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ED 357 975
SE 053 326
Tobias, Sheila
Revitalizing Undergraduate Science: Why Some Things
Work and Most Don't. An Occasional Paper on Neglected
Problems in Science Education.
Research Corp., Tucson, AZ.
Research Corporation, Book Dept., 6840 East Broadway
Boulevard, Tucson, AZ 85710-2815 ($3.95; 2-10 copies,
$1 each; over 10 copies $1.50 each).
Research/Technical (143)
MF01/PC08 Plus Postage.
Case Studies; Change Strategies; Chemistry; *College
Science; *Educational Change; Educational
Development; Educational Research; *Excellence in
Education; Higher Education; Physical Sciences;
Physics; Science Curriculum; *Science Education;
Science Instruction; *Undergraduate Study
This book explains why so few efforts at reforming
science education are successful, and why it is that the 300 studies
on the subject published over the past decade have done little more
than add to a growing body of literature. The book describes programs
which are successful in terms of faculty accomplishments, students
graduated and entering advanced study or professional workplace, and
showing evidence of high morale among both faculty and
undergraduates. Common elements in nany of these programs are
abandonment of an almost exclusive emphasis on problem solving and
modification of the lecture format to permit teaching of underlying
concepts. Other variations in traditional introductory physics and
chemistry courses are aimed at persuading these sinjiy fulfilling
graduation requirements to major in science; at bringing minority
students into the fold; or at combining physics or various sub-fields
of chemistry in different ways to promote better understanding.
Harvard's "chem-phys," is provided as an example of such a
combination, but also as a case study of how innovation can be
stymied by a lack of university-wide change. The author uses methods
of ethnography in reporting what makes individual programs
interesting, what their faculty are doing, and what program
participants are thinking. (PR)
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Points of new or opinions stateclin thisdocu
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Why Some Things Work and Most Don't
by Sheila Tobias
W. Stevenson Bacon, Series Editor
An occasional paper on neglected problems in science education
Published by Research Corporation
a foundation for the advancems't of science
6840 East Broadway Boulevard
Tucson, Arizona 85710-2815
Copyright 1992 by Research Corporation
ISBN 0-9633504-1-2
To David Riestnan,
Professor Emeritus of Sociology,
Harvard University,
who thinks about American higher education
with more clarity than anyone else;
And to Sanford Lakoff,
Professor of Political Science,
University of California, San Diego,
for his contribution to the clarity
of my thinking about everything.
Sources and Rapporteurs
Debbi- Ashcraft, UCSD Institute
Margaret Bartlett, Fort Lewis College
Steve Brenner, Harvard University
Robert Brown, Case Western Reserve University
Brian P. Coppola, University of Michigan
Daryl Chubin, Office of Technology Assessment
Russell Doolittle, University of California, San Diego
Michael C. Doyle, Trinity University
Seyhan Ege, University of Michigan
Katya Fels, Harvard University
Therese Flaningam, UCSD Institute
David Hall, Harvard University
Sylvia Teich Horowitz, California State University, Los Angeles
Priscilla Laws, Dickinson College
David Layzer, Harvard University
Abigail Lipson, Harvard University
Eric Mazur, Harvard University
Jim Mills, Fort Lewis College
Patricia A. Moore, University of California, San Diego
Stella Pagonis, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Suzan Potuznik, University of California, San Diego
Paul Saltman, University of California, San Diego
David Sokoloff, University of Oregon
Alan Van Heuvelen, New Mexico State University
K. Wayne Yang, Harvard University
Science Education Reform
What's Wrong with the Process?
High Morale in a Stable Environment
Chemistry at UW-Eau Claire
Structure and Reactivity
Introductory Chemistry at the University of Michigan
"Not More Help, but More Chemistry"
UCSD's Approach to Nonscience Majors
Reforming College Physics
Attending to Cognitive Issues
Students Teaching Students
Harvard Revisited
Affirmative Education
California State University, Los Angeles
Teaching Teachers
UCSD Revisited
Can Introductory Science be Multidisciplinary?
Harvard's Chem-Phys
Recruiting New Students to Research Science
Fort Lewis and Trinity
The Implementation Challenge
Appendix A
The undergraduate chemistry curriculum and sample
examinations, University of Michigan
Appendix B
The University of Utah's new curriculum plan
Appendix C
Harvard University courses of instruction
About this volume: the author and rapporteurs
About Research Corporation
IZevitalizing Undergraduate Science: Why Some Things Work and Most
Don't makes clear why so few efforts at reforming science education are
successful, and why it is that the 300 studies on the subject published over
the past decade have done little more than add to a growing body of
literature. It is a second Research Corporation paper on the problems of
science education: declining interest in science on the part of able U.S.
college students motivated a previous work, also authored by Sheila
Tobias, that found that introductory college physics and chemistry are
less than positive experiences for many who come to college with some
talent and taste for science.'
Revitalizing Undergraduate Science takes us on a tour of programs (and
courses) that appear successful in terms of faculty accomplishments;
students graduated and entering advanced study or the professional
workplace; and showing evidence of high morale among both faculty and
undergraduates. These successful programs are found in places as
diverse as a state university in the multicultural environment of East Los
Angeles; an institution of the University of Wisconsin system in rural
Wisconsin; an elite private institution in Texas; a Colorado state college;
and three of the nation's great research universities.
Common elements in many of these programs are abandonment of an
almost exclusive emphasis on problem solving and modification of the
lecture format to permit teaching of underlying concepts. Other varia-
tions in traditional introductory physics and chemistry courses are
aimed at persuading those simply fulfilling graduation requirements to
major in science; at bringing minority students into the fold; or at
combining physics and /or various subfields of chemistry in different
ways to promote better understanding.
Harvard's "chem-phys," for example, is not only such a combination,
but a case study in another dimension: how innovationan elegant,
intellectually satisfying new coursecan be stymied by lack of univer' Sheila Tobias, They re Not Dunth,They're DIfferent: Stalking the Second Tier (Tucson, Ariz.:
Research Corporation, 1990)
sity-wide change. Lasting change occurs, Tobias says, when everybody
wants it, when there is a passion to improve, when there is nearly
universal "buy-in."
Revitalizing Undergraduate Science carries the argument forward through
case studies, not as case reports selected by category or type. Although
chemistry programs and courses cluster in the first half of the book and
undergraduate physics courses ale discussed in later chapters, some
physics appears in connection with chemistry (chapter 6), and chemistry
returns in chapter 9. Certain themes (not disciplines) are visited and
revisited in different environments. The goal is to compare institutional
responses to the challenge of teaching undergraduate science rather than
to survey discipline-specific experiments.
As one example, the theme at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
(chapter 2), and Fort Lewis in Durango and Trinity in San Antonio
(chapter 3), is continuous attention to the quality of undergraduate
instruction overall, and continuous improvement of already successful
programs. On the surface the University of Michigan (chapter 4) offers
yet another chemistry program in transition, but the setting : larger and
the theme is not so much improvement as fundamental cl.ange. From
Michigan the argument carries us to another research institution, the
University of California, San Diego (chapter 5) to consider a more modest
change: enrichment of a course in chemistry for nonscience majors. This
in turn leads us to "chem-phys" at Harvard (chapter 6), a multidisciplinary
introduction to the physical sciences designed to challenge beginning
This bridge to physics introduces still another theme: the application
of cognitive research to teaching. Tobias reports some of the findings of
this research, then presents case studies from New Mexico State University, Dickinson College, and Case Western Reserve (chapter 7). These
bring us back to Harvard and yet another model for reform of physics
education (chapter 8). In chapters 9 and 10 new questions are posed: what
can be done to recruit America's historically underrepresented and some
of her newer minorities for science, and what are the obligations of the
great research universities toward training elementary and high school
teachers. The first and last chapters of this report are bookends, meant to
frame the argument in both theoretical and practical ways.
As might be surmised, the programs selected for study in Revitalizing
Undergraduate Science are neither random nor symmetrical. Tobias has
used the methods of ethnography in reporting what makes individual
programs interesting, what their faculty are doing, what they are thinking
about what they are doing, and what others can learn from their experience
This is particularly appropriate siTice efforts to reform science education
to date have demonstrated that the politics and the process of change are
not well understood.
For those accustomed to doing science, Tobias' methods and measures
will seem inconclusive, but the processes of change are not susceptible to
exact assessment. Reform is a process rather than a scientific problem to
be solved, and the perfect curricula and pedagogies may prove forever
elusive. Given the transitory nature and dismal record to date of innovations in the field of science education, science and society will be the
beneficiaries even if these case studies inspire only a few imitators.
John P. Schaefer
Research Corporation
Tucson, Arizona
May 1, 1992
Science Education Reform
What's Wrong with the Process?
Iam seated around a conference table at an average-size comprehensive
state university in the mid-South. I have come to tell the faculty in science
that my research shows that the four-year state institutions, of which
theirs is typical, are doing a very good job meeting undergraduates'
needs in science. But these faculty are not convinced. From their vantage
point students are woefully underprepared in mathematics and science,
and unwilling to work hard. Money is scarce for the kinds of improvements they'd like to try. Attempts to place students in stratified introductory math courses founder on a university-imposed policy that allows
undergraduates to select their own sections of a course, whatever their
placement scores. My host, the dean of science, is committed to improving the quality of undergraduate instruction. But he, too, is frustrated.
What makes a difference, he asks? Should he concentrate on class size?
On faculty development? On courses for nonscience students? Or on
grants-getting for educational projects? He is pleased when an instructor
does an excellent job of teaching, but not sure how to guarantee this
happens more of the time.
Up the road, at the research university in the same state, a vice
president for academic affairs is also determined to do the right thing.
Though not a scientist, he is convinced that science is a liberal art which
ought to be integrated more fully into the undergraduate curriculum. He
recently inaugurated an internal fund to encourage innovation in undergraduate science teaching. When I tell him I am not as impressed with
innovation that requires special funding as with steady improvement, he
invites me to give him a list of such improvements he might make.
The problem at both institutions is well understood: too few under-
graduates willing to enroll and persist in science. Responsibility for
changing that picture is, however, diffuse. Faculty members are involved
in the undergraduate courses they teach, but no one pays much attention
to the overall quality of instruction. And even if the faculty were to accept
collective responsibility, how does a single department deal with budget
constraints; university-wide policies inappropriate to science teaching;
credit-hour formulas that do not reflect the time faculty and students
spend in class and laboratory sections; poor advising; grade inflation in
fields other than science; unenforced (or unenforceable) admissions
requirements; and students' poor precollege preparation in science and
Few issues are as straightforward as students' precollege preparation
and grade inflation. Yet few scientists are as willing to undertake the kind
of high-risk action needed to make change as the faculty at the University
of Utah who voted to counter grade inflation by appending the average
grade for the course as a whole to each student's transcript; or as the faculty
senate at Louisiana State University which negotiated with the public
schools to be able to insist on a year of chemistry, a year of biology, and
a year of physics as a requirement for college admission. Both are the
kinds of bold steps that send out clear signals. Indeed, since the new
standards went into effect in Louisiana in 1988, the number of high school
students taking physics has doubled, and 20 percent more physics
instructors have been hired at the high school level. By compensating
students who take science at Utah with honor points, calculated as the
positive difference between a student's final mark and the average grade
in the course, the university is hoping to drive down grade inflation
elsewhere on campus. But knotty as such issues are, they are easier by far
to tackle than the more diffuse goal of improving undergraduate science
instruction overall.
The emphasis in science education reform is increasingly directed to
undergraduate teaching. After many years of neglect department chairs,
university administrators, policy makers and, importantly, funders are
beginning to focus on the role of the introductory course in setting the
tone for undergraduate science. But few approaches are as obvious as
Louisiana's and Utah's attempts to deal with poor preparation and grade
inflation. And what guarantees that reform at the college level-despite
renewed attention and some outside funding-will be any more successful or long-lasting than attempts to reform precollege science education
in the past?
With these questions in mind, I began a two-year quest for undergraduate science programs that work. My purpose was to locate them,
study them, and try to tease out, by means of narrative case studies, what
does and doesn't succeed in a variety of undergraduate settings. I was
interested in both newly revised programs and those that had been in
place for some time. My criteria for what works were the obvious:
successful recruitment of students; a high rate of retention of those
crossing the introductory threshold; and student and faculty morale.
While there is diversity in the following case studies, several things are
clear: nowhere is reform the product of a "quick fix." Nowhere is an
outside ideanot even an outside expertas vital in achieving high quality
instruction as local initiative and control. And, except for some programs
that receive outside funding for instrumentation and undergraduate
stipends, much of the best of what works is internally generated and
internally paid for. All this flies in the face of the model that has
dominated science education reform, and leads me to two conclusions:
first, we need some new thinking about science education reform in
general; second, we need to find new ways to nurture departments and
faculty who are committed to lasting change.
New thinking begins with a critique of old thinking.
Ever since the launching of Sputnik thirty-five years ago Americans
have been obsessed with science education reform. Task forces meet and
commissions recommend, but little makes its way from the edge to the
center of the educational process. What is new and differentNew Math
or self-paced instruction, or writing across the curriculum, or teacher
competenceis initially embraced, but hard to locate only a few years
later. In education there appears to be a strong default mechanism, inertia
in the system that educational reform, as currently practiced, rarely
diverts or modifies.
Some 300 reports on the problems of American science and mathematics education have been issued (at the rate of about one per week) since
1983. Even more startling than their frequency is their cost in dollars
spent and effort expended. Yet, with certain notable exceptions such as
A Nation at Risk' and Everybody Counts,2 it is difficult to show that these
reports have had much impact. Topics range from an "underachieving
curriculum" in mathematics to regrets that science is not taught as a
liberal art, to glossy pep talks intended to cheer us on to unrealistic goals
("First in the world in science and mathematics by the year 2000"3). Some
of these documents are richer in analysis Than others, particularly those
dealing with the absence of women and minorities from mathematics and
science.' Some few provide insight into the problems of reform itself in
'A National Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, National Commission on Excellence
in Education, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C., 1983.
Everybody Counts: A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education, Summary,
National Research Council, National Academy Press, 1989.
'At.,erica 2000: An Education Strategy, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C., 1991.
' Marsha Lakes Matyas and Shirley M. Malcom, eds., Investing in Human Potential: Science
and Engineering at the Crossroads, American Association for the Advancement of Science,
Washington, D.C., 1991.
a nation that cherishes local autonomy at the school and college levels.
But when the authors finally come around to solutions, they offer laundry
lists that range from the difficult-improving teacher education-to the near
impossible-changing public perceptions of mathematics and science.
Nor are the reports consistent. Certain experts advise us to worry
about an anticipated "shortfall" in the numbers of engineers and scientist:, that will occur by the year 2000. Others deny the shortage and tell us
instead that science illiteracy is our greatest problem. Who do we believe?
What are we supposed to do? Where do we go for the answers?
The Case Studies
In their seminal book on higher education, published in 1968 and
entitled The Academic Revohition,5Christopher Jencks and David Riesman
pieced together a methodology for studying change in American higher
education. They combined "hard data" where they could find it, "ethnographic studies" of several disparate institutions, and informed interpre-
tation and speculation-a model borrowed in the preparation of this
volume. Anticipating that "some readers will frown on this type of
inquiry, preferring less ambitious but more fully documented analyses,"
i.e., a more "scientific study," Jencks and Riesman wrote in the introduction to their book:6
. responsible schclarship must invent methods and data
appropriate to the important problems of the day. To reverse
this process, choosing one's problems to fit the methods and
data that happen to be most satisfactory, strikes us as an
invitation to triviality and ultimately as an abdication of
social and personal responsibility. . IIn this study] many
facets . . may even be scientific, in the sense that another
investigator can repeat the inquiry with reasonable assurance
of getting similar results. But even when the data look "hard,"
their meaning is almost always ambiguous, subject to
interpretations. ..
Jencks and Riesman's subject was the changing relationship between
higher education and American society. Mine is more modest, a description and analysis of programs and courses in which larger than expected
numbers of students, including minority students, are being recruited to
Christopher Jencks and David Riesman, The Academic Revolution (Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday and Co., 1968)
Ibid., p. xii.
and are staying in science. My selection criteria were neither random nor
systematic, but based on the knowledge that certain institutions were
successfully teaching science. Nor is my analysis of these exemplary
programs "scientific." The objective has been simply to bring to life the
places where good things are happening and the people who are making
it so.
The heart of this volume is the case studies, detailed narratives of
"programs that work." About a year in advance of the writing, an on-site
rapporteur was employed to serve as the author's eyes and ears. Sometimes the rapporteur was a counselor, sometimes faculty, retired faculty,
or faculty spouse, sometimes the department chair, but always someone
with enough background to be able to report on the preselected program.
The rapporteurs interviewed students, faculty, graduates, administrators, and other observers under my direction. They dug out the information needed to characterize the institution, describe the nature of the
changes taking place, explain shifts in goals or activities and, above all,
record how the participants interpreted events. At some point in the
process the author made a site visit, sometimes more than one, to raise
her own questions and to get a firsthand view.
