What Do Conceptual Holes in Assessment Say about the Topics We Teach in General Chemistry?
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Introductory chemistry has long been considered a service course by various departments that entrust chemistry departments with teaching their students. As a result, most introductory courses include a majority of students who are not chemistry majors, and many are health and science related majors who are required to take chemistry. To identify content areas that are either well covered or sparsely covered, approximately 2000 exam items from four types of General Chemistry ACS exams (Full Year General Chemistry, General Chemistry Conceptual, First Term General Chemistry, and Second Term General Chemistry) spanning two decades were aligned to the Anchoring Concepts Content Map (ACCM). ACS exams were chosen as artifacts due to the nature of the exam development by committees consisting of chemists who are experts in the field. The ACCM is developed such that the statements from the first two levels are stable across the entire undergraduate chemistry curriculum, while the third and fourth levels are subdiscipline specific. It was found that there are 17 statements at the second level (Enduring Understanding) that have rarely been assessed on General Chemistry ACS exams over the past 20 years. Some of these topics appear in areas that are likely important for students whose interest lies in the life sciences, including no items testing the concept of intermolecular forces in the context of large molecules. These results suggest that chemistry curriculum reform efforts may benefit from considering specifics of content domain coverage.
Reprinted (adapted) with permission from J. Chem. Educ., 2015, 92 (6), pp 993–1002. Copyright 2015 American Chemical Society.