majors, a lot of them chemistry majors, who walk out the door with a non-STEM degree. This is a huge loss for the nation.” Susan Olesik In the workshop’s final session, William Carroll, a vice intelligences but not completely redone. Reimer empha- president at Occidental Chemical Corporation and cochair sized that the chemistry community needs to turn “private of the Chemical Sciences Roundtable, moderated a panel empiricism”—individuals pursuing new course design based discussion among chemistry department chairs to get their on intuition and experience—into a legitimate scholarly insights into the state of undergraduate chemistry education enterprise based on evidence developing in the chemistry and their views on the types of innovations that had been education community. presented in the previous sessions. Members of the panel The importance of student-driven activities stood out as included Michael Doyle from the University of Maryland; a key point that Olesik took from the presentations. “We Miguel Garcia-Garibay from the University of California, have to keep reminding ourselves that we need to be the Los Angeles; Sarah Green from Michigan Technological facilitators and not the doers of this work,” she said. Angelica University; Susan Olesik from The Ohio State University; Stacy’s presentation was important because it drove home the Jeffrey Reimer of the University of California, Berkeley; and point of how important the design of appropriate exam mate- William Tolman from the University of Minnesota. Carroll rial is in terms of influencing how students learn and retain started the panel discussion by asking each member to take information. Finally, Olesik was impressed with the “incred- 5 minutes to react to the things they had heard and put them ible power that is starting to assemble and the changes that into the context of their own experiences. people want to make in teaching chemistry. The world of the Tolman was impressed by the number of creative biological sciences, and even of physicists, has been moving approaches from dynamic, enthusiastic, and talented faculty faster on these fronts and it is really great that the chemists who are striving to improve chemistry education. He noted are assigning themselves to this task at a higher level now.” that these cutting-edge approaches do not always produce Change of this magnitude is taking years, said Green, easily discernible improvements in student learning, but and somehow the community must make change happen added that the “enthusiasm and talent applied has to be more quickly. She was struck by the emphasis on multi- an improvement.” He was also struck by Susan Hixson’s disciplinary teams and hands-on problem solving based on comments about the missed opportunities to promulgate real-world issues that engages student creativity and worried these novel approaches beyond their home departments and that the conservative elements of the teaching enterprise will institutions and agreed with her suggestion that chemistry stifle these kinds of courses. Agreeing with Olesik, she said education papers should be embedded in research journals that assessment and evaluation can be important drivers of and at scientific conferences. Spreading the word will be change. key, he said. Garcia-Garibay also agreed with Olesik’s point that stu- Reimer called the workshop presentations “thrilling and dents’ involvement is key and that students can be important uplifting” and stated that he was looking forward to talk- agents who add value to knowledge. He noted that chem- ing to his faculty colleagues about these novel approaches istry education had done a reasonable job training future to chemistry education. He was surprised and pleased to chemistry professionals; however, chemistry education is hear the industry panelists were of the opinion that chem- not doing a good job of encouraging students to continue in istry education needs to be fine-tuned to include multiple the broader scientific field and in conveying the importance 29
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30 UNDERGRADUATE CHEMISTRY EDUCATION of chemistry and its fundamental principles to students in seems to be an incredible travesty to me to have students the humanities and social sciences. Garcia-Garibay agreed walking in the door who devoutly believe that they want to with several presenters that better assessment is needed for be science majors, a lot of them chemistry majors, who walk how new approaches to chemistry education affect student out the door with something that is not a STEM major,” she performance and on the impact of these innovations across stated. “This is a huge loss for the nation.” She added that the university. He reiterated the early comment that the com- the innovations she heard at the workshop are “spectacular. munity needs to work hard at introducing these innovative It is