Accordingly, the writing has been a collabora iive process. The
rapporteur provided a report from which the author composed an initial
essay. This was circulated to the rapporteur and to the department or the
course director for comments which were then integrated into later
drafts. Eventually some kind of consensus emerged. This is not to say that
everyone agrees with what is written here. But everyone has had an
opportunity to elaborate on fragmentary reports, correct mistakes, and
furnish additional background on themselves and on their work. A
researcher exploring inertia and change in science education must be as
interested in practitioners' views of their work as in the work itself,
especially because successful reform is rare. Why should this be so?
The "Culture" of Science Education Reform
In contrast to acts 1 success stories, science education reform at
college tends to be consumed by the same "culture" of reform that has
afflicted precollege science for decades. I use the term "culture" here the
way it is defined by anthropologists David Schneider and Clifford
Geertz, to refer to a group's shared meanings, its patterns of explanation
and action, its intellectual ecology? What is immediately striking about
this "culture of reform" is how ardent and energetic_ reformers seem to
7 Sharon Traweek, Reamtimes and Lifetimes, The World of High Energy Physics (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1988), p. 8.
be in inventing the new; yet how difficult reform is to implement,
propagate, and sustain. They shake, but nothing moves.
Problem Hunting and Solution Finding
Trained in problem definition and problem solving, scientists inevitably bring the habits of doing science to the problem of reform. Thus, those
who would reform science education often frame extremely complex
issues in terms they are familiar with, namely, "problems" and "solutions." But reform is not a scientific enterprise. What problem hunting
and problem solving may lead to instead is an oversimplification of
extremely complex processes and a preference for theoretical, universal
solutions over more modest, incremental change. Moreover, having
identified one of these "solutions," scientist-reformers may not wish to
compromise. Since their thinking is in terms of solutions rather than
strategies, their recommendations are not expressed as options; nor are
they rooted in the pragmatic, the real, the here and now. They do not offer
people in the field (as one person I interviewed put it) any suggestions as
to "what we can do tomorrow."
Another aspect of the science reform culture is that recommended
changes are often out of context, both in terms of institutional limitations
and the needs and abilities of the students and faculty they are supposed
to serve. This indifference to context may also reflect the habits of doing
science, for it appears to rest on an unexamined belief that, once articulated, the "right way" will be self-evident, teacher-proof, and appropriate for a wide variety of institutions. In the course of my research, I met
so many scientist-science educators motivated by just such a vision that
I constructed a composite Weltanschauung.
First, they believe there is one best curriculum or pedagogy waiting to
be discovered, like the laws of nature, like quarks. If it hasn't been
discovered so far, it's because researchers haven't worked hard enough.
This idealized curriculum or pedagogy is not only "right," it is universal,
and will work best irrespective of teacher, content, and place. Second, by
pursuing abstract studies of the nature of knowledge and cognition,
researchers can find this curriculum or pedagogy and experimentally
prove it is the best. And third, sucl experimental evidence will persuade
instructors everywhere to adopt the program.
Yet history proves that reforms adopted without reference to context
are ill-fated. The much-heralded New Math delivered to the public
schools in the 1960s and 1970s wasas later documented in a state-bystate studynot accompanied by sufficient investment in teacher retraining. As a result, implementation was spotty, which caused great difficulty (and much public outcry) when students moved. Mathematics
educators also underestimated the need to reeducate parents at the same
time they reeducated teachers. The result was, if not the "disaster" that
mathematician Morris Kline spoke of,' certainly not the improvement
which was intended.
The "grand reform" of college and precollege physics during the sante
period met with similar disappointment. In his history of physics curricular reform, 1955-1985, appropriately titled "Uses of the Past," physicist
Arnold Arons summarizes decades of reform as having produced few
innovations that have had lasting impact.`' "Curricular devices and
instructional formats have been invented and reinvented by succeeding
generations," he writes, "and, in each reincarnation, are seized upon in
the hope that a panacea has been found for instructional problems that
fail to go away."
Arons' work is unusual in its attention to the past, and he chides the
physics community for not reviewing the literature (the same criticism
could be extended to education reformers more generally). "One traverses
a steady stream of committee studies and reports," he writes, "which
assess and reassess the same problems and make similar recommendations for improvement in almost identical phraseology without reference
to the preceding reports and without inquiry into why so little change has
taken place." This is not to say that nothing was achieved in the postSputnik era. The infusion of material resources and cultural support
substantially strengthened the scientific community and contributed to
scientific innovation. The problem is that educational reform in science
and mathematics was neither mainstreamed nor sustained.'"
Exclusive Emphasis on Materials and Delivery Systems
The great preponderance of efforts to reform science education has
concentrated on course materials and teaching enhancements, what
Arons calls "delivery systems." But this emphasis misses the mark.
Recent experiments indicate that course materials and teaching enhancements are minor factors among those which make introductory college
8 Morris Kline, Why the Professor Can't Teach: Mathematics and the Dilemma of University
Education (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977), p. 190.
Arnold Arons, "Uses of the Past: Physics Curricular Reform 1955-1985," Interchange,
Toronto, OISE, in press.
'" Philip W. Jackson, "The Reform of Science Education: A Cautionary Tale," (1983)
Daedelus, Vol. 112, No. 2, pp. 143-166. See also James Duderstadt's review of these matters
in his keynote address as reprinted in The Freshman Year in Science and Engineering, Report
of the Alliance for Undergraduate Education, 1991, p. 3.
science difficult to learn." What hinders students are the pace, the
conflicting purposes of the courses (to, variously, provide an introduction, or lay a foundation for a research career, or weed out the "unfit");
attitudes of their professors and fellow students; unexplained assumptions and conventions; exam design and grading practices; class size; the
exclusive presentation of new material by means of lecture; and the
absence of communitya host of variables that are not specifically
addressed by most reforms.
This reluctance to grapple with the real issues has produced many
failed reforms at the precollege level. Every teacher of science knows that
the imaginative curriculum materials and hands-on kits produced by the
1960s Elementary Science Study (ESS), the Science Curriculum Improvement Study (SCIS), and Science, A Process Approach (SAPA), are now
gathering dust in elementary school cloakrooms, some of them abandoned early on when there was no money to replace missing or damaged
components, some never used because they were too difficult or time-
consuming. Still, "materials development" remains the darling of
precollege science reform, lately of college science reform as well. Why
the nearly exclusive focus on instructional materials? Is it because these
are products that give educational reformers and their paymasters
something to show? Or is it that science education reformers, with some
notable exceptions, don't know what else to do?
Innovation versus Managing Change
Innovation and change are presumed to operate in tandem. Innova-
tion is considered, indeed, to be the parent of change. Yet in some
instances (and science education reform is one of thcse) innovation and
change are in competition for reformers' energies and dollars. In any such
competition, innovation wins because innovation is more interesting
than changemore experimental, less troublesome, and less political. But
what if innovations have little effect on things as they are? No one wants
to believe this, yet it may be true.
In their 1991 survey of projects to increase participation of minorities
and women in college-level science, for example, Marsha Lakes Matyas
and Shirley Malcom conclude that the programs installed in the 1980s
were temporary and unconnected to other efforts on campus or off. These
projects relied on short-term grants and, once these were exhausted, on
" Sheila Tobias, They're Not Dumb, They' re Different: Stalking the Second Tier (Tucson, Ariz.:
Research Corporation, 1990). See also Nancy M. Hewitt and Elaine Seymour, "Factors
Contributing to High Attrition Rates Among Science, Mathematics, and Engineering
Undergraduate Majors," (Report to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation), Bureau of Sociological Research, Boulder, Colo., April 26, 1991.
volunteers.12 Even where entire schools or departments were involved,
projects addressed "only a small part of the overall system." What was
missing, Matyas and Malcom make very explicit, was structural reform,
substantial and permanent modification of existing courses, requirements, pedagogical techniques, recruitment, rewards; above all, change
in institutional climate. Matyas and Malcom describe this failing quite
Most of the interventions devised by colleges and universities
are aimed at enabling students and /or faculty from underrepresented groups to fit into, adjust to, or negotiate the
existing system. There is little challenge to the structures that
currently exist. . . The reconfiguration of the reward /
incentive structure is seldom discussed as a means to achieve
the appropriate balance . . . In like manner, most existing
efforts with students are designed to enable them to succeed
in courses as they are currently structured [italics added].
Perhaps educators could learn something from industrial managers
about what they call "innovation" but is actually managing change.
Business has produced a large body of literature about change. Rosabeth
Moss Kanter's The Change Masters, a much quoted study of innovative
companies, documents again and again that innovation in large organizations (and physics departments or science divisions or school districts
certainly qualify) requires "bargaining and negotiation" to get the information, support, and resources needed for change.1° Corporate manag-
ers call this process "buying-in," meaning that the innovator must
estimate the proper level of effort needed and "presell" the idea by
getting key individuals involved. In short, the innovator must work as
hard on peer support as on designing the innovation itself. None of this,
needless to say, h.: achieved when the innovator insists on working alone
and then tries to foist the innovation on the system from without. Above
all, reform requires flexibility. "A working compromise," the change
masters believe, "is better than an optimal solution, poorly implemented."
The process of transforming innovation into changeeven getting
teachers to accept the findings of educational research'sis essentially
n Matyas and Malcom, Investing in Human Potential . .
p. 144.
" Matyas and Malcom, Investing in Human Potential . . p. 130.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, The Change Masters (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983).
15 Virginia Richardson, "Significant and Worthwhile Change in Teaching Practice,"
Educational Researcher, October 1990, pp. 10-17.
political. And it is necessary to ask political questions: Who wants
change? Who is going to be made to feel insecure? Who profits from the
status quo? How can the necessary players be gathered to counter
institutional inertia? And, most important, how can the innovation be
structured, even if this means it is less "perfect," so that it serves other
needs of the organization? Many educational reformers, scientists in
particular, fail to understand how political this process is and, even when
they do, don't have the diplomatic skills (or the stomach) to see it through.
The "Burden" of Intermittent Funding
Another factor in the failure of innovative reforms to produce permanent change is the presumption that anything new and good has to be
funded from the outside. What actually happens is very often the reverse
of what was intended. A faculty member suggesting any improvement,
even a modest one, is likely to be told by the department chair that outside
funding will be a prerequisite. But an outside agency is not interested in
backing a modest improvement, only an "innovation" that has a distinc-
tive ring. To get funding, then, the reform-minded faculty member
refashions a modest improvement into an overblown innovation complete with plans for evaluation and dissemination. With a little luck it will
get support, but when funding runs out, the innovator moves on to
another project, or the outcome (by some measure) is less than significant
and the funders lose patience, the reform dies a premature death. Worse
yet are the messages conveyed: reform is a dubious undertaking; reform-
ers are required to get their own money; standard programs have first
dibs on mainstream funds.
Turning a good idea into something that can be funded means that a
very complex issue may be oversimplified and local problem of implementation ignored. As one example, a physics department committee in
a large state university correctly determined that beefing up their
wcefully underused physics education major would require creative
marketing on the one hand, and hard-nosed negotiation to reduce
requirements in both physics and education on the other. There was
nothing in these necessary negotiations that would appeal to an outside
funding agency. So the committee members decided instead to do what
they enjoyed doing, namely, designing a new teacher-education course in
physics. Not a bad idea in itself, but they shied away from the harder
political battle and proposed something that might garner outside
So familiar is the grants writing process that in some universities
"instructional improvement" is commensurate with doling out internal
funds to internal applicants for short-term projects, including new course
development. The doling out committee thus spends its time reviewing
applications to experiment instead of tackling the infrastructural barriers
to real change.
Apart from the burden on innovators of writing proposals and the
postponement of difficult political struggles that are inevitable if mainstream privileges and 1,2sources are going to be redirected, innovation
through outside funding has other d. idvantages. Funding for individual projects is inevitably short-term and intermittent-exactly what is
counterindicated for long-term change. So even though such proposals
include plans to evaluate and to disseminate, innovations tend to disap-
pear when either the innovator moves on to another project or the
funding cycle ends-as one department chairman told me bluntly, "When
our funding stops, we're dead." Money has been wrongly perceived to
be the prime mover of change.
Another Model: Cumulative Improvement
In his article "A Nation At Risk, Revisited," written three years after
A Nation at Risk was published, Gerald Holton makes the point that what
we need is not more short-term programs, but "a device that encourages
cumulative improvement over the long haul," a strategy that, at its core,
involves close attention to things as they are and, in place of one-shot
cure-alls, a commitment to ongoing change."' Unlike universal solutions
produced by outside experts or innovations in the hands of creative
loners, cumulative improvement challenges on-line managers (professors, department chairs, and deans) to determine what is possible in the
near or midterm.
A number of science education reformers seem to be doing something
like this, combining innovation and management of change, although
they use somewhat different terms. The cases that follow illustrate this
approach: the improvement is specific, the constituency defined, and
institutionalization is given high priority. While the jury is still out on
how well these reforms achieve long-range objectives, they are all doable,
high-leverage activities that appear among the most promising.
Strategies Versus Solutions
My conclusion is that the search for a panacea for the problems of
teaching and learning undergraduate science will inevitably be disappointing. The reason reform is sought by means of instructional materials
' ^Gerald Holton, "A Nation at Risk, Revisited," The Advancement of Science and its Burdens
(Cambridge, England: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1986), p. 277.
and teaching enhancements is not that anyone really expects P. perfect
course or pedagogy to be devised, but because we are accustomed to
doing reform in this manner. The temptation is to solve a problem with
a product (or, in the case of the Matyas-Malcom survey, a project) because
for innovators and funders alike, the alternatives are harder to conceptualize. If there ig no single universal solution, and if an experimental
model does not lead the way to it, what are we to do?
The one answer college administrators fear most is that whatever we
do it will be harder, of longer duration, more ambitious, and overall more
difficult politically and psychologically to sustain than a relatively
straightforward short-term experiment. This does not mean that some
increase in our knowledge base is not useful, but it does mean we cannc't
expect change to occur either as an automatic result of increased knowledge, or as an outcome of almost randomly generated innovation. To rely
on short-term experiments is to misunderstand the educational process
and, ultimately, to mismanage its reform.
The history of science education reform is littered with well-intentioned
failures. What is to guarantee that even programs that work today will
still be around and still be working tomorrow?
High Morale in a
Stable Environment
Chemistry at UW-Eau Claire
Agroup of ten University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire chemistry students
is having lunch with me. I met four of them earlier on a tour of the
chemistry laboratories where they were participating in faculty research.
We are discussing the process by which they came to chemistry, what
they expect of Eau Claire, and why they are enthusiastic about science as
a career. As they talk about themselves and their backgrounds, the
sociologist in me notes that they don't fit the model of precommitted
("first tier") students of science. With one or two exceptions, they came
to chemistry late and find it satisfying but hard.
Two of the ten failed chemistry at least once on the way to becoming
chemistry majors, one in high school, one at college. It was only the latter
student's willingness to leave school for a while in order to mature, and
the department's readiness to take him back by way of chem 099, a kind
of make-up course fog those who didn't take chemistry in high school,
that provided him with a second chance. Three of the ten came to college
planning to major in the biological sciences or premed. They took
chemistry the first time because they had to. but were soon recruited to
the major. One who "hated" chemistry until her junior year in high school
is doing extremely well in Eau Claire's innovative chemistry with
business emphasis program (locally, "chem-biz").
None of my lunchmates is the offspring of a scientist. Like most at Eau
Claire (43 percent are from west central Wisconsin including Eau Claire
and the seventeen surrounding rural counties), the majority are firstgeneration college-goers, so this is not surprising. But the ability of the
Eau Claire chemistry department to attract first-generation college
students to science is impressive, particularly in the face of statistical
evidence that shows that even scientists' children eschew science.
The students in my lunch group like the personal attention they get
from their professors, the "open door" policystudents are welcome to
drop in anytime and chat about their workand that they get their
homework back on time, and carefully graded. Despite medium class
size (forty to sixty at the upper levels, seventy-five to eighty in the
freshman course), professors know students by name early in the semester. Part of the reason is that the introductory course involves a four-hour
lab every week taught by the professor. This means that the faculty
member responsible for the freshman course sees eighty students in three
one-hour classes per week and one-third of the class at a time in three
four-hour labs.
Collaborative Research
For the students I am meeting, the research lab is a key attraction of the
chemistry major. As I: other institutions with established undergraduate
research programs, ... is a "different kind of experience" from class, they
tell me, providing hands-on science and a place where they can work with
both their professors and classmates. When I wandered with them to
their lab stations earlier that morning, I was struck by their understanding of the research they were doing and by their ability to explain it to me,
a nonchemist. One student, for example, is making an organic compound
no one has ever made before (his eli,phasis). Certain proteins, he explains,
have a soft metal such as copper at their center. He and his professor, Leo
Ochrymowycz, one of the first faculty members at Eau Claire to implement a regular program of scholarly research with students, are working
to get the sulfurs to "point in" in the rings. In that process, the student is
discovering that there is "beauty" (his word) in the compounds he is
creating. Few people work in this area, he assures me, which makes it all
the more exciting.
