What Do Instructors Expect from Beginning Chemistry Students? Part 2 Tony Mitchell The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Odessa, TX 79782 Is the purpose of high school science instruction, specifid l v chemistrv instruction. to nrenare students for colleee c h e h s t r y cou;ses, or is it to heip students understand how chemistrv o ~ e r a t ewith s aview to understandine the chemistry the students observe on a day-to-day basis? Part of the answer to these questions can he determined by examining what college instructors expect from beginning college chemistry students. In a previous article (I), i t was shown that there is a disagreement between high school chemistry teachers and college chemistry instructors as to what a student should know in terms of chemistry knowledge and chemistry-based skills orior to heeinnine colleee chemistrv in order t o he succes'sful in thatocourse: In view of these results, this paper now looks a t the survey results todetermine which skills and general attributes college chemistry instructors expect students to know prior to beginning an introductory chemistry course. Descrlptlon of the Study Asdescribed in Part 1(I), high school teachersand college chemistry instructors were asked to identify the chemical knowledge, skills, and attributes that they felt students should have in order to be successful in college chemistry. A total of 316 faculty members from six different groups-high school teachers (37). communitv colleee instructors (34). scienre education f a k l t y (28), universitr faculty (60).fourvear colleee facuitv 173). and freshman chemistry instructors (84)--respondedto the survey. The questionnaire consisted of 73 questions, based on the ACS High School Chemistry exam and discussions with the University of Iowa Chemistry Department. Each respondent was asked to indicate the relative importance they gave to each of the items on the survey. Possible responses were (1) "not important", (2) "may be important", (3) "some importance", and (4) "essential". General Skllls and Anrlbutes This naner focuses on the differences in exnectations of high scgodl and college faculty with respect to general skills and attributes appropriate for introductory college chemistry. Table 1lists the 29 questions dealing with general skills and attributes. The overall responses were split among "may be important", "some importance", and "essential" responses. Only a majority of one group (community college instructors) felt that all theskills and attributes in this section wereessential to colleee " success. A maioritv . . of hiehschool teachers. university faculty membemand four-year college faculty members felt the skills or attributes were either of "some importance" ~
This paper is based on the talk. "What Do We Expect Our Students to Know Before Taking Chemistry'l", presented at the Two-Year College Chemistry Conference, Arapahoe Community College, Littleton. CO, 4 April 1987.
Journal of Chemical Education
Table 1.QuestlonsDeallng with General SklNs or Anrlbutes ability to take careful and complete notes. ability to do college algebra' proficiency with beginning caC CUIUS... SUPB~DI reading skill skill with use of typical labaatWy equipment'. skill with standard safety procadures In the laboratory" high aptitude in science" bener man average interesVmp tivation far stcdy of chemistry" demonstrated study habits' inquisitive mind personal trait of perseverance. ability to pay attention' ability to interpret tables and graphs' skill wHh use of symbols. interest in i o n g m m experi-
p. interest In advance mathematics study q. high ACT swres r. ability to write in exemplary manner S. superior skills in wmmunication** I. understanding of place ofchem istry in society" u. positive aWWe about value of chemistry" v. ability to differentiate bshveen science and twchnoiogy" w. ability to read a wntour map'" x. ability to visualize in mree dimensions Y. abillty to do thought experlmerits-' 2. ability to solve puzzles 88. imagination" bb. creativity
'' Had a malwity of e w n i e i responses from at least one of me gr& "' Had a majority of not i m p m m responses.
in the study.
Table 2. QuestlonsBawd on General Skllls or AItrlbdes Where 90% ot at Lead One College Group Responded That the Item Was QoUP
Skill or anribute (a) abilitytotakecompieteand careful notes (b) abililytodo colisgsalgebra (i) demonstrated shdy habits (k) personal trait of perseverance (I) ability lo pay snention (m) abilnyto interpret graphs (n) skill with use of symbols
Qoup #1-high school teachers (37) #Z-mmmunlty college faculty (34) #$-science edvcation faculty (28) #4-university faculty (60) #5-freshman chemistry instructors (84) 118-four-year college faculty (731
or "essential". A majority of science education faculty and freshman chemistry instructors felt the skills or attributes were either of "some imoortance" or "mav be imoortant". No group gave a majority of responses to "not important", either hv itself or combined with the "mav be imnortant" Thirteenof thequestions (markedonTahle 2 with ") had a majority of essential responses from at least one group in
