of chemistry and its fundamental principles to students in the humanities and social sciences. Garcia-Garibay agreed with several presenters that better assessment is needed for how new approaches to chemistry education affect student performance and on the impact of these innovations across the university. He reiterated the early comment that the community needs to work hard at introducing these innovative approaches to much larger audiences and particularly to younger colleagues and teaching assistants.
Speaking from the perspective of having been involved in higher education for 45 years, Doyle said he was impressed with the era of experimentation and innovation that the workshop’s speakers represent. He commented on what appears to be a move to use lower-cost methods of instruction that take education away from the master–apprentice approach that has dominated education for so long, and then posed a series of questions that going forward could serve as food for thought for the community.
• What if the National Science Foundation (NSF) had spent money on multiple textbooks that had emphasized interdisciplinary activities in the 1980s and 1990s instead of investing in individual institutions and initiatives that were coming from those institutions?
• What if the American Chemical Society (ACS) Committee on Professional Training had made interdisciplinary education as its mode of approach instead of the subdisciplinary approach that existed in the 1980s and 1990s?
• What if research as an initiation of students to the potential of understanding problem solving and careers in the sciences had moved from a time period that was the capstone experience of a student to a freshman experience that allowed the freshmen to actually start looking at these things early in their educational experience?
Doyle also wondered if the community has the knowledge to understand which of the many approaches presented at the workshop work best and if the nation has the resources to implement any more than one of these approaches. He posed this last issue as a challenge that the community needs to face going forward.
Carroll next asked the panel if the case had been made that chemistry education needs to change. Olesik felt that the case for change in the broad field of science education has been made for some time, given the low retention rate for students who express an interest in pursuing a science career when they first enter college and who would be considered the top students based on entering standardized test scores. “It just seems to be an incredible travesty to me 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 something that is not a STEM major,” she stated. “This is a huge loss for the nation.” She added that the innovations she heard at the workshop are “spectacular. It is the institutional structures that are a problem.”
Students are driving the need for change, said Green, because they have such an evolving smorgasbord of opportunities in front of them. “If they do not like the way we are teaching in our institution, they go somewhere else,” she said. Without change, she added, “they are going to vote with their feet or with their dollars.” Doyle agreed with this sentiment and noted a program at the University of Maryland College of Engineering that was started 15 years ago when faculty realized that only 38 percent of entering students were graduating in 5 years. The college instituted a program that matches a cohort of 40 students with one faculty member for 2 years with the result that 68 percent of students now finish their degrees in 5 years. “Personal interaction remains a primary determinant on a student’s success,” he said.
When Carroll asked if anyone wanted to make the case that change was not needed, Tolman said that he did not want to make the opposite case, but refine it. He said that he had not heard the case that fundamental, large-scale institutional change was necessary, but that teaching methods do need to evolve, which should be a natural part of being an educator. Tolman agreed wholeheartedly with the assessment that the community needs to do a better job educating the nonprofessional about science, but that in his mind the evidence was mixed as to whether there is a lack of trained science professionals that is resulting from the low retention rate.
Garcia-Garibay noted that the panel had not addressed the problem of the cost of education, and that is a major driver of change. The cost of education at a large institution such as his is unsustainable, he said, and the major cost of education is faculty. “We need to rethink the paradigm,” he said. “How to engage this very expensive faculty in what is becoming an increasingly important portion of the university enterprise?” Carroll asked if chemistry was ripe for the kind of disruptive innovation that could change the cost structure of education, and Tolman replied that massive open online courses (MOOCs) could be such a disruptive force.
Given that the panelists are all department chairs, Carroll noted, he asked them how they plan to drive change in their departments. Tolman said that his department is trying many of these innovations. “We have online sections. We have a MOOC in our department. We have active learning classes, and in fact we have a whole building filled with active learning classrooms that we use with these methodologies. I’m not saying we should not be doing these things. I’m questioning the need for large-scale institutional change throughout the entire system.”