Another student, working with Scott Hartsel, professor of biochemistry, is developing a new technique for measuring "transmembrane ion
currents caused by a mphotericin B." (I notice that she doesn't stumble on
any of this nomenclature.) The antibiotic is known to attack systemic
fungal infections in immune-suppressed patients. It could have applications in treating AIDS, leukemia, and transplant patients, but some have
bad side effects from the drug. Her work might contribute toward a more
efficacious variant of the antibiotic, which gets her excited about her
research. She works ten hours a week for a combination of pay and
independent study credit. Even though she deals with substances she has
not yet studied in biochemistry class (such as lipids, she says to me), she
finds that she understands the topic when it finally comes up in her
course. She doesn't know it at the time we talk, but she will be the only
undergraduate presenting a poster session on her work at the Biophysical
Society Meeting in the spring of 1991, and is headed for graduate school
in biochemistry at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Around the corner in the physical chemistry ("p-chem") lab, another
young woman is working at the macroscopic level with physical chemist
Al Denio on a project involving recyclable materials such as plastic, tin,
and glass. One use for pellets made from these materials would be to
replace sand and asphalt-eroding salt currently strewn on Wisconsin's
winter roads to melt ice. But before the pellets can be recommended as
a salt substitute the lab team will study how ice structure can be modified,
the effects on tires of any single material and various combinations, and
what their effects would be on asphalt. The student is actually grinding
up materials and cutting them into pellets as I watch. Like the other
undergraduates, she understands the "bigger picture" as it applies to her
project and appears very comfortable talking chemistry.
Student-faculty collaborative research is an important component of
the chemistry major at UW-Eau Claire. Many undergraduate schools
require a senior project for graduation, but at Eau Claire it iF up to the
student and an individual faculty member to plan such an undertaking.
While the specific project will he defined by the faculty member, students
participate in the initial literature search, plan and execute experiments,
and do a preliminary analysis of the results. Students may do laboratory
work for faculty members any time after completing the general chemistry sequence, often as early as the sophomore year. Undergraduates are
paid, some through work-study funds and others from the faculty
member's own grants. With no chemistry graduate students at Eau
Claire, all laboratory places go to undergraduates, but there is still plenty
of competition. Not all students who do collaborative research are from
the chemistry department. Faculty member Fred King, a theoretical
chemist, often uses students from physics, math, and computer science
to work on large (up to several hundred hours on the supercomputer)
theoretical problems. Research is a very popular activity.
Because students can work on a project for several consecutive years,
their experience is cumulative. By junior or senior year many are
presenting poster sessions or papers at conferences. Not surprisingly,
students who do collaborative research with faculty attend graduate
school at a higher rate (about 75 percent) than those who do not (55
percent). As the faculty views it, it is in their laboratories that students
learn for themselves that science is interesting and that they can have some
f the subject. And because they are working on "real-
world" projects, they gain firsthand knowledge of the scientific process.
Faculty fincifthat in the one-on-one setting they can encourage their young
research collaborators to pursue careers in science.
A senior interviewed for this report comments that his collaborative
research experience and his published papers are giving him the equivalent experience of a first- or second-year graduate student. "Besides," he
It allows
adds, "doing research breaks up the routine classwork
me to work together with my professor to get things done, not in the
traditional professor-student relationship, but as peers." A junior working with Jack Pladziewicz notes that "classwork in chemistry is very
structured, everything set out in advance." Working in the lab she finds
herself dealing with problems that are not "predefined," problems "no
one has yet been able to answer. It is more challenging, requiring more
focus and causing us to think through our results." Another student
particularly appreciates getting a foretaste of the poster sessions and
papers she will give as a professional. "As a scientist, I'll have to do this
during my whole career."
Why Eau Claire is Different
In a typical large state university 3,000 or more undergraduates enroll
in general chemistry each year, of which only about thirty will end up as
majors. To be sure, most of the 3,000 initially have no intention of
majoring in science. They are taking chemistry to fulfill prerequisites in
other fields or to satisfy their "science requirement" for graduation. But
in the pool are students who could be wooed into science. Smaller state
universities and the independent colleges manage to attract and retain
about the same number of majors per year from much smaller pools of
freshman enrollees. I low do they do this? What can we learn from their
programs? And can what we learn be implemented elsewhere?
Since the first chemistry degree was earned at UW-Eau Claire in 1957,
more than 500 students have completed the traditional chemistry major.
Approximately 55 percent of these majors have done advanced work in
graduate, medical, or other professional schools, with ninety-two students attaining the Ph.D. degree, 102 the M.S. degree, and more than
eighty obtaining degrees in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medi-
cine. Nearly thirty became high school teachers and many more are
currently making progress toward advanced degrees. An additional 200
students earned degrees in chem-biz since the start of this program in
1973. More than 90 percent of these majors are employed in technical
"We believe that the success of our graduates is a positive indicator of
both the quality of our students and of our program."' So begins a
chemistry department development proposal, which reflects both the
department's impressive production of graduates and its willingness to
share credit for success with the students it recruits. It doesn't take long
'Department development proposal, February 1991
for an outsider to discover that this sharing of credit is a hallmark of the
chemistry department. The faculty is even more unusual in that it
has (1) a collective commitment to make the program work; (2) an
absence of political infighting, and instead, real, palpable affection
among members (Jack Pladziewicz refers to the department as a "familial, harmonious non-fiefdom"); and (3) faculty members who are zvhere
they want to be.' One of the newer faculty members, Scott Hartsel, was
considering a position at an eastern university while lo:.-,king over Eau
Claire. He chose Eau Claire because "the students are good, hardworking kids who don't take their education for granted." Another new
faculty member, Warren Gallagher, believes Eau Claire to be a "great
environment." "I want to teach and I want to do research," he says. "Eau
Claire provides the opportunity to do both."
In 1990-1991 there were forty-five declared chemistry majors at UWEau Claire, as well as twenty-seven majoring in chem-biz, thirteen in
chemistry education, and forty-one in biochemistry-molecular biology (a
major considered to be interdisciplinary with biology). Of UW-Eau
Claire's twenty-five or so graduating seniors, about 60 percent will work
for a faculty member during their years in the major. There are work
opportunities for students: of the seventeen faculty members in chemistry (one is chancellor of the university), ten enjoy outside funding for
research in which undergraduates can participate.
There is nothing unusual about the general chemistry curriculum at
UW-Eau Claire, I am assured. "If you'd- looking for innovation," Jack
Pladziewicz told me on my arrival in the fall of 1990, "you've come to the
wrong place." In their minds, the faculty aren't doing anything new
(except perhaps for the major in chem-biz); rather, they are doing things
zven. Indeed, the course structure and sequence appear to an outsider to
be standard. While the chemistry majors seem to the department (and to
me) to be very satisfied with their curriculum, the department is committed to improvement. One focus of attention is the two five-credit courses
in the introductory sequence, chem 103-104. The department is very
aware that chem 103-104 students are not necessarily chemistry majors
(usually found in a different sequence), and that only some will be
recruited to chemistry. Still, the department takes seriously its r'sponsi-
bility to the 474 students enrolled, as it does to the 120 prenursing
students enrolled in chem 152. Most faculty members take a turn teaching
this introductory sequence, so every faculty member is familiar with the
needs of students that these courses attract.
In what follows, the interviews conducted by rapporteur Stella Pagonis provide an
important corroboration to my own impressions.
Not all the professors at Eau Claire are gifted teachers. But recently
retired department chair Mel Gleiter assures me that "the program is so
good that poor teaching doesn't have the negative consequences it would
have in another place." Still, continuous (even compulsive) improvement
seems to be the rule. Even though first-year chem 103 and 104 are
successfully recruiting new majors, the department is moving toward
some restructuring. The intention is to have chem 103 deal with "issues"
and to structure the standard topics in chemistry around these issues. The
rationale, one faculty member tells me, is to show students "how
empowering a knowledge of chemistry can be."
A curriculum committee, known locally as G-C 3 (General Chemistry
Curriculum Committee), was recently revived after several years of
dormancy. The goals of G-C 3 are modest, says Judy Lund, one of its
members, and are "to improve the general chemistry courses because
there is a common perception that they need to he improved." No grand
schemes here, and no certainty that the faculty will readily agree on how.
The revival of G-C 3 simply gives an already committed faculty an
opportunity to talk a little more systematically about the entry level
curriculum. The fact that new faculty are expected to sit in on these
deliberations conveys to them early on how important teaching and
thinking about teaching are to this department.
Dedication to Teaching
Many of the students who are recruited to chemistry at UW-Eau Claire
are "nontraditional." They are not primed for science, and indeed, their
backgrounds may be weak or incomplete. Such students have not yet
learned how to "teach themselves," hence teaching in the broadest sense
of providing both guidance and welcome is of critical importance in
recruiting, retaining, and launching these students in science. This does
not mean chemistry is in any way "watered down." During my visit, I sit
in on a fast-paced general course for students intending to major in the
sciences. While listening to the lecturer treat atomic structure and
quantum theory (including a discussion of the logic behind Schroedinger's
equation), I assume this is an advanced class. But in fact the students are
newcomers to the material.
Forty-five students are enrolled in this class, about half of them female.
I learn later that chemistry's ability to attract and retain female majors is
one of its many strong points. The School of Arts and Sciences enrolls
about 4,470 students of whom 58 percent are female. Of the 126 students
majoring in chemistry or in chemistry-related fields, 59 percent are male
and 41 percent female, almost exactly the inverse in gender, but a very
good record compared to other undergraduate institutions. Considering
that about 58 percent of the chemistry majors (excluding chem-biz) who
graduated from UW-Eau Claire have gone on to graduate or professional
schools (519 since 1957 when the major was first offered), the department
qualifies as an important feeder school for graduate chemists in general
and women graduate chemists in particular. Recruitment, and above all
retention, of female faculty members through the tenure process is a
newer priority.
Bob Eierman, professor in the class I chose to audit, is an unabashed
devotee of some of the newest theory and practice in science pedagogy.
He gives the class a handout listing goals and objectives for each unit and
employs an interactive style. In addition to questioning students and
calling on them individually i)y name, the professor has them do
exercises, short problems worked on together. He calls them "Whimbey
pairs" after Art Whimbey, a researcher in problem solving. Eierman also
regularly interrupts his own lecture to ask students to "explain this idea
to your neighbor." But at least as important as pedagogy, he tells me, is
having fewer than 100 students in a science class. "Once you say 'yes' to
the large class, you've said 'no' to all manner of teaching," he says
Recruiting Faculty and Students
That the department is dedicated to teaching is obvious in the care
with which classes are assigned, the accessibility of faculty, the real
research opportunities provided majors, and the commitment to continuous improvement as evidenced by revival of G-C 3. Another important factor is how interest in and aptitude for teaching influences the
hiring process. Mark Krahling, one of three assistant professors recently
hired, was encouraged to talk about his high school teaching (prior to
graduate school) during his job interview. Warren Gallagher was specifically asked about his commitment to teaching when he interviewed for
his position.
The department understands that to maintain a full complement of
majors it has not only to retain students, but recruit from west central
Wisconsin high schools. Judy Lund and Eau Claire undergraduates take
chemistry demo shows to elementary schools to stir early interest, and
Mark Krahling recruits UW-Eau Claire faculty to visit local high schools.
A more ambitious project is to build a mobile chemistry demonstration
unit and take it to high schools throughout the region. Such a unit, to be
staffed by chemistry majors, was in the planning stages when this was
written. Other means of promoting university to high school partnerships are on the new vice chancellor's agenda.
At the other end of the recruitment pipeline is placement, more
formalized in chemistry at UW-Eau Claire than in other departments or
at most other nonengineering undergraduate institutions. Faculty member Leo Ochrymowycz has assigned himself the task of placing graduates
and has become a specialist in locating jobs in pure and industrial
chemistry. But he does not work alone. Every faculty member does
individual counseling and postgraduate mentoring, and two other members systematically maintain industrial contacts.
The process begins in the middle of the junior year when chemistry
majors are invited to talk about their future plans. "Chemists aren't freelancers," Ochrymowycz explains to me as he does to the students who
come to him for guidance. "Chemists need the resources only employers
can provide. We can have more autonomy within a megacorporation
than most other employees, but we are still employees." Successfully
placed alumni help to extend the reach of the professor. One employer
(Vista Chemical) in far away Houston, Texas, has recruited nine chem
and chem-biz majors from UW-Eau Claire in the past decade, usually
taking one per graduating class. The connection was made through the
first student placed, who is still with the company. In gratitude, and with
an eye toward recruiting more graduates, the company recently established a chem-biz scholarship fund.
Interdisciplinary Programs in Chemistry
Chem-biz was introduced at UW-Eau Claire in 1973, and is the only
program of its type in the Midwest and one of a very few in the country.
There have been 224 graduates, of whom over 90 percent have been
placed in industrial companies. Phil Chenier, student adviser and author
of a textbook on industrial chemistry, tells me that chem-biz students
compete successfully both with business majors because of their affinity
for technical subjects, and with chemical engineers because of their
business training. The major requires thirty-three credit hours in chemistry (including applied physical chemistry in place of standard p-chem);
a course in industrial chemistry; and thirty credit hours in the school of
business. In 1990-91, there were twenty-seven students (thirteen male,
fourteen female) enrolled in the major.
Clearly, there is a market for these graduates, and it is surprising that
the business department is not as enthusiastic about chem-biz as chemistry. Perhaps it is because chem-biz students consider themselves in
chemistry; their advisers, their internships, and their placement are
through the department. One student interviewed admitted to feeling
like an outsider in business. She told me, and most likely conveyed this
impression to her business professors as well, that her business courses
were boring and nonchallenging in comparison to chemistry.
During their senior year chem-biz majors attend a spring seminar
sponsored by the Department of Chemistry at which industrial representatives are invited to talk about their own jobs and about the wide variety
of opportunities that the chem-biz combination has to offer. Last spring
seminar speakers included a marketing manager from a salt company, a
sales representative from a pharmaceutical firm, and an industrial
scientist looking for alternate uses of industrial waste. Positions offered
seniors included one in supply and transportation for a chemical com-
pany, sales in plastics, and process control in paper manufacturing.
Chem-biz students are very positive about chemistry.
Teacher Preparation
Chemistry teaching is the curriculum designed for students aiming to
become high school chemistry teachers. There is a marked need for them
in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and it is a career for which many UW-Eau
Claire students with a bent for science are primed. While local educators
believe the curriculum provides an excellent, well-rounded education
for prospective teachers, it is prohibitively long and involved, requiring
a complete major in chemistry (thirty-six credit hours, including p-
chem), a minor (twenty-four credit hours) in biology, math, or physics,
a chemistry department requirement of math and physics (twenty-two
credit hours), and a professional sequence in secondary education (fortyfour credit hours). To satisfy the Wisconsin State Department of Public
Instruction, this coursework must be separate and distinct from the
university's requirement of forty-three credit hours of general education.
Therefore, to graduate with a chemistry teaching major, a student needs
between 160 and 169 credit hours, compared to 128 for most other majors
and 147 for other education students. A student has to be dedicated to
teaching to acquire an additional thirty-two credits-about one academic
year. And it is especially discouraging to receive only a teacher's entry
level salary after five years of study, especially when chemistry and
chem-biz graduates command much more. Most students are not so
dedicated. There have been only thirty graduates in chemistry teaching
since the major began in 1957, just four in 1989-1992. As a fifth-year
student currently doing her student teaching stated, "three of us in one
year is extremely rare!"
Resistance to changing the requirements comes from all sides. The
Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction requires all education
students to take certain subjects. The chemistry department wants
prospective chemistry teachers to obtain a regular degree in chemistry.
Another complication is that students of science find their education
courses to be nonrigorous ("insipid" was the term used by one student).
The kind of material covered, and the performance demanded by these
courses are, one might say, culturally estranging for students of science.
Worse yet, majors in chemistry teaching do not have room in their
schedules for such important chemistry electives as biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, and instrumental analysis.
Education requirements are rigid. One student who had been tutoring
children in the nearby Hmong community (a neighborhood of Laotian
refugees who settled in large numbers in Eau Claire) was not able to
count this experience toward her education foundations requirement
dealing with teaching minorities. The chemistry department seems
unable to effect any changes in this critical teaching major. The problem
is not its interdisciplinary character, because biochemistry-molecular
biologya joint program between the Departments of Chemistry and
Biology established in 1988is doing well. In 1990-1991, chem teaching
had thirteen declared majors and biochemistry-molecular biology had
forty-one. The problem, according to Dean Nelson (not a dean, but a
member of the chemistry department who advises chem ed majors) is the
all but required fifth year.
The Two Interdisciplinary Majors Compared
It is instructive to compare the low student enrollment in chemistry
teaching with the popularity of biochemistry-molecular biology. One
thing that struck me as an outsider is the absence from the chemistry
faculty of anyone with a formal background in chemistry education.
Dean Nelson, who enjoys recruiting students to the chemistry teaching
major and encourages them along the way, is himself a 1958 graduate of
Eau Claire's chemistry teaching program. But there is no one in the
departmentand this is my view, not theirswho could (as an insider)
negotiate a compromise curriculum with faculty in the School of Education. Many of the chemistry faculty, notably the current chairman Joel
Klink, are deeply interested in chem ed at the college level. But theirs is
an informal, praxis-oriented expertise, not grounded in a studied, theoretical perspective. So, after the 1977 retirement of the one chemistry
education specialist (a senior woman hired in 1946 when UW-Eau Claire
was Eau Claire Normal School), there has only been one chemistry
education doctorate employed.