the study. There were also twoquestions (marked onTable 2 with ***) where the majority of a t least one group felt the skill or attribute was not important to a student's initial success in college chemistry. There was only one question (d-superior reading skill) were there was a substantial disagreement between groups. High school teachers and science education faculty felt that this question was not important for future success. while a maioritv . . of communitv college instructors, university faculty, and four-year college faculty felt i t was essential. A maioritv of freshman chemistry instructors felt that possessi& ofthis skill was of some importance. There were seven questions where a t least 90% of one group indicated the skill or attrihute was essential (these are marked on Tahle 1with a * and listed by group in Tahle 2). It can be seen that there were only two questions (bability t o do college algebra, and l-ability to pay attention) where a t least 90% of two college groups indicated that the skill or attrihute was considered essential for success in college chemistry. In the case of question 1, 90% of the high school teachers also felt the skill was essential. In the case of question b, only 48% of the high school faculty felt that this skill was essential for colleee success. Question h and auestion k (personal trait of p&everancej were the o n l i two questions where the high school faculty did not agree with a t least one college group in terms of essential responses. There were no questions where at least 90%of all five college groups felt the skill or attribute was essential. In addition to auestion I, there were four other questions where 90% of the high school group gave essential responses. In the other four questions, only 90% of one college group (the community college group) also indicated that the skill or attribute was essential. While these responses were limited, i t does suggest further study on the nature of chemical instruction a t the community college level when compared to high school instruction. The results of this section of the study are consistent with resultsidentified by Streitberger (2),Zimelis (3),Niedzielski and Walmsley (4). In these studies, college faculty members preferred high school instructors concentrate on helping students master basic skills rather than an in-depth preaentation chemistrv. ~ - - of - ~ In a second study Streitberger (5) surveyed 395 college students for the recommendations they would make to high school students relative to enrolling in college chemistry. The two leadine recommendations from the college students were to learn gow to take better notes and improve one's study habits. Both of these skills received high essential ratings from the college faculty groups in this study. As shown in Part 1 (I), there was very little agreement between groups as to the chemical knowledge andchemical skills that could be considered essential for students to have before beginning an introductory college chemistry course. I t was also noted that high school instructors placed a greater - emnhasis - ~ - ~ on ~ chemical knowledee and chemical skills than did c&ege chemistry instructors.%he overall results for this section showed that a ereater ~erceutaee - of all five college groups gave a higher number of essential responses in the eeneral skills and attributes area as compared to the chemical knowledge and skills areas. ~ n a d d i t i o ithe , percentage of essential responses from the high school group decreased when compared to their responses to the chemical knowledge and chemical skills areas. ~~
Conclusion I t is not clear from the results of this study whether collegiate instructors felt students were deficient in the skills identified in this study or whether additional emphasis needed t o be placed on those skills. As a whole, the results of this study suggest that college instructors feel the role of
high school science instruction is simply to prepare students for future college science instruction. Such preparation may include developing basic skills but would limit the amount of subject matter presented. The actual presentation of the subject matter would then he left to the college instructors. On the other hand, high school instructors may feel it is their job to present a broad view of the subject maker in order to facilitate this preparation. Gold ( 6 )staiedihat collegechemistry faculty tend to'kall the shots" when it comes to high school chemistry instruction. This call may be more subtle than anyone realizes. Many high school instructors receive feedhack f r o h their students suggesting that the coverage of material in high school was useful in their later success in college chemistry. This idea of coverine the colleee material is also reinforced by the nature of current hig
Volume 68 Number 2
used and the most likely person to provide such will come from the industrial sector. Wheredo the high school teachers find these persons? The immediate answer, of course, is the local ACS section. Ronald Archer, Chair of the ACS Committee on Education, has also called for action rather than talk and complaints about the quality of science (and chemistry) education from ACS members (11).I recently suggested that local ACS sections get involved in local education by inviting local teachers to join the local section through the ACS affiliate program and by providing local teachers with lists of speakers in the area who could help answer some of the questions that might arise concerning how chemistry is used. In addition to those ideas, it would he appropriate for local sections to assist local chemistry teachers in matters dealing with safety and chemical disposal (12). Summary
This study set out to determine what chemical knowledge, chemical-based skills, and general skills or attributes high
Journal of Chemical Education
school students needed to have in order to he successful when later taking college chemistry. The results of the study show that high school and college chemistry faculties disagree as to what constitutes the appropriate material. This disameement, unless resolved, will have a negative impact on tKe designand implementation of future co&es.
Llleralure Cited -
1. Mitchell, T. II Chem. Edue. 1989.66,66. 2. Streithewer, E. Sci. Teach. 1977,44(8),35. 3. Zimelis, J. J. Charn.Educ. 1981,58.468. 4. Niedrielaki, R. J.; Wslmdcy. F.J. Chrm. Educ. 1982.53.149. 5. Stroitbetger,H.E. J. Chem. Edur. 1985.62.7W. 6. Gold, M. J. Cham. Educ. 1988.65.780. 7. Krajeik,J. S.;Yager.R E. J. ChamEduc. 1986.53.145. 8. Leyden. M.B.Sci. Toaeh. 1984. (Marchb.27. 9. American Chemical Society. Chamcorn-Chrmiatry in the Community; KenddlHunt: Duhuque, 1988. lo. Waggoner, C. A. Edn Thesis. Univer8ityafToledo, 1979. 11. Archer, R. D. C & ENelus 1989,67(48), 56: see also C &ENelus 1989, (27 November), <"-CG