Postsecondary chemistry education in the United States

Using the National Science Foundation as a resource, one can find the 2003 top R&D Institutions in the U.S. A survey of these departments is revealing:

University of California – Los Angeles
As part of the wider UCLA Science Challenge, The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is actively pursuing the development of new curricula and incorporation of technological tools such as distance learning and multimedia into curricula.] More specifically, Senior Lecturer Arlene A. Russell conducts research into the development of instructional materials, such as the web-based tool Calibrated Peer Review (CPR), and programs such as Preparing Future Faculty and the Science Teacher Education Program. Lecturer Eric Scerri has written extensively on questions of basic philosophy of chemistry and chemical education, with particular attention to the conceptualization of the Periodic System of Elements and the teaching of atomic and electronic structure. Finally, as of 2003, Lecturer Alfred Bacher was providing several positions for undergraduates interested in performing research related to the development of new experiments and teaching aids for his courses.

University of California - San Diego
The University of California at San Diego includes Chemical Education as one of its primary research areas within the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. The faculty members that devote their research to this area include: John Czworkowski, Barbara Sawrey and Haim Weizman. Dr. Czworkowski’s current focus is on the Science and Math Initiative (SMI)/California Teach program that was recently implemented at UCSD in order to attract undergraduates into the field of teaching. He is also currently studying problem-based learning and the use of computer multimedia for science instruction. Dr. Sawrey, the Vice-Chair for Education, directs her focus towards the development of computer-based multimedia to assist student learning of complex scientific processes and concepts. Dr. Weizman’s research involves improving the teaching of organic chemistry at the college level. Also, his program aims to develop laboratories that can better train chemistry majors.

Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University does not have a listed Chemical Education division; however, it does include this area as a research interest amongst eight different faculty members in the chemistry department. These members (whose positions range from senior lecturer to associate professor to professor) have varying degrees of involvement in the research of chemical education. Some focus on coordinating chemistry classes while others do research that includes topics such as developing more active learning techniques (i.e. multimedia), quantitatively assessing the success of teaching tools and the development of an integrated lecture and laboratory. Also, Texas A&M University offers a Masters (non-thesis) degree with an emphasis in Chemical Education. The goal of this program is to train students in the fundamental areas of chemistry and modern educational theory. It also provides hands-on experiences with teaching and presentations.

University of California – Berkeley
The activity in Chemical Education in the Berkeley College of Chemistry consists primarily of the work of two faculty members: Professors Angelica Stacy and Robert Bergmann. Of particular note is the ChemEd research group led by Dr. Stacy, which works to develop chemistry curricula for high school and college courses, as well as to perform research related to the assessment of student understanding. In addition to projects in these areas, the ChemEd group has worked on the Multi-Initiative Dissemination (MID) Project, an NSF-funded effort that introduces faculty in to diverse resources through 1.5-day hands-on workshops in “diverse geographic locations.” Dr. Bergmann has also been involved in MID, as well as the promotion of teaching models based on active learning, and outreach activities such as science presentations by graduate students in local elementary schools.

University of Arizona
The University of Arizona Department of Chemistry offers several opportunities for training in chemical education, including a Teacher Preparation Program for middle school and high school teaching, and a concentration in chemical education for students pursuing an M.S. or Ph.D. in chemistry. In addition, two faculty members are listed as having research interests in chemical education: Associate Professor Vincente Talanquer and Professor Philip Keller. Dr. Talanquer’s research focuses on common sense and qualitative reasoning in chemistry, the progression of learning and expertise in chemistry, and development of pedagogical content knowledge in chemistry teachers. Dr. Keller’s specific interests are unspecified.

University of Pittsburgh
Even though the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh does not have any faculty devoting their research to chemical education or the potential for students to obtain Chemical Education degrees, it is making their students more aware of advances in chemical education via a ChemEd seminar offered each term. This presentation features a nationally recognized researcher describing their innovations in chemical education.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The UNC Department of Chemistry lists four faculty with research interests in chemical education, most of whom are responsible for development of (apparently internal) undergraduate curricula. Research Assistant Professor Todd Austell works to design curricula which produce a more dynamic learning environment, especially through the introduction of computer technology into laboratory courses and varied teaching methods into lectures. Research Assistant Professor Brian Hogan develops and implements undergraduate biochemistry curriculum with an emphasis on active learning. Research Assistant Professor Domenic Tiani works on curricula and teaching methods that seek to establish critical thinking skills in the student, as well as to help the student draw connections between course material and the world of experience. Research Assistant Professor Bessie N. A. Mbadugha explores innovative teaching methods to maintain student engagement, to challenge students to think about the concepts as opposed to relying on memorization and to demonstrate the relevance of organic chemistry.

University of Georgia
The University of Georgia includes chemical education as part of its research interests in the Department of Chemistry. Of the 59 faculty members in this department, only one devotes his research to chemical education: Charles H. Atwood. Dr. Atwood, an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia, designs his research around the introduction of new technologies for educational presentation, assessment, laboratory instruction and testing of chemical phenomena. One of his recent projects includes developing a computerized testing and homework system in order to evaluate students.

University of Iowa
The University of Iowa’s Chemistry Education website reveals a concerted effort in chemical education which includes the improvement of general chemistry courses; graduate student education, including preparation for teaching; and the design of courses for non-science majors. In terms of chemical education research, Associate Professor Norbert J. Pienta performs work related to student problem solving, assessment, electronic data collection in laboratories, multimedia in the classroom and as supplementary materials, and the training of teaching assistants (TAs) and graduate students. Additionally, the Department of Chemistry offers a specialization in chemical education for Ph.D. chemistry students, although students must also have performed work and demonstrated proficiency in a traditional subdiscipline of chemistry.

University of Northern Colorado
The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) in Greeley is one of the few programs in the United States that offers a doctoral degree in Chemical Education. The doctoral program in Chemical Education started in the early 1970s as one of the first chemistry Doctorate of Arts programs in the United States; the degree was converted to a Ph.D. degree in 1988. Several faculty members within the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry participate in Chemical Education research. This research field is the main focus for three of the chemistry faculty. Dr. Jerry Suits’ research focuses on interactive multimedia modules and simulations, computer-interfaced laboratory experiments, student visualization, learning styles, conceptual learning and achievement. Dr. Jack Barbera’s research has two main foci: 1) the development and validation of instruments for the assessment of both students’ epistemological beliefs and of their chemistry conceptual knowledge, and 2) the development of learning materials (virtual laboratories, tutorials, classroom demos) which utilize the PhET chemistry simulations. Dr. Youngjin Song’s research focuses on how science teachers learn from their practices through classroom research (e.g., action research) and how they develop their professional knowledge for teaching. Specific projects focus on “teachers’ practices in relation to students’ thinking” and “inquiry teaching and learning of science”. Emeritus faculty members include ACS Pimentel Award winner Henry Heikkinen and EDUCOM/NCRIPTAL Higher Education Software Award winner Loretta Jones.