the institutional structures that are a problem.” approaches to much larger audiences and particularly to Students are driving the need for change, said Green, younger colleagues and teaching assistants. because they have such an evolving smorgasbord of oppor- Speaking from the perspective of having been involved in tunities in front of them. “If they do not like the way we are higher education for 45 years, Doyle said he was impressed teaching in our institution, they go somewhere else,” she said. with the era of experimentation and innovation that the work- Without change, she added, “they are going to vote with their shop’s speakers represent. He commented on what appears feet or with their dollars.” Doyle agreed with this sentiment to be a move to use lower-cost methods of instruction that and noted a program at the University of Maryland College of take education away from the master–apprentice approach Engineering that was started 15 years ago when faculty real- that has dominated education for so long, and then posed a ized that only 38 percent of entering students were graduat- series of questions that going forward could serve as food ing in 5 years. The college instituted a program that matches for thought for the community. a cohort of 40 students with one faculty member for 2 years with the result that 68 percent of students now finish their • What if the National Science Foundation (NSF) degrees in 5 years. “Personal interaction remains a primary had spent money on multiple textbooks that had determinant on a student’s success,” he said. emphasized interdisciplinary activities in the 1980s When Carroll asked if anyone wanted to make the case and 1990s instead of investing in individual institu- that change was not needed, Tolman said that he did not want tions and initiatives that were coming from those to make the opposite case, but refine it. He said that he had institutions? not heard the case that fundamental, large-scale institutional • What if the American Chemical Society (ACS) Com- change was necessary, but that teaching methods do need to mittee on Professional Training had made interdisci- evolve, which should be a natural part of being an educator. plinary education as its mode of approach instead of Tolman agreed wholeheartedly with the assessment that the the subdisciplinary approach that existed in the 1980s community needs to do a better job educating the nonprofes- and 1990s? sional about science, but that in his mind the evidence was • What if research as an initiation of students to the mixed as to whether there is a lack of trained science profes- potential of understanding problem solving and sionals that is resulting from the low retention rate. careers in the sciences had moved from a time period Garcia-Garibay noted that the panel had not addressed that was the capstone experience of a student to a the problem of the cost of education, and that is a major freshman experience that allowed the freshmen to driver of change. The cost of education at a large institution actually start looking at these things early in their such as his is unsustainable, he said, and the major cost of educational experience? education is faculty. “We need to rethink the paradigm,” he said. “How to engage this very expensive faculty in Doyle also wondered if the community has the knowledge what is becoming an increasingly important portion of the to understand which of the many approaches presented at the university enterprise?” Carroll asked if chemistry was ripe workshop work best and if the nation has the resources to for the kind of disruptive innovation that could change the implement any more than one of these approaches. He posed cost structure of education, and Tolman replied that massive this last issue as a challenge that the community needs to open online courses (MOOCs) could be such a disruptive face going forward. force. Given that the panelists are all department chairs, Carroll noted, he asked them how they plan to drive change in their THE CASE FOR CHANGE departments. Tolman said that his department is trying many Carroll next asked the panel if the case had been made that of these innovations. “We have online sections. We have a chemistry education needs to change. Olesik felt that the case MOOC in our department. We have active learning classes, for change in the broad field of science education has been and in fact we have a whole building filled with active learn- made for some time, given the low retention rate for students ing classrooms that we use with these methodologies. I’m not who express an interest in pursuing a science career when saying we should not be doing these things. I’m questioning they first enter college and who would be considered the top the need for large-scale institutional change throughout the students based on entering standardized test scores. “It just entire system.”
