Nov. 16, 2015
With a low pass rate in one professor’s general chemistry class, CHEM 1001’s team of professors seek to improve student success in this subject.
CHEM 1001 is a remedial chemistry course taught by chemistry instructors Sam Vivian and Terry Geiger. They believe that students don’t often know the required material to be successful in general chemistry and other classes. They hope to solve this by co-teaching CHEM 1001.
Vivian explained that students attend these classes for reasons which range from being out of school for a period of time to not having a chemistry background.
“One analogy we often use is that there’s this belief that going from high school chemistry to college chemistry is like going from college football to the NFL. People think that’s one rung. It’s not, it’s 10,” Vivian said.
Vivian teaches general chemistry and a 4000 level biochemistry class, while Geiger teaches organic chemistry. This is their first semester teaching CHEM 1001.
Vivian explained why he and Geiger started teaching CHEM 1001.
“We were very tired and frustrated with students who couldn’t do certain things that we felt were prerequisite,” said Vivian.
Savana Brown, sophomore biology major, said she had taken CHEM 1001 before it was taught by Vivian and Geiger. She is currently taking general chemistry taught by Vivian.
“I think it would have been better if I would have taken it from the teacher I was going to take the other class or the next class from,” she said.
Vivian also explained that general chemistry is not meant to be a “weeder” course, which seeks to filter students out at a low level before reaching higher level courses.
But, the pass/fail rate said otherwise, even with approximate numbers.
“Out of every hundred students enrolling in gen chem, half drop. Of the remaining half, half fail. That means 25 percent effectively pass,” said Vivian.
“In order to increase the retention rates at UCCS, those numbers have to change,” he said.
“We call it boot camp forgen chem,” said Geiger.
Geiger explained that he and Vivian don’t teach the class in a standard manner.
“We both enjoy chalk talks. We think that students benefit better from having to write material down, rather than power point.”
He further added that their students are required to have notebooks, and work problems. Also, while the class does not count for credits, it does affect GPA.
“They’re learning problem solving skills more than chemistry,” said Vivian.
“We teach them dimensional analysis, conversions, we do teach them necessary chemical skills. Our students can tell you a limiting reactant in a problem, but they may not be able to tell you what kind of chemistry reaction it is,” said Geiger.
Vivian said the skills students learn in this class can apply to other classes such as physics and biology.
Another teaching method Geiger and Vivian employ is using previous exams.
“We bring in exams that have actually been administered from other classes,” said Vivian.
“We will break them in by giving a lot of quizzes and exams. They’re not necessarily graded, but we want to put them in the seat, and have them feel some of the pressure of being in a test or a quiz and start adapting to that,” he said.
Vivian said the intent is to have students deal with the stress of exams, so by the seventh or eighth time they can say “oh yea, another quiz, bring it on.”
Once students have been taught these basic requirements, Vivian and Geiger want to see if they get students in general chemistry who “come in and hit the ground running.”
“That’s what we’re going to find out in the spring,” said Geiger.