Recent Advances in Teaching Chemistry

K. Mellon, Florida State University. The thrust ... Program at its best served a uniquely valuable role in the continuing education of .... Florida, T...
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SYMPOSIA Recent Advances in Teaching Chemistry Prepared by E. K. Mellon, Florida State University The thrust of this symposium centered on the choice of content in chemistry courses as chemical educators face the edge of the 21st century. In the first oresentation (.1.) Rohert W. Parrv traced the ~--century-old history of the warfare between emphasis on chemical theory and so-called descriptive (or reaction) chemistry in chemical education. He seconded the oftenrepeated sentiment that in recent vears oarticularlv a t the high srhool and gener:il chemistry lec,elr n rksplaced emphasis on chemical theory has e \ d v r d , almost crowding- out reaction chemistry. He then described the good intentions toward rebalancing this emphasis exhibited by the organizers of the "International Conference on New Directions in the Chemistry Curriculum" held June It?-23, 1978, a t McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. The McMaster Conference set about designing a proper curriculum insoired hv descrintions of recentlv im, the kited plemented programs in Austialia, ~ i n a d aand Kingdom. One of the principal consensuses a t the McMaster Conference was that, in order to make room for an increased emphasis on reaction chemistry, some topics presently covered must be removed or deemphasized. Areas suggested for removal a t the high school and general chemistry levels included molecular orbitals and advanced thermodjnamics and kinetics. T h e focus of the nresentatiou then shifted to continuine education for high sihool teachers, and Derek Davenport was called from the audience to introduce the followine resolu~~



It is the sense of this conference that the NSF Summer Institute Program at its best served a uniquely valuable role in the continuing education of high school and college teachers of chemistry. The need for continuing education was stressed in the recent "ACS Guidelines for Chemistry Teacher Preparation"and in a broader context it was a prominent theme of the conference. In recent years the emphasis on the NSF Teacher Development Program has shifted to serve different purposes and different audiences and the magnitude of the effort has been sharply curtailed. However, the needs served by the original institutes persist; indeed, they may well begrowing. They are not presently heinn met at the state and local level. \\c urge chat mrnni hc nl~ght1,). which the p r w m model ufthr early institutes hr used torxpsnd thr currcnt pnqpms fur the runrinuinr ~ d w n t i w01 tewhrri 131 ~hcwistr) which was overwhelmingly accepted by the conference membership. The second speaker, Robert Osteryoung, described (2) an NSF-funded proiect a t Colorado State Universitv in which modules on specific analytical techniques were deGeloped for and presented to graduate students in areas such as micro. biology, botany, agricultural engineering, agronomy, watershed science, veterinary medicine, earth science, and atmospheric science. Most of these students had had only two years of chemistry (if that) several years before. A typical module consists of eight hours of lecture (using locally prepared slides and text, manufacturer's literature, bibliography, etc.) and six hours of application. Specific applicational areas such as water chemistry, pesticide chemistry, gas chromatography, ion selective electrodes, and the like are covered. Surprisingly, many chemistry graduate students (even 4 1 Journal of Chemical Education

faculty) presented themselves for the courses. Response from students was most positive. Osteryoung noted the following problems in the implementative of the program 1) time and especially expense


2) heterogeneity in student background

3) difficulty in corraling lab equipment (no funds were provided for its purchase) 4) insufficient time for the digestion of the material Jeff Davis' presentation (3) concerned the conceptual hurdle physical chemistry represents to most undergraduates. Agreeing that derivations and proofs are adequately presented on the textbook page, he suggests ways in which practical, real-world aspects of the suhject could better be presented in the classroom and laboratory. These include: building up to complex graphs using sequences of slides andlor overhead projections 2) student-computer interaction in the analysis of data from hyvothetical emeriments in kinetics. ohase behavior., etc. 3) usk of short animated film loops foiiepeated viewing of molecular encounters 1)

Elegant examples were displayed. Davis' main point was that concept uisualization by the student is a t least as important as vigorous mathematical development of the theory. Marjorie Caserio traced (4) recent developments in organic chemistry concerning the subject itself, teachers of the subject, and students. She noted the recent inclusion of several topics of current interest (some very difficult to teach to undergraduates) including: 1) pericyclic reactions 2)

3) 4) 5) 6)

organometallic chemistry and use of formerlyless-mmmon light element organics in organic synthesis applications of spectroscopy,for example, multielement nmr and ion-cyclotron resonance stereochemistry biochemistry macromolecular chemistry

to the exclusion of such (in many cases important and practical) t o ~ i c as s historv. ohvsical orooerties. industrial chemistry, natural products, heterocyciic Ehemistry, polyfunctional molecules, and aromatics. She traced the enrollment exolosion of recent years, due chiefly to the attraction of the biology major for students, and noted the resulting erosion in amount of &:tion chemistry taught nnd thr quality ot'bvth classroom and IaOorntory reaching. She then offered surrrstions as to the future status of teaching in organic chemistry.

Bibliography (1) What Reacts with W h a t ? S o m e of Usstill Care, R. W. Parry, Dept. of Chemistry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

84112. (2) Modular Short Courses i n Analytical Chemistry for Nonchemistry Graduate Students, R. A. Osteryoung and R. K.

Skogerhoe, Dept. of Chemistry, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. (3) Physical Chemistry for Undergraduates: A Religion or a Tool? J. C. David, Jr., Dept. of Chemistry, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620. (4) Evolution or Revolution i n t h e Teaching of Organic Chemistry, M. C. Caserio, Dept. of Chemistry, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, CA 92717.

Volume 56, Number 1. January 1979 / 5