'Mao Yang, perhaps the only Hmong Ph.D. biochemist in the country, was appointed to
the UW-Eau Claire chemistry department in 1991.
Another difference is in the two curricula themselves. Molecular
biology and biochemistry are relatively new and exciting areas of science.
Thus it was not difficult for chemistry to persuade itself that it was in its
own interest, as well as that of its students, to launch a new interdisciplinary major. Faculty recruitment has been steady and successful. Of the
last five hires in chemistry, three (Scott Hartsel, Warren Gallagher, and
Thao Yang) are in biochemistry. Hartsel and Gallagher spoke enthusiastically about their freedom to create a new curriculum. "There are no
rules, no history. We get to design the courses and devise the labs," said
Gallagher. As a result, the new major is "sucking students into the
department," mostly from biology.
But a third factor, surely, is the School of Education's unwillingness to
reduce its own requirements and to pressure other departments into
initiating courses geared to education majors. In the absence of dedicated
financial aid for prospective science teachers, which would free some Eau
Claire students from having to work while in school, a 160-credit-hour
major requiring a fifth year of undergraduate education is not a way to
advertise either the discipline or careers in chemistry teaching.
What makes the chemistry program at UW-Eau Claire work? Why, in
a period of declining enrollments in the chemistry major around the
country, do 126 undergraduates choose to major in chemistry or in one
of the chemistry-related fields at Eau Claire when (on average) many
research-oriented state universities with three or four times the student
body can boast only half that number? And what is the likelihood that the
department can retain its high morale and recruitment success in a period
of more stringent budgets? The answers suggested here grow from data
provided by the department, a site visit by myself, and several months
of interviewing by Stella Pagonis, my on-site rapporteur.
The factors that contribute to successfu' ecruitment and retention of
students in chemistry at Eau Claire are found at other colleges and
universities that focus attention on their undergraduates. The chemistry
departments at Eau Claire, Fort Lewis College, and Trinity University
(see chapter 3) all have recruited faculty over the years who consider
themselves to be dedicated teachers, as well as active in research, and on
all three campuses faculty and student collaborative research is an
essential component of the major.
Sociological variables are not to be overlooked. At many comprehensive state universities the majority of the faculty are, if not first-generation college-goers, certainly first-generation college faculty. At UW-Eau
Claire, of the eighteen faculty in chemistry (including the chancellor),
twelve grew up on farms or come from small towns, two are from Eau
Claire itself, and thirteen are, in fact, the first of their families to attend
college. Although the faculty finds its students to be of "widely varying
ability and preparation" and often intellectually "immature," there is
little indication of a class gap between faculty and students. And
although all tenured members of the department are white and male,
there is no "gender gap" as far as recruitment of female students is
concerned, a tribute to the department's determination not to turn
anyone away.
At the time I began studying the department, there were no tenurable
women in the department and the lack of female faculty was an admitted
embarrassment. But two women have recently been appointed to tenuretrack positions. Even before the new appointments, faculty members
were determined to rectify the imbalance because they believed that "a
woman with a regular appointment is important as a role model to female
students." UW-Eau Claire has a recently appointed female vice chancellor, Marjorie Smeltsor, who encourages female hires to prove "you don't
have to be white and male to do chemistry."
Still, tenure decisions are difficult to make. Student opinion is not
always a significant factor even in a department as committed as this one
to excellence in teaching. The department recently denied tenure to a
professor who had extremely strong letters of student support, justifying
the decision on the grounds that, in terms of research potential and
productivity, "the department felt it could do better." But how much
better can the department do in a competition for research-oriented
chemists when it demands a teaching load of twelve to sixteen contact
hours and 260 student credit hours per faculty per semester?
As in most comprehensive state universities the problem is that the
university demands scholarly (research) activity, but ties the number of
faculty positions to student credit hours. Although the department tries
to balance teaching and scholarship, it is limited in its power to reward
good teaching with tenure or to reduce credit hours to support efforts to
improve. As one example of how the credit hour issue confounds
pedagogy, consider collaborative research, so important to teaching and
student satisfaction with the chemistry major at Eau Claire, yet not
counted toward teaching time.
A recent internal audit of the department resulted in a recommendation that the department make collaborative research a requirement for
the chemistry major so Lhat time spent with students could be counted as
teaching time. This would reduce the number of course contact hours for
faculty, a welcome relief from the sixteen hours required. But department
philosophy got in the way: not every student wants to do collaborative
research, the department believes, and not every student should. If
collaborative research were to become a requirement, it could become a
burden for students and instructors alike. In any case the department
believes it ought to decide what is required for the major and what is not,
credit-hour formulas notwithstanding. The new vice-chancellor agrees.
Her policy is to allocate personnel on the basis of a department's
accomplishments, not merely on the basis of its load.
A related concern is faculty overload, particularly for younger members. To obtain tenure a new faculty member must teach and advise; write
grant applications to get funding for research, equipment, and summer
salaries; do scholarly research and present or publish the findings; and
serve on departmental and university committees. Participation in civic
affairs is also expected. This puts enormous pressure, as the internal audit
stated, on probationary members to establish their research credentials
at the same time they are attempting to teach the department's courses.
And teaching, however masterful and effective in shaping and reshaping
the department's program, is not always counted as scholarship. Echoing
Ernest Boyer,' Chairman Joel Klink wants to encourage scholarly activity
in either research or pedagogy, but how many of his colleagues outside
of Eau Claire would do the same? The constraints described above are not
unique to UW-Eau Claire. The question is whether chemistry's very
special commitment to teaching and its tradition of steady if undramatic
improvement can be sustained in an indifferent larger world which
emphasizes breakthroughs with economic potential.
Conclusion: High Morale in a Stable Environment
A major contribution to high morale in UW-Eau Claire's chemistry
department is the general consensus as to the role of chemistry within the
university. The department sees itself as having three jobs: first, to
graduate chemistry majors; second, to accommodate students who have
to take chemistry; and third, to introduce the concepts of chemistry to
general students and show how it relates to their everyday lives. This
consensus is reflected in the number of students majoring in chemistry,
the large percentage who go on to graduate school, and the attention paid
to finding ways to improve the already high quality of instruction in
chemistryand not just for majors. The replacement of chem 099 with a
new tandem course in chemistry and general skills can serve as one
example of how the process of continuous improvement works locally
and at little cost.
'See Ernest L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Princeton, N.J.:
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990), chap. I.
Until this year, students not yet ready for general chemistry (primarily
nursing students and unsuccessful first-year students) were invited to
take chemistry 099 (preparatory chemistry), usually offered in the fall,
and chemistry 103 in the spring. But since the next course in the sequence
for nurses, chemistry 152 (survey of biochemistry), was offered only in
the spring, a student nurse who enrolled in chemistry 099 would fall one
whole year behind. Faculty member Ralph Marking saw this as a problem
and began to look for alternatives. The availability of an academic skills
center on campus, willing and able to offer remedial sections for courses
in sociology, psychology, and economics, gave him an idea which he
implemented in fall 1991. Today, students not ready for chem 103 are
encouraged to register for the course and lab for five credit hours and
simultaneously enroll in a study skills course called "introduction to
studying the sciences" (gen 101) for four additional credit hours. So while
chem 099 is still in the catalog, its constituents are now doing the new
tandem sequence.
And so far the supplementary coursework is producing good results.
Those who took gen 101 in fall 1991 had a higher average grade point in
chem 103 than the standard students, and the percentage of gen 101
students proceeding to chem 152 or chem 104 is the same as the standard
student rate of 40 to 50 percent. Furthermore, 75 percent of the gen 101
students are taking a science and /or math course in spring 1992, certainly
a good showing.
What's interesting, apart from the pedagogical advantage of having
beginning students immersed in chemistry for a total of nine (out of a
possible twelve or fifteen) credit hours, is the way the improvement was
managed. An individual faculty member, hearing from students about
their scheduling problems, undertook to find a solution, gathered support and assistance from the academic skills staff, and applied to the UW
system for modest start-up funds. The grant was awarded and the new
program is now in place. Whether gen 101 succeeds will depend, of
course, on how well the students do in succeeding chemistry classes. The
advantage of this low-cost local initiative is obvious. It's tailor-made for
the needs of the students at hand. But its rapid implementation might not
have been possible in a department that did not actively encourage its
faculty to take the initiative.
"In a corporate environment," says Pagonis (whose training is in
management), "the overall attitude of a department is a reflection of its
management." In this case, leadership is not uniquely located in the office
of the chair. Rather, department leadership is shared among the most
respected faculty, which may and often does include the chair. As
leaders, however, these senior faculty tend to downplay their authority.
They lead not by intimidation, but rather by example, suggestion, and
recommendation. They work hard and expect the same from their junior
faculty. They communicate openly and are mutually admiring. One
hears: "Leo is tireless in his placement efforts," or "Fred is the shining star
in publishing and obtaining grant money," or "The biochemistry program is in very capable hands."
The internal audit referred to previously noted that "the expectations
of the department exceed what any one person could reasonably handle."
But the problem of faculty burnout was never verbalized in any of our
interviews. Some faculty members had complaints: lack of standardized
testing, lack of space to store demonstrations, insensitivity of the admin-
istrationthings that are important to them; but no one believed any of
these factors affected their overall performance. In chemistry, there is an
effort to achieve (to use Pladziewicz's language) a kind of "common
good." And the students respond both to the better-than-averageteaching that is the hallmark of the department, and to its commitment
to career placement, something that other faculty in the liberal arts rarely
attend to or even consider to be part of their jobs.
Success feeds on itself. Alumni constitute one set of disciples, spreading the good word. Faculty members at other Wisconsin campuses are
another, regularly recommending UW-Eau Claire for its chemistry
program. Department members truly believe that theirs is a stellar
program and that by doing a good job in challenging students, they can
and do draw the best and the most motivated to chemistry. This is a
remarkable achievement for a public university with students of varied
ability, background, and social status and, given the elitism that characterizes science elsewhere, it results from an even more remarkable point
of view.
Recruiting New Students
to Research Science
Fort Lewis and Trinity
Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado and Trinity University in San
Antonio, Texas are about as far away, geographically and ethnically,
from UW-Eau Claire as Eau Claire is from Cal State LA (see chapter 9).
What these four institutions have in common are chemistry programs
that "work," and not because of a revolutionary new curriculum or
pedagogy or external funding (although Cal State LA does benefit from
outside support). Even a cursory examination of their programs reveals
the significance of factors the nation can no more "purchase" than
impose. Nothing to invent, nothing to discover, nothing to manufacture,
nothing to import. What succeeds is obvious to anyone who looks at a
program that works.
First, there is commitment, not just to teaching, but to students, young
people who are taking, for whatever reason, one or more courses in
science. The faculty at these institutions care about their students personally and not just about their work in chemistry. Indeed, the key to success
in recruiting and retaining traditional and nontraditional students in
science residesbeyond doubt, it seems to mein the warm fuzzies these
departments provide, along with excellence in teaching, opportunities
for research, and a marked absence of elitism.
"I am pleased you contacted me about . ly undergraduate experience
at Fort Lewis," writes a student now in a Ph. D. program at the University
of Nevada, Reno. "Dr. Ritchey took special interest in my education. ...
His enthusiasm and his extra help gave me success in my first chemistry
course, and he remained my mentor for my years at Fort Lewis." By
second semester, he was "beginning to view chemistry with real interest,
not just as a means to an end." The department offered a study room in
which chem majors would "hang out." "It was here," the student writes,
"that my feeling solidified that chemistry was something special." By the
third semester he was "hooked on a chemistry major."
Today Fort Lewis graduates as many chemistry majors per year
(currently sixteen out of a total student body of 4,000) as do many of the
large state universities with enrollments of six to seven times as many
What about the common factors at successful institutions? Departmental politics, structure, and morale are among them. In each of the
institutions where chemistry programs appear to be working, decisions
are made by democratic process, even, as at UW-Eau Claire and Fort
Lewis, by consensus. In departments where chairs rotate and/or are
elected, responsibility for programs as well as hiring is shared. The
importance of morale cannot be overemphasized. Critical decisions that
affect teaching and class size are made by the department and these
decisions make and unmake students' choices about majoring in the
discipline. Teaching assignments are second only to hiring policy in
determining the quality of instruction.
These departments know that the assignment of a poor lecturer to a
freshman or sophomore course (because that faculty member is not
doing research or is being punished for some reason) can "unmake"
dozens of prospective majors.
A concern and a reverence for teaching pervades departments where
programs work. Every faculty member feels responsible if any course
(and not just their own) is not going well. Faculty members take turns in
study rooms. Their doors are open to students having trouble. Where
departments are small, course problems get immediate attention, "no
longer than one day" after being reported, says the Fort Lewis chairman.
Where departments are large, the faculty construct mechanisms to
monitor any problems that might arise. In places where programs work,
faculty avidly recruit students to science. They involve themselves and
their departments in university-wide enterprises (a writing program at
Fort Lewis);. with community college instructors (at Cal State LA); by
visiting local high schools (at UW-Eau Claire); or by mounting summer
programs for high school students (at both Cal State LA and Trinity). In
these faculty members' labs and classrooms the bottom line is welcome,
with a promise of success. And the next bottom line is making sure that
students in growing numbers succeed at learning science.
Fort Lewis College
Nestled among the high mountains of southwestern Colorado is a
state-supported university that continues to call itself a college. Originally an Indian high school established in the l880s, Fort Lewis College
went through a series of transformations, from a junior college to a branch
of Colorado State University. It was refounded in 1962, during the period
of expansion of higher education, as an independent four-year state
college with a liberal arts mission and a commitment to innovation.
Partly because of its mission, the Department of Chemistry attracted
faculty members who had experience in four-year liberal arts institutions. Chairman Jim Mills was a student at Earlham in Indiana; Doreen
Mehs, Colorado's 1991 CASE professor of the year, graduated from
Harpur College; and John Ritchey's first teaching assignment was at
Furman University in South Carolina. Ted Bartlett and Rod Hamilton,
the department's organic chemists, also are liberal arts college graduates,
as is Ron Est ler who left a tenure-track position at a major research
university to teach at Fort Lewis. Bartlett's early teaching experiences
were at two strong liberal arts colleges in Minnesota. The newest member
of the department, Les Sommerville, is a 1980 Fort Lewis alumnus, proof
that the faculty believes in their program and its graduates. Many of the
faculty could be called "refuseniks," intentionally rejecting the large,
research-oriented university where, as Mehs puts it, "You can't do much
harm or much good for most students." Mehs believes that it is the
faculty's common small-college exFcrience that contributes to the
department's "unity of purpose and method."
The chemistry department, founded in the late 1960s, had its recruit-
ment work cut out for it. In the 1970s, as Doreen Mehs remembers,
"between zero and one student arrived at Fort Lewis intending to major
in chemistry." Of the current sixteen majors per year average, one-third
are from neighboring rural areas and two are American Indians.' The
department has a good reputation among students. It's "where the action
is," one told me. The "action" includes Friday seminars which students
as well as faculty attend, and paid (summer) and unpaid research
projects in which students can work with faculty. The department also
boasts a congenial social atmosphere and an esprit de corps which
students share.
That the chemistry program works is evidenced by: (1) its rate of
recruitment and retention of majors-50 percent of the number of majors
at Colorado State University with but 20 percent of Fort Collins' enrollment; 20 percent of the number of majors at the University of Colorado
with fewer than 10 percent of Boulder's enrollment; (2) the number of
Fort Lewis chemistry graduates who get jobs immediately upon graduation (23 percent) and who go on to graduate and professional schools (64
percent); (3) the college's standing among other institutions. In a survey
of chemistry majors per thousand enrollees at public undergraduate
' The college-wide average is 1G percent.
institutions around the country, Fort Lewis ranked fifth.'
"There is nothing special about the curriculum," Jim Mills tells me in
his typical understated fashion. Indeed, given the small size of the
faculty, it is necessary to offer a fairly standard curriculum, though there
is usually room for one new course for advanced students. Ideas tend to
evolve in response to student needs and interests, such as a new offering
in "consumer chemistry" for nonscience students built around the
chemistry of everyday things. Designed by Ron Est ler and taught by
several members of the department, this course attracts students by the
roomful to see clever demonstrations and upbeat "student-friendly"
presentations. Following a brief introduction on how scientists think and
on the risk assessment process in industry, students are taught the science
needed to understand one kind of consumer product or concern, e.g.,
polymers and their ability to biodegrade. More science is added as
discussion turns to more complex consumer products.
The course is not restricted to the nonmajors the department is
determined to serve. Science majors looking for some applied chemistry
take the course too, and discover new applications of the chemistry they
have learned. Further, making chemistry part of the campus culture, says
Est ler, demonstrates to science and nonscience majors alike shared
Another new course does attract one or two majors a year. This is the
freshman-sophomore writing course taught as a part of the college's
"writing a ?ross the curriculum" program. Chemistry professor emeritus
Merle Harrison was one of the architects of the program in the late 1960s,
before these programs were nationally popular. Rod Hamilton's "science
and society" is a perennial attraction for future majors. Doreen Mehs,
who teaches "problems and puzzles" and "global change," believes that
is the strong student-faculty interaction that draws these writing
students toward the chemistry major.