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FINAL THOUGHTS AND DISCUSSION 31 Reimer said that one key is practicing what you preach. students who know how to learn and assimilate science “When I talk to my colleagues and tell them that I want to knowledge but that they will not have learned enough con- have an active learning classroom, I have to do it myself and tent to do well on standardized tests such as the MCAT or show it to be successful. That makes my voice far more effec- Graduate Record Exam. tive.” Part of showing his efforts to be successful, he said, is Carroll responded by asking, “How do we know that making sure to demonstrate quantitatively with good assess- we are actually educating better scientists by doing it in a ment tools that the innovative methods are making a differ- new way?” Tolman added that the key is assessment, but ence. “Credibility is an important tool for driving change,” the problem is that most of research faculty, like him, who he said. Green added that change requires champions willing also teach are not education experts. “We do not know a lot to take on the task and be rewarded for their efforts, and that about assessment. We are told to do it, but we do not really requires changing a university’s culture in terms of how it learn about it,” Tolman said. Carroll acknowledged that values education versus research. short-term assessment was something that the community When Carroll then asked for examples of how the panel- was going to need to get better at, but the point he wanted ists introduced change in their departments, Tolman said that to address was whether 5 years down the road students who he used a video about accidents at two leading universities have passed through these new programs will be better sci- to introduce a major initiative on safety culture. Reimer said entists in the workplace. Olesik replied that this was an easy that he held a meeting at which faculty were allowed to have assessment—the companies and institutions that hire these a democratic dialog about a new curriculum that he guided to students will either be happy with our product or not. Based a predetermined conclusion. Doyle noted that the decision to on her experience with students who have had an interdis- make a change in the curriculum is out of his hands because ciplinary, deep science class or an active learning class, she so many students from other departments have a chemistry thinks that answer will be yes, these students are as good as requirement. “Unless we partner with these other depart- or better than those who take traditional classes. The panel- ments, our goal of moving toward interdisciplinary curricula ists also noted that these innovative methods are also giving is going to be very difficult,” he said. students better training in nonscience skills such as writing and presentation. In a final question for the panel, Carroll asked the depart- FLEXIBILITY AND SUBJECT MASTERY ment chairs if they thought these innovations could be From the industry panel’s discussions, Carroll had the scaled and implemented outside of the home institution. In impression that industry is still interested in subject mastery Tolman’s view, the answer is absolutely yes. What it will and depth, but at the same time is looking for students to have take, though, is educating faculty so that they want to do it. technological flexibility. He also noted that a number of the Reimer agreed and said that funding organizations such as innovative approaches that were presented at the workshop the NSF and Dreyfus Foundation need to continue incentiv- are using context in combination with traditional educational izing the adoption of these methods, even at a small level. methods. The question he had for the panel was, “Can we Green also agreed and noted that at her institution, peer-to- take real-world problems and use those to teach the skills that peer tutoring has spread so that all classes at Michigan Tech provide flexibility and motivate students while at the same use it to some degree. time get to the same depth and mastery that industry seems to be asking for in our students?” TAKING ACTION Garcia-Garibay thought that this was possible, though not in every single instance, but what was important was to teach As a final activity to close out the discussion, Carroll students about the processes of acquiring information, ana- asked each panelist to state their opinion on what the chem- lyzing information, and then transforming that information istry community needs to do to accelerate the adoption of into action. “We need to come out of the paradigm that we are the types of innovations presented at the workshop. Doyle providers of information,” he explained. “The information is said that the sheer number of students that pass through in the Web. It is in the books. It is everywhere. It does not chemistry courses is so large that it has an overwhelming make any sense to have all of that information in our brains. impact on how departments think about their curricula. We do not need the depth in terms of that information, but we Instead, he said the focus should be on identifying the need the strategic knowledge to be able to use information students who really need to know chemistry and focus on that is available everywhere.” educating them. Garcia-Garibay returned to the idea that Olesik said that the work that James Anderson and Scott the community needs to figure out how to offer what is Auerbach described suggests that it is possible to prepare a very desirable product in a more economically viable students to be technologically flexible and have a good manner. Doing so will require maximizing the value of grounding in the fundamentals of science. Doyle noted that the most expensive component of college education, the one problem he sees is that this approach might produce faculty member, and the monologue lecture is not the way