There is one undertaking which may be unique: Ted Bartlett's summer
school course entitled "natural products from plants." Taught during
Fort Lewis' "Innovative Month Program" in May, the course regularly
attracts ten to fifteen chemistry and biology students who take it as an
elective. It features independent study laboratory projects in the isolation, synthesis, and identification of biologically-active compounds from
plant materials, particularly native plants of the Southwest. A high point
of the course is a field trip, a backpack venture into a canyon area of
In addition, the department was one of four winners of the Programs of Excellence
Award given in 1991 by the Colorado Commission of Higher Education to encourage
excellence in Colorado's postsecondary schools. If funding is approved during the 1992
legislative session, the department will receive $80,000.
Colorado near the Utah border where students gather specimens for
laboratory study, The course attracts sophomores into the chemistry
minor, and sometimes into the major.
Mills believes that the department's success in recruiting and retaining
large numbers of students (more and more of them from out of state)
comes from having a hand on the students' collective pulse. Teaching
issueswhat to teach, who to teach, and how to teachare regularly
discussed at department meetings. Chemistry majors are identified early
and followed closely through their undergraduate (and even postgraduate) careers.
E'ccause there are no graduate students at Fort Lewis, undergraduates
use new instruments early, often ir, the sophomore organic laboratory
course. Said one transfer student speaking of the university she left, "You
gave your sample to the TA who put it through the NMR. Here we get
on the NMR ourselves." The absence of a graduate program also means
(as at UW-Eau Claire) that there are places for undergraduates in faculty
members' laboratories. During summers, this translates into $2,500
student stipends paid for partly out of faculty grants and augmented by
college funds. The recent award of a Howard Hughes biomedical
development grant of $800,000 will help support more students and
faculty in biomedical research.'
Success also comes from pragmatism and flexibility. "Teaching must
fit teacher as well as student," department chairman Mills believes. It is
important that a professor wants to be teaching a particular course or
sequence. Teaching assignments are almost entirely voluntary, but every
faculty member teaches in the introductory course, although not every
year. All faculty are considered good teachers and some flashy, and all
get student reviews that exceed the campus norm. More importantly,
a favorable attitude, Mills adds.
students come out of the course
Even though all students take tne same introductory course, class sizes
have been limited. The department quit using its 250-seat auditorium ten
years ago, choosing to increase its work load by subdividing introductory chemistry into smaller sections. These are limited to seventy-five to
eighty students, with some as small as twenty-five to thirty, and the
average sixty. Efforts are made to coordinate sections so that there is a
sense of community and so students get to know all the instructors. The
department sees eighty as the maximum class size that permits adequate
interaction between students and faculty, students and students.
The department stresses knowing the students. Personal attention is
a Fort Lewis tradition and a selling point in recruiting. In chemistry this
' Fort Lewis College was one of ninety-nine schools invited to apply for Howard Hughes
grants; forty-tour received funding.
personal attention takes the form of help sessions for introductory
classes, either weekly or at exam time, and often in the evening when the
studentsone-third of whom live on campushave free time. Personal
support is provided by these sessions, support that extends into the
classrooms, and faculty get to know names and something personal
about each student by the third or fourth week of the semester.
The students interviewed during a brief two-day visit to Fort Lewis
recognize that all this attention contributes to what they call the "captur-
ing business" in which Fort Lewis' chemistry department is openly
engaged. In the case of potential majors it begins even before they arrive
in some cases even before they apply to the college. Early in the
admissions cycle the chemistry department asks admissions for a computer search of possible applicants showing high math and science ACT
or SAT scores. It doesn't matter at this stage what their declared interest
may be, or even how serious they are about Fort Lewis. Faculty member
John Ritchey writes each of them the first of a series of two letters, with
information about chemistry at Fort Lewis. He encourages them to visit
the campus and advisesas a high school guidance counselor might
what to look for in a college search. Ten days later prospects receive a
second letter bringing them up-to-date on department activities, on
where recent graduates have landed professionally, and en the
department's new instrumentation and latest awards for teaching and
research, and inviting them to visit the department upon arriving.
"We send out hundreds of letters each year," reports Ritchey. "Students remember them and their parents read them. When they finally do
arrive on campus, they come to see us." "Is chemistry's aggressiveness
perceived as unfair advertising?" I ask. Not at all, I am assured. Chemistry also produces and distributes a detailed handbook with information
on the major, career opportunities in industry, and how to apply to
graduate schools.
"Operation capture" continues unabashedly through them 150, the
introductory course for geology, pre-engineering, biology, and chemistry majors. Chem 150 is looked upon by the department as a recruiting
opportunity. Sections are relatively small and teaching is personal. And,
as the students recollect it, class usually begins with something "irrelevant to the lesson" but very relevant to recruitment like "how much
money patent lawyers make," or "the birthday of some chemist," or an
interesting display of some kind. Without this, John Ritchey believes,
there would be few chemistry majors at Fort Lewis. "With all our efforts,"
he says, "we still start out with just one or two freshmen ready to major
in chemistry. But because 250 students must take introductory chemistry
and because we present our subject in an interesting manner, we end up
with ten or fifteen majors. Best of all, once they are juniors, we lose none!"
Critics might say that chemistry is out to increase its market share of
the students who might major in the other sciences. But is it attracting
students who might not? Whiie some Fort Lewis chemistry students are
unmistakably committed "first tier" chemists and have had good high
school preparation, others would, the department believes, be discouraged by their grades or discover a poor "fit" between themselves and
science if they were studying elsewhere. The department directs much of
its energy to such students. It sees small class size and personal help
sessions as providing a combination of "consolation and encouragement." Faculty are always on the lookout for "any and all signs of talent,
particularly in those who think they have none." This requires, says
Chairman Mills, a positive, upbeat attitude, treating each class almost as
if it were the "best class ever." Privately the department worries about
student preparation and other problems, but there is no public moaning
about how poor the students are.
This means that every student is encouraged to think about chemistry
as a career. "We believe it's a faculty responsibility to discuss with each
student what we think he or she can develop into, both as a Fort Lewis
student and in their career after graduation.." says Mills. While stressing
that a major is a student's choice and that postcollege decisions should
correspond to personal motivations, the chemistry faculty encourages
most juniors and seniors to consider continuing their studies into graduate school. While a few students read this counseling as pressure, the
faculty sees it as "making certain that students are aware of what they can
make happen." What "they can make happen" is, in fact, not limited to
graduate school, and the faculty makes sure they support majors seeking
other opportunities, in teaching, for example, or in industry.
I find the results of this encouragement evident in my student interviews. John Rau tells me he hated chemistry in high school where he
regularly got 40 percent on tests, but loved chem 150 (which he took as
part of a pre-engineering requirement) because, he remembers, "it was
pure chemistry, not applied." Rau is a student who doesn't learn much
by himself from a book. He responds, rather, to lively lecturesparticularly those which "get you to think"illustrations, demonstrations, and
the challenge of "digging for answers." It has taken him longer than his
professors at Fort Lewis to recognize that he has a different learning style.
For years he was mystified by the fact that although he wasn't very
"scholastic," he "really liked science." Majoring in inorganic chemistry
and destined for graduate study, Rau is confident that he has found the
right field and will do well.
Career opportunities in chemistry are described in the introductory
classes, which include anecdotal accounts of alumni activities, what this
week's departmental visitor is doing, and other topics. Another exposure
to postgraduate life is provided by the Friday afternoon chemistry talk
by a visitor or by a senior student. Many visitors come to promote
graduate study at their own universities. Some are from industry, and
two or three each year are from government labsLos Alamos National
Laboratory, the nearest major scientific institution, is four hours away.
Each of the year's dozen or so visitors spends an entire Friday in
chemistry and lunches with a group of juniors and seniors. They provide
information about where the discipline and the profession are heading
and an informal appraisal of the department itself.
During the winter semester the Friday afternoon seminar may feature
an hour-long talk, based on library research, by a senior. Since all seniors
are required to prepare such a colloquium, the question-and-answer
period following serves as a public test of their understanding of the
material and its underlying fundamental principles. There are always
refreshmentswhether a student or a visitor is the featured speakerand
afterwards some students and faculty drift downtown for more socializing. The Friday afternoon "happening" builds momentum during the
school year. Freshmen and sophomores discover that, "while the rest of
the campus starts weekend partying, something interesting and entertaining is going on in chemistry."
The seminar I attend is offered by Janet Grissom, a natural products
synthesis chemist from the University of Utah. That Professor Grissom
is a female is considered a plus. With 40 percent of its majors female, the
department actively seeks women speakers. The fact that her university
is paying her expenses is testimony that Fort Lewis graduates are
attractive prospects for graduate study. Indeed, Fort Lewis students are
applying for graduate work all over the country, though primarily in the
West and Midwest. Whole contingents have gone to Indiana University,
the University of Utah, and Montana State University. But more often
they go to the best university for their interests and talents, without
regard for their friends' destinations.
Janet Grissom's talk begins with a description of what a natural
products chemist does, and why one would want to do this work. She
proceeds to discuss the molecule taxol, which, she tells her audience, is
in phase two clinical trials at the National Cancer Institute. Taxol offers
real benefits in treating cancer, but is available only from the bark of the
Pacific yew tree. With 12,000 trees needed to produce enough for clinical
trials, it is imperative the compound be synthesized in the laboraiory. So
one reason a natural synthetic chemist wants to work on natural compounds is their utility. Another is the "pure pleasure" of working with
novel structures; a third is to develop interesting new synthetic methods;
and a fourth, always in the mind of a research chemist, Grissom emphasizes, is to discover interesting and unanticipated chemistry.
A r-(!;)
Her seminar continues with a discussion of the work in which she is
currently involved, and ends with photographs of her group, of the
chemistry building at Utah, and of some of the snow-covered canyons
that give Salt Lake City its scenic character. Throughout Grissom is at
pains to demonstrate that chemistry is a human endeavor, that there are
real people-not much different from the audience working on the
problem. When there are not too many questions from students at the
end, the professors take the lead, as several have expertise in synthesis
and natural products chemistry, and a lively discussion ensues. Later
Grissom has dinner with the faculty and, the next morning (a Saturday),
breakfast with some organic chemistry students.
The Friday afternoon seminar is budgeted at $1,000 per year out of
department, ACS student affiliate chapter, and vice presidential funds.
Sometimes the speaker's home institution pays the freight; other times,
I am told, the department faculty reach into their own pockets to help
defray expenses.
While students in the introductory course are not (yet) among frequent
attendees, they cannot help but hear about these Friday sessions from
upperclass lab assistants and in the chemistry study room. That study
room, incidentally, with its coffeepot, refrigerator, and microwave oven,
is the center of the department. Visiting, tutoring, studying, counseling,
and lunching all go on there. Faculty wander in and out. The chalkboard
serves as a message center, a key factor in helping students feel part of a
community. Open from early morning until 10 P.M. or midnight, it is a
place where students working on a problem often shout out a question
for anyone in the vicinity to answer.
Summer research at Fort Lewis is on the upswing as federal and other
agencies have offered more funding for research at undergraduate
institutions. During the 1980s Fred Bartlett and one or two other faculty
would be occupied with funded research during any summer. In recent
years the number has increased to five or six, a level of activity that
increases the pressure for modern equipment. The department has been
aggressively writing proposals and soliciting donations to obtain the
equipment, and the college has been generous in providing matching
money. As a result, Fort Lewis may be one of the better equipped
undergraduate departments in the region.' Their efforts continue with a
new biochemistry lab development program headed by new faculty
member Les Sommerville.
In the center of the chemistry department is a laser lab that would be
the envy of most undergraduate institutions. Built in stages by Estler,
Recent acquisitions supported by the NSF ILI program include a GC-MS, a high field FT
NMR, and an FT/IR.
Mills, and Mehs, the spectroscopists in the department, the lab features
three lasers and accompanying computers, lenses, and oscilloscopes,
along with a time-of-flight mass spectrometer. The latter was paid for by
an NSF gram and built by Estler's research students. Acquiring equipment and keeping it maintained has consumed a significant portion of
departmental attention over the years. The resident full-time lab coordinator is Carl Stransky, a professional chemist, who makes sure that the
equipment provides something more than ambience, and is used to
maximum benefit by students and faculty alike.
The range of expectations for new faculty is considerable, sometning
newcomer Sommerville discovered when being interviewed for his
position. The most important qualification is "excellence in teaching," or.
as it is written in the department's tenure document, the clear prosp( ct
of excellent teaching.'
Most people can be good teachers on their best days. We want
. people who are good even on a bad day or during a bad
year. We seek some level of undeniable excellence, whether
it be in classroom style, indefatigable nurturing, or pedagogical insight. There also must be an irrepressible love for nature
and science, to instill in our students a lifelong science
In addition, the department expects new members to "have the
professional drive to stay alive and functioning on the undergraduate
scene." This means being able to find funding for research, including
summ2r research with students, preferably at Fort Lewis. The department, however, ilso recognizes the contribution to its program from
research ties to Los Alamos National Laboratories. Leadership in this
area has come from Ritchey and Estler, who have worked summers at
LANL for many years and provide opportunities for Fort Lewis students
to assist in research there.
Another qualification any new hire must have, as described in the
department's tenure document, is the "interpersonal skills required to
furnish leadership in some component of the department's operations
and to represent the department to the rest of the college and our
professional community." An invaluable strength of the Department of
Chemistry at Fort Lewis is the unity of goals and commitment it enjoys
as a faculty. For this reason, the department is unwilling to risk its esprit
de corps even for a "star." "No faculty member," says the tenure
document, "can be so good that they add to the department while
detracting from our ability to work together." Strong words'
'From "Observations Regarding Tenure for Chemistry Faculty," prepared by the department
The payoff is high departmental morale. In the words of the department chairman:
I cannot capture on paper the energy and enthusiasm in our
department. Our department operates more by consensus
and cooperation than by political posturing and competing.
We have a collective sense of humor, grounded in a unity of
purpose and a respect, even fondness, for one another. Being
upbeat and enthusiastic about science as an intellectually
satisfying enterprise and about a chemistry career as an
enjoyable, worthwhile life-style is essential to our
department's sense of well-being.
To underscore the importance of "attitude" toward students and
science, one observes that on the department's student opinion questionnaires used in every course, there is always a question about "instructor
enthusiasm." Common responses are "can't believe the enthusiasm .
really loves this stuff . . helped me get interested in the course."
Excerpts from student questionnaires reveal that the faculty are
supportive: "I am a [returnee to school] and was worried about doing
well. [The instructor] made all of us feel worthy." "Understanding that
most of us are not science majors and couldn't or wouldn't dream of being
such, he still treate,' us as intelligent adults." "We are free to ask any
question and he calls on us immediately ... always stimulates my mind."
"After class I was always thinking [about] what if [questions] and I could
always ask about my ideas." "Extremely knowledgeable about analytical
chemistry. . .. A student can ask her a question any time and get a clear
answer." "A genius on the subject, yet takes plenty of time to explain his
thinking so we can follow what he is doing." And so on.
The question for science education is whether a program like this is
exportable. Instead of discussing this, however, the faculty wants to tell
me how "unique" Fort Lewis is. I explain that for my purposes what is
typical about Fort Lewis College may be more interesting than what is
unique. From Doreen Mehs I get the following analysis: Unlike the
selective private institutions from which so many of the faculty came,
Fort Lewis College is underfunded, nonselective in its student body,
lower in status, lacking in endowment. What makes up for this, insists
Mehs, is commitment and vision. "All we have," she says, "is a faculty."
Since most of the students at Fort Lewis are anything but teacher-proof,
it is critical that they have a "satisfying learning experience." That
students at the larger universities need this, too, is addressed by the
comments of Pam Fischer, a Fort Lewi alumna now in the Ph.D. program
in chemistry at the University of Oregon.
I entered Fort Lewis as an English/journalism major intending to stay for one or two years and then to transfer to the
University of Colorado at Boulder. While taking them 150 as
a distribution requirement, after not enjoying chemistry in
high school, I found myself in Ron Estler's section and it was
he who turned the light bulb on . . . The classes were
challenging and the material difficult and highly technical,
but the interaction between the professor and the students
made it fun . .
Jim Mills believes that it is attention to the day-to-day detail of running
a department for undergraduates that makes the difference. Like myself,
Mills discounts the "experimental model" and educational innovation
per se. He is at pains to explain to me what the department is not:
We chemistry faculty don't see ourselves as innovators so
much as "program builders." The faculty has a five-year plan
filled mostly with continuing improvements, to be steadily
pursued as time and opportunity allow. Our innovations
tend to be small. We are neither trendy nor high tech with
video disks, software packages, computer-assisted instruction, etcetera. Although Estler and Bartlett have contributed
papers to chemical education sessions at national ACS meetings, we primarily attend sessions in our subdisciplines . .
What drives the department, in his words, is a different set of goals.
We are a strategic department. We try hard to judge which
changes will work and which will not, given local conditions.
This means we must know who our students are and we must
know who we really are so that proposed changes will work
with the students and faculty alike. Grand designs tend to be
left behind on the departmental table. .
The department's success is due in part to the fact that the faculty work
well as a team, that they respect one another and enjoy friendly competition. All of the faculty have enthusiasm for teaching and for their fields
of expertise. They share responsibilities, some hustling for instrumentation grants, others spending extra time developing courses. Some are
active contributors to area primary and secondary school science programs, while others are more heavily involved with Fort Lewis students
in laboratory research, particularly in the summer. Mills continues:
Our progress is not so much in innovation as in improvement. The curriculum is up-to-date, the lab equipment is
modern, and our students are aware of the latest developments in chemistry, but we are not inclined as a department
to embark on major experimental teaching projects. There is
a general faculty opinion that we do a better job with our
students each year.
And they do. In this institution, teamwork and passion produce cumulative improvement. Good teaching is viewed as an end in itself.
Trinity University
Trinity University is a midsized private liberal arts institution located
in San Antonio, Texas. Formed from three failing colleges following the
Civil War, Trinity was originally located in Waxahachie, Texas before
accepting an invitation to relocate to San Antonio in 1943. Known as a
quality regional institution, Trinity did not become a nationally recognized center of academic excellence until the 1980s. Richly endowed, the
university was one of the first to provide merit-based scholarships (1982)
that now bring sixty National Merit finalists each year to campus. In
recent U.S. News and World Report studies Trinity is ranked first among
comprehensive universities in the Southwest.
Science was not Trinity's principal strength prior to the 1980s, and
science majors entered medical school or industry rather than grz ivate
school. The '80s brought changes that created excitement in science at a
time when, nationally, student interest was declining. In 1989 Trinity
graduates from all departments received seven National Science Foundation graduate fellowships, placing fourteenth among U.S. colleges and
universities in awards per capita. The Department of Chemistry exemplifies the dramatic changes that have occurred. Between 1970 and 1985
an average of seven majors graduated per year and fewer than two per
year entered graduate school in the chemical sciences. Most pursued
medicine and some went directly into chemical industry. By the end of
the 1980s, in contrast, the number of chemistry majors had nearly tripled.
An average of seven students per year were entering graduate school in
chemistry or biochemistry, and in one two-year period five Trinity
University chemistry majors received prestigious NSF graduate fellowships, nearly 5 percent of the total awarded nationally.
When I reviewed the factors that contributed to this change, I was
reminded of economist Walt Rostow's characterization of economic
development, a rapid "takeoff" following a period during which an
infrastructure builds. Ronald Calgaard, the current president, came to
the university in 1979 with a determination to recruit the best faculty and
better students. In five years, from 1981 to 1986, the average combined
SAT scores of Trinity students increased from just under 1,100 to over
1,200. During that same period, a seventh member was added to the
chemistry department in the person of Mike Doyle, who came to Trinity
from Hope College in Michigan where there is a long tradition of
excellence in chemistry education. Hope is the place where the "Council
on Undergraduate Research Newsletter" was first published, of which
Doyle is the editor. In the early 1980s, Doyle remembers, chemistry at
Trinity was ". . . a reaction waiting to happen."
A catalyst was added and the reaction occurred. President Calgaard
was extremely supportive, providing $1.5 million to replace inadequate
facilities. The Semmes Foundation created Doyle's chair, and instrument
acquisition over three years was made possible by grants totaling
$700,000 from NSF, the Keck Foundation, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus
Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Research Corporation, and an additional $300,000 from Trinity itself. Then there was a significant increase
in research support to chemistry faculty from outside sources.
Such changes and acquisitions are more common in larger, researchoriented universities. The visitor to Trinity University is struck by how
much undergraduate chemistry students benefit from sophisticated instrumentation. In the summer of 1990 when I made a site visit to Trinity,
forty-one students were performing research with chemistry faculty. Ten
had just completed their freshman year and many were on their way
toward being converted to the discipline. About the same number were
similarly engaged a year later.
Undergraduate Research
We need only to listen to the students to hear how undergraduate
research contributes toward recruitment and retention. A 1991 graduate,
Danny arrived at Trinity with interests somewhere "between biology
and chemistry." In the summer of his freshman year he joined Nancy
Mills' research group and has been doing research with her ever since. It
was this research experience, Danny recalls, that caused him to choose
chemistry as a major and as a career.6 For Scott, raised by a physician
father in a town with a university that emphasizes premedicine, the
decision was not so easy. As he tells it,
I entered Trinity with a rather limited view of the nature of
science. My initial curriculum emphasized premed and I
didn't begin actively participating in research until the summer following my sophomore year. Although I entered the
'From student testimonials collected by the Department of Chemistry.
research lab with the attitude of a summer employee, by the
end of that summer I knew that research was what I wanted
to pursue as a career.
Scott's research collaboration began with Benjamin Plummer on
photochemistry, light-induced reactions of organic compounds. Later he
did genetics research with a biology professor (William Stone), returning
to a chemistry laboratory in his junior year and, on several occasions
before graduation, presenting research papers at scientific meetings. A
paper, coauthored with Plummer, appeared in Tetrahedron Letters. Scott
won an NSF Graduate Fellowship on graduation and went on to pursue
a Ph.D. degree at Caltech.
Another convert from premedicine is Jack, whose research experience
began the summer before his junior year. After taking a year of organic
chemistry with Mike Doyle, Jack was persuaded that ".. . chemistry, not
medicine, would be my lifelong discipline." His first research project,
assigned by Doyle, centered on free carbenes. Even though free carbenes
have a history of virtually nonexistent synthetic utility, by the end of the
summer Jack was able to prepare free carbene-derived products in a 90
percent yield. Thereafter, he was able to establish the relative reactivities
of various substrates, using high field NMR spectroscopy in tandem with
gas chromatography. Collaboration with Matthew Platz of Ohio State
University resulted in a paper in Tetrahedron Letters, one of five he
eventually published based on research with Doyle at Trinity. What Jack
remembers most about collaborative research are both the "personal
dimension of discovery" and the "rewards of teamwork." For Tom,
another recent graduate who holds an NSF graduate fellowship at
Harvard University, undergraduate research laid the groundwork for
the discoveries in biological chemistry he is making in graduate school.
Revising the Standard Curriculum
Research is not the only special experience available to Trinity students. In 1988 the Department of Chemistry taught the classical general
chemistry course for the last time. This course, virtually identical to those
found at the vast majority of colleges and universities, is basically a
survey. Doyle calls it a "travelogue through the myriad topics that
educators, exam manufacturers, and textbook authors have determined
to be essential to every student's college experience. If this is week four,
the topic is stoichiometry; week five covers the essentials of thermodynamics." For Trinity students, the faculty came to believe the standard
course was a review of what most of them had already learned in high
school. For too many (Mike Doyle again), "general chemistry was simply
asking for four significant figures instead of the three demanded in high
However unsatisfactory it was, replacing the foundation course was
not to be done lightly.' Indeed, the revolution was preceded by several
attempts at reforming the introductory course. For three years, beginning
in 1985, the chemistry faculty experimented with alternative approaches,
each a variant on the general chemistry theme. But none of them
produced the desired result, namely "generating enthusiasm for chemistry among students." When these attempts failed, William Kurtin, then
department chair, pushed the faculty to consider a "more drastic change."
That drastic change involved replacing the standard general chemistry
courses with basic courses in analytical and organic chemistry.
The fact that the Trinity faculty included three organic chemists
(Doyle, Mills, and Plummer) willing to undertake the instruction of
students at the introductory level made it possible to construct a new
course (without outside funding or faculty release time) with some
confidence that such a change would be acceptable to the ACS.
Instead of a full-year course in general chemistry, Trinity University
now offers a one-semester course in analytical chemistry emphasizing
quantitative analysis, followed by the first of a two-semester sequence in
organic (and bioorganic) chemistry. The first course emphasizes the
quantitative aspects of chemistry that are also of particular interest to
students in engineering and physics; the second is qualitative in nature
and is especially attractive to those headed toward the biological sciences. The change, says Doyle, is meaningful: students whose motivation
and capabilities allow them to excel in qualitative, conceptual areas love
the change from analytical chemistry. Those whose quantitative skills
allow them to excel in the first course are also attracted to the unified logic
of the second course.
Enrollments following the introduction of the new courses testify to
their appeal. With the old curriculum a first-year class of 160 sent fiftyfive students to the second-year course in bioorganic chemistry and only
forty-five of the initial 160 completed the two-year sequence. Now, of the
160 who begin with the introduction to quantitative analysis, eighty
remain at the start of the second year and seventy stay through the end
of the two-year sequence.
"In this curricular approach," says Doyle, echoing Philip Morrison of
MIT, "less is more." Rather than beginning with the entire periodic table
as in general chemistry, the new curriculum focuses on only a few
elements, and subsequent courses build upon this foundation. Student
See Sevhan Ege's account of reorganization of the University of Michigan's undergraduate chemistry sequence during the same period (chap. 4).
performance on standardized tests has not suffered from this approach.
Another revision was to expand laboratories for students from three
to six hours per week beginning the second year, and to integrate the
subdisciplinesorganic chemistry with inorganic chemistry and analytical chemistry with physical chemistry. The key to the success of this
"laboratory-rich program" (Doyle's term) is student access to modern
instrumentation usually found only in professional laboratories devoted
to chemical, biomedical, or environmental analyses. Although acquisition costs are high, over $1 million at Trinity, the benefits in s:udent
understanding of modern chemical science, the faculty believes, are
"enormou s."
Today at Trinity one rarely sees a test tube in a chemistry laboratory.
Analyses are performed on milligram or smaller amounts and not on the
gram scale required three decades ago. Students are encouraged to
undertake independent laboratory study as early as their first year, and
can join faculty research groups through a one-credit course in research
techniques and applications. The course requires students to learn the
chemical and instrumental analysis techniques required by a particular
research problem. These same research questions may continue to
engage students during the summer or the next year as they move into
"independent research in chemistry and biochemistry," a course that
encourages even more autonomy." These experiences directly aid students in their other coursework. Says one:
The biggest benefit I received was the lab experience. I did not
have as many problems with the experiments as my peers in
my first semester organic class because I had worked with
most of the glassware, and had handled some of the reagents.
I finished the experiments in less time and was more efficient.
I have always enjoyed lab work, and when I saw that I was
pretty good at it, my motivation was sparked.
The Trinity University chemistry program is not perfect. There are
deficiencies, some due to limitations in faculty size (seven) and laboratory space. The number of advanced courses has been restricted to five,
which frustrates some students who desire more. There is only one track
in the chemistry curriculum and all students take the same introductory
sequence whether they intend to major in biology, engineering science,
'For a review of undergraduate research in chemistry education, see Jame-, N. Spencer and
Claude H. Yoder, "A Survey of Undergraduate Research over the Past Decade," Journal of
Chemical Education, Vol. 58, October 1981, p. 780; Jerry R. Mohrig and Gene G. Wubbels,
"Undergraduate Research as Chemical Education," Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 61,
June 1984, p. 507; and "The Chemical Education of Butchers and Bakers and Public Policy
Makers," Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 61, June 1984, p. 509.
or any other discipline requiring chemistry. Students who want to do
research during the academic year often find themselves in crowded
laboratories vying for available space; however, this was to be alleviated
by the summer of 1992 through a renovation made possible by an NSF
Since few freshmen who undertake research are productive their first
year, their summer stipends and research supplies are a gamble for their
faculty mentors. External research grants, which provide most of the
funding for faculty-student research, are based in large part on productivity. When a student does not continue with a project or contribute to
its development, its future is jeopardized. Still, without early beginnings,
many students now majoring in chemistry and intending to pursue the
chemical sciences as a career would have been lost. The dropout rate for
students who begin chemistry research in their freshman year is about 30
percent, but this doesn't mean they are lost to science. Many of them
decide to pursue other science majors as a result of their exposure to
Research is as strong a catalyst for students' development at Trinity as
It is at Fort Lewis and UW-Eau Claire. But perhaps even more important
is the attention they receive from faculty in the research lab, in their
courses, and in the extracurricular activities that the departments provide. The payoff is in the numbers. Where fewer than one out of 100
introductory chemistry students at large state universities typically
selects chemistry as a major, the rate is at least six times that at departments like Trinity's. The lesson from this institution is that an infusion of
money and personnel at the right time, in a setting already predisposed
to change, makes a difference.
Structure and Reactivity
Introductory Chemistry at the
University of Michigan
It is tempting to argue that what is possible at four-year state universities and independent colleges may not be so at larger research institutions. After all, the smaller colleges have no graduate clientele to serve or
employ as teaching assistants. Critics will assert that pedagogical innovation is easy where class size can be controlled and the first two years
of science are unencumbered by large projects, faculty travel, consulting,
and the constant need to write grants to support the infrastructure. So
when a major research university manages to revitalize its undergraduate program in scienceeven though the overhaul is principally curricu-
larthat change should be examined.
The Scope of the Overhaul
The process began at the University of Michigan in the 1980s with a
four-year period of self-examination followed by the creation, testing,
and installation of a new introductory course in organic chemistry,
followed in turn by a complete revision of upper division chemistry
courses. Professor Seyhan Ege, associate chair of the Department of
Chemistry, worked with her curriculum committee and a group of likeminded colleagues to spearhead the change. Her story is loaded with
lessons about the process of change for those who would reform undergraduate science elsewhere.'
' The material in this chapter borrows heavily from a talk by Seyhan N. Ege and Brian P.
Coppola, "The New Undergraduate Curriculum at the University of Michigan," given at
the Alliance for Undergraduate Education meeting, Ann Arbor, Mich., April 7,1990, and
from an unpublished paper on the same topic entitled "The Liberal Arts of Chemistry:The
New Curriculum at the University of Michigan." I have also benefited from reading and /
or hearing several additional presentations about the new curriculum: (I) Ege: Symposium on "Chemistry at Four-Year Colleges and Universities" at the 23rd Great Lakes
The decision to develop a new course sequence was motivated (as Ege
and her associate Brian P. Coppola tell it) by familiar concernsthe feared
shortfall of science and engineering professionals, student dissatisfaction
with introductory chemistry, an increasing number of advanced placement students who were postponing their first course in college (organic)
chemistry until their sophomore year, and a study by the local Women
in Science program pointing to the first year course as the discouraging
factor for women.'
At least as critical to their thinking was their accumulated experience
teaching introductory organic chemistry to large (about 800) groups of
second-year undergraduate students. The majority of these students had
just completed their first year of college chemistry, a traditional general
chemistry course. From anecdotal evidence, Ege and Coppola concluded
that second-year students were bringing with them from high school and
first-year chemistry many false notions about science in general and
chemistry in particular. For one, they acted as though "science is certain
and answers are knowable." Ege and Coppola were further struck, as
have been many before them, that
... teaching students to solve problems about chemistry is not
equivalent to teaching them about the nature of matter.
Students can solve problems about gases without knowing
anything about the nature of a gas, problems about limiting
reagents without understanding the nature of chemical
Introductory general chemistry, then, became their first focus for
change. There were going to be at least four curricular problems to solve.
High schools, Ege says, teach much of what is now taught in college level
introductory chemistry, not in as much depth, not as well, but enough so
Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, May 31, 1990; (2) Ege: Symposium
on MicroscaleOrganicChemistry Laboratory at the 11th Biennial Con ference on Chemical
Education, August 7, 1990; (3) Ege and M.D. Curtis: Symposium on Perspectives in
Advanced Placement Chemistry at that same conference; and (4) PEW Midstates Consortium Curriculum Workshop, University of Chicago, April 12-14, 1991. More important
and much appreciated are the conversations I was able to schedule with Seyhan Ege in
Chicago, in Albion, Mich., and, including Brian Coppola, in Ann Arbor; and a written
narrative of the history of the program provided by Ege in answer to my written questions.
Jean D. Manis, Nancy G. Thomas, Barbara F. Sloat, and Cinda-Sue Davis, "An Analysis
of Factors Affecting Choices of Majors in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering at the
University of Michigan." CEW Research Report No. 23, Center for Continuing Education
of Women (1989).
' Taken by Ege from Susan C. Nurrenbern and Miles Pickering, "Concept Learning Versus
Problem Solving: Is There a Difference?" journal of Chemical Education, 64 (1987), pp. 508-510.
that students feel they have "learned this all before."4 Another problem
is that general chemistry has become weighted toward the physical to the
exclusion of descriptive chemistrythe qualitative understanding of
chemical concepts. Further, general chemistry is fragmented by the large
number of topics, Ege explains. "Students have no opportunity to build
in-depth understanding of a few topics using increasingly sophisticated
chemical models." Finally, evidence that women students were responding negatively to science courses made Ege feel that it was "urgent to try
to design courses that more accurately reflect what chemists do."5
Designing Structure and Reactivity
Over the years the Michigan organic chemistry faculty had developed
ways of teaching that emphasized general concepts and mechanistic
similarities rather than content, reactions, and synthesis. Students responded positively, providing evidence of skills in analogical reasoning,
pattern finding, and sorting out relevant facts in problem solving. These
skills helped them in their other courses. The organic chemists used their
small honors sections (in the second-year course) to test ideas about how
students learn and how independent they could be in the laboratory. Ege
recalls: "The more feedback we got, the more clearly we saw that it was
necessary to make the development of skillsthe skills of the liberal arts
an explicit part of our teaching." It became apparent to Ege and her
colleagues that the same methods applied to a modified content would
provide an ideal first-year course in chemistry.