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32 UNDERGRADUATE CHEMISTRY EDUCATION to do that. The community needs to figure out how to use of the average student who represents the majority of technology to address that problem. the population. Green followed that comment by saying that the reward • There is still a need to develop a new interdisciplin- system has to change to support faculty with innovative ary general education course that meets the science ideas. Universities need to encourage faculty to experiment, requirement and satisfies university administrators. to take risks, and to fail, just as they do in their research labo- • Increase the emphasis on student-centered approaches, ratories. Olesik added to that by suggesting that universities which have been shown to increase retention and stu- need to support interdisciplinary educational programs and dent preparation. develop the financial structures to do so. • Teaching students to be able to read a newspaper With three suggestions on his list of to-do items, Reimer article in a scientifically critical manner is the most said that the first thing that must happen is for everyone important skill for them to master. attending the workshop to become leaders at their respective • Continue developing new approaches that give stu- institutions. Second, he would like to see someone develop dents skills in collaboration, speaking, and writing. the MOOC equivalent of the laboratory experience, an activ- • Ensure that students who complete these courses ity that he characterized as an interesting intellectual chal- have a clear understanding of the process of science, lenge. Finally, he said that someone needs to study, confront, not just the facts of science. and solve the problem of adolescents in the classroom. “All • Keep in mind that the primary job of education of my students are smart, but many do not succeed and to a should be to transform students from containers of large extent because they are adolescents,” Reimer stated. information to creators of knowledge. Tolman also thought the laboratory experience should • Remember that there is a broad spectrum of different become an area of focus, but he was of the opinion that the learning goals, some of which can be served by things laboratory experience was the one place where in-person, like MOOCs, but not all. hands-on instruction would not be replaced by a MOOC. • Do not minimize the importance of personal interac- “We should be looking at doing things in our labs that incul- tions between faculty and students. cate teamwork, cooperation, safety, and culture, all of those • The idea of engaging the students in real-world prob- things the industrial people want,” he said. lems is extremely exciting, but the problem is how to Carroll then turned to the workshop attendees and asked scale that up beyond a small number of students. each of them to give a one-sentence idea for action based • Increase the focus on broad-based adoption of on the workshop’s presentations. Their responses were as even the simple steps that can be taken to improve follows: learning. • Identify common outcomes so that the community • It is important to remember that NSF has funded can accelerate the spread of these innovative ideas. 20 years of great work upon which this community • Support departments implementing new educational should draw. paradigms by hiring their students. • Make use of the existing body of research on evalua- • Develop a system that incentivizes teaching that is tion and instructional methods instead of reinventing similar to the way that the current system incentivizes the wheel. research. • Have the courage to stop innovative programs that • Make better use of the cohort of current faculty that are not working. are serving in adjunct positions. • Apply the scientific method to teaching—make • Expose tenured faculty at large research institutions hypotheses, test them, determine outcomes, and to the problems of science education. revise those hypotheses in response to data. • Tap into the larger scientific community outside of • Ensure that each new innovative approach is assessed the ACS for help in developing principles, strategies, thoroughly and individually. and leadership. • Put additional resources into authentic assessment of • Include community colleges in this discussion. innovative methods of teaching, for without authentic • Be sensitive to and aware of the major demographic assessment there will never be broad change. shifts that have occurred over the past 20 years and • Focus on retention and scientific literacy as key out- that are continuing to change. come measures. • Continue to be creative and continue experimenting. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS • These innovative methods have given us the opportu- nity to enhance the education of the best students who In her closing remarks, organizing committee cochair are always going to succeed, but also get the attention Patricia Thiel summarized some of the key messages that
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FINAL THOUGHTS AND DISCUSSION 33 she is taking home from the workshop. Very broadly, she they improve outcomes or maintain outcomes with fewer said, it is a great time to be thinking about and talking about resources, and that they meet their objectives. “Assessment education renovation because of two things—great technol- is important because it will help to convince other people ogy and a great foundation of scientific information about that change is worthy,” she said. She also said that it is clear what works and what does not work in science education and that the community needs to do a better job disseminating in chemistry education upon which to carry out renovation. these new methods. She applauded the efforts to focus educational efforts on She then challenged everyone to think back to the filters global problems and the desire to produce more scientifically they brought to the workshop, to the preconceived biases, literate students. She noted the emphasis on engendering and throw them away. “Try to digest the information that was teamwork among students and ownership by students, as presented in the workshop perhaps through somebody else’s well as the importance of designing exams that match the point of view,” she said. “If you are an educator like me, try to desired outcome goals. She also acknowledged how much digest them through the point of view of someone who might work and support are needed for innovations to take hold in be funding these programs at NSF or digest them through the institutions. Toward that end, Thiel reiterated the need for point of view of someone who has devoted their lifetime to innovators to generate evidence that their courses work, that studying science education and doing assessment.”
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