When it came to content, they reasoned not only that less taught would
be more learned, but that the reverse is also true: more would always be
"less" when it came to student mastery. 6 Ege and Coppola write:7
We each have lists of topics that should be required knowl-
edge for those who study chemistry. But the content of
chemistry has exploded.... There are scientists doing chemistry who call themselves molecular biologists or materials
scientists. We cannot teach all of the content that is necessary
Ege, quoting Betty Wruck and Jesse Reinstein, "Chemistry Instruction: Observations and
Hypotheses," Journal of Chemical Education, 66 (1989), p. 1029.
Nancy W. Brickhouse, Carolyn S. Carter, and Kathryn C. Scantlebury, "Women and
Chemistry: Shifting the Equilibrium Toward Success," Journal of Chemical Education, 67
(1990), pp. 116-118.
'The idea that "less is more" in science teaching is attributed to MIT physicist Philip Morrison.
See P. Morrison, "Less May be More," American Journal of Physics, 32 (1964), p. 441.
' Ege and Coppola, "The Liberal Art of Chemistry: The New Curriculum at the University
of Michigan," unpublished paper, p.4.
for those who will use chemistry professionally. It is important . . . to give our students the tools to recognize chemical
problems when they see them, . . . to find data, to analyze
data, and [teach them] how to use data in the solution of
Ege and Coppola weren't referring exclusively to quantitative problems. In the homework assignments and on exams the new course would
have students explore "the actual molecular phenomena that the prob-
lems represented [instead of just looking for] a quantitative answer."
Further, the new course would be an immersion experience"
In choosing intensive immersion in one area, we moved away
from the idea that the freshman year is ... when foundations
for all other areas of chemistry should be laid. We decided
that a significant number of students would have . . the
fundamental concepts and language . . . that we could build
on, reinforcing earlier concepts by moving into new areas
that required their application, rather than by reviewing the
concepts, albeit more rigorously, in old contexts.
In designing the new curriculum, she and her colleagues decided that
principles of structure and reactivity were the key to understanding
everything from materials to living organisms and should form the basis
for introductory chemistry. Also, they decided that "real problem solving" should be a component of the laboratory courses, ever, in year one.
The stage was set for the introduction of a new chemistry curriculum
with the following as its goals: to awaken the interest of students in the
chemical sciences and to retain more of them in the discipline; to integrate
early laboratory courses with lectures so as to emphasize method and
process; to encourage student participation in faculty research projects;
to develop new undergraduate programs in biochemistry, polymer
chemistry, and science education; and to make special efforts on behalf
of women and minority students.
Selling the Idea
Instead of allowing course content requirements to dominate the
planning process, Ege took the position that a highly diversified content
could provide the vehicle for introducing the "special ways" in which
chemists identify and solve problems involving transformations of
matter. It was one thing to convince her colleagues in chemistry that the
important concepts could be served by such a course, but it was just as
necessary in a university like Michigan to persuade chemistry's outside
clients as well. "I had to worry a great deal about content requirements,"
Ege said at an American Chemical Society symposium, "for we have a
large engineering school. . . ."9 The engineers wanted their students to
take the same courses as chemistry majors. Indeed, the Michigan chemistry department has never had separate tracks either for engineers or for
premeds, although there is one intermediate physical chemistry course
meant mostly for materials scientists and geologists.
Investigating engineering requirements in chemistry before making
changes, Ege was surprised when a colleague in chemical engineering
told her there really weren't any. This perception proved correct. When
she met with all the engineering program directors to explain the new
chemistry courses and ask for input, she could not get anyone to tell her,
"our students need to know this or they need to know that." For
certification, engineers must take only one term of chemistry with lab.
Requirements were no more specific than that.
Introductory chemistry, however, also serves premeds and biology
majors. There might have been problems in persuading those departments to "buy in" to the change. But the biologists welcomed the more
structured, qualitative approach Ege proposed for the first course. This,
they decided, would better prepare students for the molecular component in introductory biology than traditional general chemistry. The
biochemists and those involved in Michigan's accelerated Inteflex pre-
med program (see page 64) also preferred the new sequence. They
thought that a qualitative first course, followed by a third term with
topics usually taught in first-year chemistry, would be good preparation
for medical school biochemistry. Thus, while some in chemistry believed
certain topics were indispensable because this is what departments
outside of chemistry needed, the new curriculum worked well for most
programs. "I think," says Ege reflecting on the process of getting other
departments to agree, "we impose imaginary restrictions on ourselves."
Installing Structure and Reactivity
In the fall of 1989 the first 380 students (of 2,100 who start chemistry
at the university each year) enrolled in structure and reactivity. By fall
1991 the number had climbed to 960, of whom 520 were first-year
Ege's presentation and the panel response, dated August 26, 1990, is available from the
Committee on Professional Training of the American Chemical Society. See also Coppola's
presentation at the National Association for Research on Science Teaching, Lake Geneva,
Wis., April 9, 1991, and at the American Chemical Society's twenty-first annual meeting,
Atlanta, Ga., April 16, 1991.
students. Students are advised to take the new two-semester course if
they score three or above on an advanced placement exam, or at the 70th
percentile or above on a nationally administered high school chemistry
examination administered during orientation to incoming students.°
This means that those entering the course can be assumed to have had at
least one year of high school chemistry within the past three years."
The thrust of the course is not to convey facts but "the multiple and
flexible ways," as Ege puts it, in which chemists explain chemical
properties and predict the properties of unfamiliar species. The stress is
on models and the processes by which chemists develop models to
rationalize chemical phenomena. With organic chemistry the vehicle, the
course aims at introducing students to how chemists think at the
moleculz r level. Rapidly, it is hoped, students should be brought to the
point where they can predict reaction results based on an understanding
of the periodic properties of elements. "We strive to bring our students
to a level where new observations may be viewed as redundant in the
context of the conceptual model, rather than as another set of facts,"
Coppola adds.12
The Laboratory
The laboratory for structure and reactivity received as much attention
from course designers as the content of the lectures. First tried out for
several years as the honors section of sophomore organic chemistry, the
laboratory was designed to avoid what Ege and Coppola call "the locked-
step reproduction of preordained results." Like other reformers of
general chemistry, they wanted to give students "authentic activity"
without any sacrifice of technical instruction. Above all, they wanted to
provide opportunities for self-correctionsomething often excluded
from the introductory lab.
To accomplish this, students engage in open-ended activities in the
structure and reactivity lab, making independent observations to solve
individual (or group) problems. For example, in one exercise involving
white solids, students are given twenty-seven vials containing nine
'" "Cooperative Examination for High School Chemistry" designed jointly by the American Chemical Society and the National Science Teachers Association and administered by
high school teachers as a final exam and by colleges as a placement exam.
" See Appendix A (p. 174) for a detailed chart of the prerequisites and course offerings in
the new curriculum.
"Brian Coppola, "Learning in Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory as an Apprentice-
ship," presented at the National Association for Research on Science Teaching, Lake
Geneva, Wis., April 13, 1991, p. 2.
different substances (in triplicate sets). Each of the eighteen to twentyfour students in a laboratory section selects a vial. Their task is to figure
out who else in class has the same substance they do. Then, provided with
a set of authentic samples, they make identification by comparison. What
constitutes a valid comparison becomes the key question in this lab, for
in order to compare their data, the students have to develop their own
systems and criteria. The lab stimulates cooperation, since students do
their identification cooperatively. Together, rather than in competition,
students develop their technical and observational abilities."
After one term structure and reactivity students tackle problems with
less and less guidance. A second-term assignment might be to read a
recent journal article describing a new synthetic methodology and to test
it on a variety of new substrates. Many of these laboratory exercises have
been used at other institutions. Noteworthy at Michigan, however, is that
the laboratory is integrated into the new course and nearly 1,600 students
take it over two semesters.
How well are students served by structure and reactivity? How much
do they learn? How competent are they in comparison to peers in other
first-year courses? The answer depends on what questions you ask and
how you ask them, and what you expect students to know. In an early
attempt to evaluate the laboratory, Brian Coppola set himself the task of
comparing the oral responses of twenty-two structure and reactivity
students (having had first-year chemistry), twenty traditional organic
students (each with two years of college chemistry), and four "experts"
(advanced graduate students and faculty members) to an open-ended
identification question. A small capped vial containing about a milliliter
of a clear colorless liquid (dichloromethane) was placed next to a tape
recorder. The question to each participant: "What stepwise procedure
would you use to determine the nature of the material in this vial?" Each
time there was a response, the interviewer pressed forward with "what
will you learn?" or "that didn't work, what next?"
Comparing the two groups of students and the experts, Coppola
concluded that the students in the new first-year course held a more
"expert conception" about the task than students in the traditional
course.14 The latter, he reported, focused mainly on identification, using
" In the laboratory, as in the course as a whole, students are graded on an absolute scale,
not on a curve. Hence cooperation is in no way detrimental to their performance.
" Brian Coppola, "Learning in Undergraduate Chemistry ... ," p. 13.
water solubility as structural evidence. Not one of the students in the
traditional courses explicitly considered the homogeneity of the sample;
all of the structure and reactivity enrollees did. The key, he thinks, was
that structure and reactivity students have a more intimate association
with a laboratory environment and a greater degree of confidence. They
could also predict how much information one might get from a spectroscopic analysis; students who had taken the traditional courses were
more tentative in their estimates.
To some extent, structure and reactivity students are primed for the
kinds of questions Coppola asks in his evaluation. Ege and Coppola were
determined from the outset that their examinations would not merely
test the students' numerical competencies, but extend the teaching and
learning tools of the course.15 There are no multiple choice tests in
structure and reactivity. Students are expected to produce their own
answers. All examinations are graded by hand, partial credit is given, and
comments are written. One question on a typical test requires the student
to produce an answer in structural terms, while the very next one asks the
student to draw a three-dimensional representation of a compound and
show the expected bond angles. In the next, students are given data they
are not expected to knowthe example is not in the book and was not
discussed in classand asked to give a structural answer. Further down
the page a structural explanation (in words) of a physical property is
Ege wants students to be able to produce both words and pictures.
Exams are designed to ferret out students who have memorized a catch
phrase, but who can't draw a picture to show they know what they are
talking about. Exams feature compounds they have heard or read about
(e.g., cocaine) and links to current research. Most important, while the
data given in the tables attached to the exam are quantitative, students
are asked to use those data to arrive at qualitative judgments.
The Classroom Climate
It is difficult to document changes in the classroom climate that
accompanied curricular changes at Michigan because the course is so
new. We do know Ege and her colleagues resolved to make the course
encouraging and noncompetitive. They told students "we are here to
help you succeed," and did not grade on a curve. They encouraged
See Brian Coppola's report, "Studying the Structure and Reactivity Course: A Report
from the End of the Second Year," available from Ege, and Appendix A (p. 175) of this
volume for examples of examination questions used in the course.
students to study together. They also made senior faculty accessible to
students in their first year by establishing student-faculty workshops one
evening a week. Faculty were urged to model their own problem-solving
strategies at these sessions.
As structure and reactivity becomes regularized through addition of
faculty, more and more instructors will be able to apply the new
pedagogical approach to their other courses. Already chem 130, the one-
term general chemistry course for students who did not place into
structure and reactivity or who want to start with a conventional class,
is showing some changes. Although it resembles traditional general
chemistry courses in its content and style, and features multiple choice
examinations and grading on a curve, it now includes evening workshops for faculty and students.
From Course Innovation to Curriculum Reform
How did structure and reactivity come to be, and how was it possible
to so radically alter the chemistry sequence? The political process that
took place holds lessons for revitalizing science elsewhere.
In the early 1980s, Ege reports in her analysis, the organic chemistry
faculty was already experimenting with the second-year course, so a
critical mass of reform-minded faculty was in place. Then there was the
existence (since 1972) of Inteflex, a seven-year integrated liberal arts and
medical degree program. In the early years of Inteflex the chemistry
department was asked to design special three-term general and organic
courses. Much thinking went into what kind of chemistry was needed for
these nonmajors. Ege's own experience in teaching them helped her
decide to write an organic chemistry textbook that would emphasize the
nature of reactivity in organic compounds, rather than rote leF.:..ting of
reactions.'6 The book is unusual in making acid-base chemistry the basis
of further knowledge, which corresponds to the approach chosen for
structure and reactivity.
As chair of the curriculum committee since 1981 and associate chair of
the department after 1988, Ege was aware of both the strengths and
weaknesses of Michigan's undergraduate program. Michigan offered
students five tracks (including Inteflex), ranging from an honors class
with fewer than 100 students with superior preparation, to another class
of 100 which attracted those underprepared in math and science and
adult returnees. In between were two large general chemistry sections of
about 700 students each, one for those who did well on the ACS test, and
''Seyhan N. Ege, Organic Chemistry, 2nd ed. (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1989).
one for those who did not. The strength of the program was that all of the
tracks were designed to bring all of the students to organic chemistry in
the third term.17
Change was initiated not with a grand design, but with individual
discussions with organic chemists about starting better prepared students with an introductory course based on organic chemistry. Ege was
not naive about the dislocations that would follow such a change. In the
immediate short run, she warned, the new plan would increase teaching
loads for the organic chemists in the department, as many of them would
be shifted from second-year to first-year courses. Art absolute increase in
student enrollment could also be expected, since geologists and engineers who did not normally enroll in organic chemistry would now be in
the first-term course. The biology department and chemical engineering
were also approached to find out if they could foresee problems with the
plan. Still, when Ege circulated a preliminary proposal, she got little
response. There the matter rested for a couple of years. Germination
would take time.
During this period, a new chemistry building with laboratories for
general and organic chemistry was authorized and a new chairman, M.
David Curtis, was appointed. The question of equipment for the new
building raised the issue of curriculum again. Equipping any curriculum
would most likely set the pattern for some time, so if changes were to be
made, this would be a good time to make them. Curtis agreed and
decided to have "new courses to teach" in the new laboratories.
As associate chair Ege had primary responsibility for the undergraduate curriculum and for the department's teaching. That position, the
pending construction of new labs (and the need to finance them), made
change more palatable, and she again set about persuading the faculty of
the merits of the new curriculum. With a plan put forward by the
curriculum committee and strong support from the chair, the faculty
agreed in 1988 to a comprehensive overhaul of the curriculum from
freshman to senior year.
When the move to the new building was finally made in the summer
of 1989, the $300,000 available from the university for laboratory start-up
bought FT-infrared spectrophotometers, gas chromatographs, and an FT
nuclear magnetic spectrometer, as well as additional balances and pH
meters. The College of Literature, Science and the Arts loaned the
department money to convert to microscale equipment, an investment
'' The honors section used a higher level textbook and had an accompanying laboratory. Better
prepared nonhonors students had a general chemistry laboratory with the standard types of
inorganic and quantitative experiments. Less well-prepared students were given an extra
lecture hour per week and waited until the second term of general chemistry take lab.
that Ege says is already paying for itself in smaller quantities of chemicals
and in disposal of waste. Since students need only small amounts of
chemicals for their experiments, it is now possible to assign individualized laboratory problems.
The first 380 students entered structure and reactivity (chemistry 210/
211) in 1989. Planning for the new chem 230 (which would pick up 210/
211 students in their third semester) and the chem 130 course (for
students who don't place into 210/211) brought in physical and inorganic
chemists like Marian Hallada and Christer Nordman. Chem 230, now
called "physical chemical principles and applications," includes much of
the content of the traditional second-term general chemistry course but,
since it enrolls students who have completed structure and reactivity, it
can be taught at a higher level than general chemistry. Students not going
on in science can take it as a terminal course."' Chemistry 230 also serves
as an additional elective for engineering students. For chemistry majors,
cellular molecular biologists, and chemical engineers, the new curricu-
lum makes it possible, for the first time, to take a course in "real"
inorganic chemistry (chem 302), designed by Vincent Pecoraro, as early
as the second year.''
Even after the new first course was formally adopted, momentum was
not permitted to falter. In the fall of 1989, the department held an all-day
workshop to discuss the new curriculum and plan for additional changes.
Ege's colleagues, busy designing second-year courses, kept her up to date
on their progress, so that she could see how their ideas fit into the overall
plan. By the end of 1992 winter term, the department had entirely moved
to the new curriculum.
Ege continued to meet regularly with client schools and departments,
biology, geology, and the schools of pharmacy and engineering, so that
they would know what was happening in the first-year courses and what
to expect of their students as they moved through the new curriculum.
Ege would explain the nature and rationale of the new chemistry
curriculum and help departments identify the courses that would best
meet their students' needs." While she was always willing to talk to
program directors and curriculum committees, she did not accommoMost science majors take chemistry 340, a more advanced integrated physical chemistry
and analytical chemistry course, taught for the first time in 1991 by Mark Meyerhof, Don
Gordus, and Tom Dunn.
'" See Appendix A, p. 174, for a detailed chart of Michigan's new chemistry sequences.
2" Except for chemical engineering, the engineers were more interested in the existence of
a five-credit package of chemistry lectures and lab than in specific content. But scheduling
requirements have to be dealt with: engineers often need to split lecture from lab; the new
course with its associated lab does not always fit student schedules.
date chemistry's changes entirely to clients' needs, real or perceived. She
felt strongly, as she puts it, that ". . . it was those 'needs' that have held
us frozen, unable to make a move in changing curriculum." The department took the view that they, as chemists, were best qualified to judge
where the discipline was going and the mental skills necessary to
understand and work with new chemical knowledge. Given that the
cont 'nt of chemistry has exploded be:ond what is teachable in four
terms, et alone in a one-term service course, it was for chemistry, not its
clients, to determine the specific content of its courses.
Besides the start-up costs for the new building and the loan for
equipment changeovers, no financial support came to the department for
the implementation of the new plan. Once the department embarked on
curricular change, however, industrial and college support was forthcoming: $250,000 from Warner Lambert-Parke Davis, $100,000 from
Amoco, $20,000 from BASF-Wyandotte, and a GC-MS (value about
$56,000) from Hewlett-Packard. The college provided funds to upgrade
standard equipment such as pH meters, and NSF gave $200,000 after the
program was well on its way. The money is being used to buy more
instruments for structure and reactivity courses as enrollments increase.
It is also being used to equip three new upper -level laboratory courses.
Change in the introductory course is having its effect. As students in
the new curriculum learn to design their own experiments and to think
analytically, they become impatient with the content and the pedagogy
of the courses that follow. Undergraduate participation in departmental
research has grown from an average fifteen to twenty students per term
to fifty to fifty-five, and many have joined research groups in all areas of
chemistry as early as their first or second semester of college.
"Change isn't easy, and it's difficult to say whether it's been 'good' or
'bad'," Ege concedes. "What are the measures of success? What weight
do we give to a lack of specific knowledge on the one hand, and to the
eagerness with which students attach themselves to research groups on
the other?" The answers will be years in coming, but the faculty intends
to track the number of students who stay in the sciences, the number who
go to graduate school, and the kinds of records they compile. Already the
number of students who convert to a major in chemistry during their first
year has grown from one to four per year to fourteen to eighteen.
The department is p irticularly sensitive to the need to do a better job
of attracting and retaining women and minority students. One indication
that the new curriculum is succeeding is the rate at which students from
the small winter term section of chemistry 210/211 (which, fpr various
reasons, has a large number of returning women students and minorities)
apply for summer research programs immediately following their first
course in chemistryfour in the first year.
Will the New Curriculum Survive?
Crucial to long-term success is whether the new curriculum provides
a viable pathway to B.S. degrees in chemistry and then to higher degrees
and /or jobs. Will students who complete a curriculum that emphasizes
integrated laboratory courses and undergraduate research be as successful as earlier graduates in getting jobs and completing graduate school?
How will faculty continue to respond, once the curriculum is no longer
"new?" "There is nothing magical about the new curriculum," Ege
insists. Its implementation was the result of a small number of people
who put a lot of effort and energy into it. But she fears it could freeze into
dogma as soon as energy and interest stop flowing. The research faculty
must continue to contribute. They will, she thinks, if there are profession-
als on staff who can develop their ideas and administer the large
introductory courses. This, in turn, depends on financial support by the
college and the university.
Since survival of the University of Michigan chemistry curriculum
depends on individual decisions made by faculty, administrators, and
students, Ege says there is no way to predict the outcome with any
certainty. After just two cycles, however, there is already some evidence
that structure and reactivity is succeeding in attracting new students. The
increase in sign-ups for the chemistry major is one indicator (fourteen to
eighteen students per year in contrast with one to four per year over the
five years preceding the introduction of the new curriculum). The
number of students admitted to summer research programs, some of
them to NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates Sites, is another
sign of success (they are doing very well, holding their own with older
undergraduate and even graduate students). General interest in chemis-
try is a third indicator. When the department's research faculty gave
presentations at an evening symposium hosted by the local ACS student
affiliate last year, more than seventy students turned out. Faculty
members report they are being overwhelmed by student requests to
work with them in research.
Since 1988, Ege says, she has done little but "shepherd" curriculum
reform aided by Brian Coppola who has also spent an "inordinate
amount of time on it."
I cannot begin to tell you how much time . . went into the
change here, mainly because my efforts are all mixed up with
being chair of the curriculum committee, associate chair of
the department, designer and teacher of the course over
several terms, interpreter to other departments, and writer of
changes in college bulletins.
As already mentioned, all of this was done with minimum external
funding until the program was well under way. Not much internal
support was provided either, except for start-up equipment funds
available only because a new building was constructed. While the organic
chemists carried the load the first three years, by fall 1992 Ege expects to
have some inorganic chemists teaching structure and reactivity both to
make sure that its content remains based on the important concepts of
structural chemistry and to ease the burden on the organic chemists.
How to make change? Ege thinks she has learned a great deal about
the process from the events of the past several years.
Innovation is not a fix, but an ongoing negotiation of small
changes, some of which work, some of which disappear. It
requires a constant vigilance on the part of somebody who
talks a lot, persuades a little, sets an example, creates an
opening for others to be creative, and keeps on prodding and
For Ege. reform is very much a human endeavor.
What is the likelihood that the long-term process which characterized
the grass-roots reform of the chemistry curriculum at Michigan can be
propagated? This question led me to the University of Utah where, in the
course of my inquiries into freshman chemistry, I was told that some
members were developing a modification of the Ege model. After
Associate Chair Richard Steiner heard her talk at an ACS meeting, the
curriculum review committee (chaired by William Epstein) solicited
materials from Ege. I was curious both as to what had motivated the
decision to revise the chemistry curriculum at Utah, and how the
committee in charge was proceeding.
Curriculum reform at Utah began in 1989 when Peter Stang, newly
appointed chair, charged the Undergraduate Education Committee to
review the undergraduate program. Because of feedback from other
departments, duplication of course content, deficiencies in the upper division offerings, and a desire to establish objectives for lower-division
revisions, curriculum reform was done in a top-to-bottom fashion.
The lower-division curriculum revision effort at Utah was fostered by
a growing concern that 25 percent of the students enrolled in the first
quarter of general chemistry failed to register for the second, and that the
number of chemistry majors was falling (from forty-seven per graduating class in 1977 to as few as nineteen in the late 1980s). Revision was
undertaken to reverse this trend and to prepare students for the revital-
ized upper-division courses. The Ege model appeared to be a good
starting point for developing a curriculum that would accomplish these
goals. However, after numerous brown bag lunches with all interested
faculty, it became apparent that blanket transplantation of the Michigan
curriculum was not warranted.
Instead, the faculty instructed the committee to develop a new introductory course sequence which reflected both the pedagogical interests
of the faculty and exciting new areas of chemistry, while reducing the
amount of mathematics required in the first year. By delaying the math
component until the second year, the committee hoped to give first-year
students a year to catch up. Topics in organic chemistry, they believed (as
did Ege), could achieve all these goals. The committee then set itself the
task of refashioning the existing six-quarter, single-track chemistry
sequence by mixing and matching topics from the first two years. This
sequence, they hoped, would provide students with a gentler introduction to, and more success with, college-level chemistry. it also allowed for
more depth of discussion in quarters five and six of material peripherally
covered in normal first-year courses. Unlike the Michigan program, the
curriculum at Utah maintains one quarter of "introductory chemistry"
before beginning organic chemistry. (See Appendix B, page 178 for a
detailed description of the sequence.)
It was not hard to mix and match, reports Steiner, because the
committee was "working toward a common goal instead of protecting
individual turf." Faculty input was solicited through brown bag lunches,
and regular committee reports were made to the faculty. As a result of
faculty input, the committee decided to introduce the curriculum as a
125-student experiment beginning in fall of 1992. With one exception, the
faculty unanimously endorsed the proposed sequence and the topic
content of each course. After three years the experiment will be evaluated
and a final decision made.
A social scientist cannot help but find it interesting that, although
Utah's efforts were inspired by Michigan's, the program and the process
by which it is being implemented are quite different. The model works
at Michigan because a dedicated group of faculty made it work. An
equally dedicated group of faculty at Utah has similar goals, but because
of the expertise available there, the personality of the individuals, and a
different, but equally justifiable approach to teaching chemistry, it has
chosen a modified version. The point is that no model can be effective
unless faculty trust it. And to trust it, they may have to reinvent the model
at their own institution, with their own method of generating overall
support. This is what grass-roots reform is all about.
"Not More Help,
but More Chemistry"
UCSD's Approach
to Nonscience Majors
What can be done to improve recruitment to science by way of
introductory courses in college? This is the question that brought me to
the door of Barbara Sawrey, lecturer in chemistry and academic coordinator of undergraduate chemistry at the University of California, San
Diego (UCSD). UCSD's new courses are attractive if you start from my
premise that real change in college science occurs at the individual
program level, and that real commitment is measured by departmental
initiatives and support. Chemistry 11, 12, 13 ("chem 11") is worth
examining because of its nature, history, and because one of its creators
and its senior instructor holds an unusual dual position: permanent
lecturer and academic administrator. Most important, Barbara Sawrey's
positions put her smack in the center of instructional and institutional
Take the history of chem 11 as one example. It was introduced in 1988
when overpopulated chem 4, one of the standard introductory offerings
for majors and nonmajors alike, ran out of lab space. From the beginning,
chem 11 was intended not to replicate chem 4, but to be a rigorous nonlab, three-quarter introductory sequence for a group of UCSD students
diverse in background and in their interest in science.
For some UCSD students, chem 11 is one way to meet a year-long
science requirement in certain UCSD colleges. The youngest of the UC
campuses, UCSD is divided into five colleges, each with its own admission and graduation requirements, as a way of countering the vast size
of a 20,000-student multiversity. UCSD students must take one to three
quarters of science, depending on their goals. Some who take chem 11
could meet their requirements with an assortment of one-quarter biology
courses, such as the very popular (1,500 enrollees) course in the biology
of nutrition. But they choose chemistry instead, which suggests that they
have positive memories of high school chemistry and that they are not
afraid of the rigorous mathematical content of college level science.
In addition to students meeting a distribution requirement, chem 11
includes a few declared majors, among them transfer students from
community colleges who find it useful or necessary to review introductory chemistry. Others find their way into chern 11 because professors of
politics or business suggest it as a basis for environmental politics or law.
The relatively small size of the two lecture sections, 350 in one and 150 in
the other, may also be a factor for those who don't like large lectures.
Barbara Sawrey, who holds a doctorate in chemistry and worked in
industry before returning to graduate school, interprets her appointment
at UCSD as that of "instructional troubleshooter."' And, indeed, she is.
In addition to teaching assistant (TA) training and overseeing the laboratory storeroom staff, any teaching she does is technically voluntary.
Since her job includes coordinating general chemistry courses and lower
division curricular revision, it was appropriate that, once identified, the
population problem in chem 4 was hers to solve. She and the department's
vice chair for undergraduate affairs recommended a course without a
lab, a three-quarter introduction to chemistry; then moved on to what
might be called the "R&D:" designing and teaching the prototype of chem
11 until it could be taken over by a colleague.
I met her in the third year of chem 11, when she was establishing a
special section for potential chemistry converts. She invited me to attend
some classes, have a rapporteur monitor the course and the special
section, and interview her on how she is nurturing stude IA interest in
chemistry by means of chem 11.
What interested me was that this one course combines a "general
education" in chemistry with a rigorous foundation. Given the nature of
the course and Barbara Sawrey's reputation as a teacher, one could
imagine that if you were going to stalk students capable of doing science
anywhere in the university, chem 11 would be fertile hunting ground. As
more colleges and universities institute general education requirements
in science, shouldn't more effort be made to recruit nonmajors to science
within the context of introductory courses? What can we learn from
Sawrey's strategies that can be transferred elsewhere?
' Gabriele Wienhausen is Sawrey's counterpart in biology at the same rank of lecturer,
with particular responsibility for biology laboratories. The University of California
system, with its provision for permanent lecturers, has a number of persons in similar
positions on other campuses. Sawrey calculates that there are more than thirty people
with positions analogous to hers in chemistry at different colleges and universitiesaround
the country. Their salaries range from $16,009464,000 and their number is increasing.
The Course in General: What's in a Name?
What I noticed after auditing several meetings of the first quarter of
chem 11 was that the course is packaged to attract the not yet committed.
Instead of "introduction to general and inorganic chemistry," the chem-
istry department gave the three quarters provocative titles. Although
coverage is far more standard than they suggest, the titles are a clever
marketing device. Quarter one is called "the periodic table;" quarter two,
"molecules and reactions;" and quarter three, "the chemistry of life."
These titles are advertisements for chemistry, and Sawrey is not averse
to employing such devices.
But the titles are the thematic underpinnings of the material as well as
advertising. In "the periodic table," for example, students read the first
eight chapters of a standard text' and do a great deal of standard
chemistry, but along the way they explore with their instructor earlier
versions of the periodic table. How the pattern and periodicity of the
elements became known, and how chemists were able to arrange known
elements and to predict new ones even before the quantum mechanical
explanation for their sequence was understood, provides not only course
subject matter, but much of its drama. Further, the theme permits Sawrey
to incorporate some history of experimental and theoretical chemistry,
and gives students an idea of modeling in science. In the second quarter,
"molecules and reactions," she extends her discussion of the fundamental processes of chemistry. Appealing to students' interest in biology and
environmental issues, quarter three addresses "the chemistry (biochemistry) of life."
As Sawrey intends it, chem 11 is a tour of chemistry in place of a
foundations course. Students who complete the entire sequence emerge
with more information about organic chemistry and biochemistry than
those taking the standard version, but at the expense of some inorganic
chemistry and certain basic procedures and skills. Yet Sawrey believes
that if a student can be enticed into chemistry by way of chem 11, that
student can be mainstreamed into the standard chemistry sequence with
a one- or two-quarter bridge course. As academic coordinator she is
committed to offering such a bridge for chem 11 students who change
their minds about science, particularly if they switch during quarter one.
What Sawrey confronts is a fundamental contradiction in science
courses for nonmajors: these courses are usually terminal. Should a
student discover a certain talent for "general science," the only option is
to become a specialist. Where are the upper level courses in general
'Robert J. Ouellette, Introduction to General,Organic, and Biological Chemistry, 2nd ed. (N.Y.:
MacMillan, 1988).
science? While we must recruit atypical students in the standard introductory science course, we must also recruit them from the science
courses for nonmajors. A forgiving but uncompromising curriculum is
what Sawrey is attempting.
The Lecture Method
I sat in on a few lectures in the fall quarter of 1990 and made my own
observations. The instructor treats topics seriously, which makes her
students feel that they are learning real chemistry. Second, I noticed that
the instructor makes a strong effort to repeat major points and provide
breathing space for excursions into the history and applications of
various discoveries. Hers is a spiral and recursive lecture style. Explanations precede demonstrations and then are repeated after the demonstration has sunk in. The instructor adjusts her topics to respond to questions,
whether on environmental issues or why baking at higher altitudes takes
more time and less flour. She uses the chalkboard, transparencies, and
counter demonstrations. Her personal style is warm and reassuring.
Students enrolled in chem 11 select one of two large lecture sections
which meet three mornings per week.' There are no labs, but students are
invited to attend voluntary problem-solving sessions run by TAs who
also correct homework. One additional voluntary section was offered in
the fall of 1990 for students who wanted, as Sawrey put it, "not more help
but more chemistry." Rapporteur Suzan Potuznik, then a postdoc in
bioinorganic chemistry, now an assistant professor of chemistry at the
University of San Diego, monitored this noncredit special topics section
for this project. The question: Would students who elected special topics
be more likely to switch to chemistry as a major?4
The Students
On the basis of standard variables, neither the students who enrolled
in the fall of 1990 nor those in the special topics sections were promising
as converts to science. While 82 percent (300 out of 367) had taken
chemistry in high school and 61 percent (225 out of 367) had studied
calculus, the fact that they were not taking chem 6a, the standard
Sawrey's coinstructor was not interviewed or observed for this chapter.
' During the next quarter Sawrey herself taught the special topics section and her
coinstructor taught the lecture course. Because of different requirements, college by
college, quarter two enrolled a total of about 250, and quarter three about 150, a considerable drop-off from quarter one.
introductory course, suggested (and a special topics questionnaire documented) that their hearts were elsewhere. When asked about prospective
majors on their questionnaires, they listed literature, history, political
science, psychology, and communications as favorites. Only fourteen
were undecided and, except for forty-five who chose economics, most
were not planning to go into math or math-based subjects. Indeed, of the
nearly one-third who were taking math (to meet graduation or major
requirements), about fifty-seven or half were in "elements of mathematical analysis," an introduction to calculus. IN h,.n the TA asked students
about science as a career during the special section, sixteen out of thirty
said "not for me," and two responded with "yuck."
Sawrey had fully expected that a special kind of "quarter-one" student
might elect the special topics sections and she recruited one of her best
TAs to teach it. He was Stephen Everse, a graduate student in biochem-
istry and known on campus as a dedicated teacher. Everse was, as
rapporteur Suzan Potuznik noted, a gifted and enthusiastic TA.
Still, those attending had mixed motivations for seeking "not more
help, but more chemistry." On Everse's questionnaire, sixteen said that
they had chosen special topics because its meeting times were conve-
nient. Only eight wanted more than basics, three listed "real-world
issues," and four said it sounded interesting. One enrolled, he said,
because special topics sounded cool, and another because the section
represented a change. Despite the label as a special topics section,
students did want help on quizzes, but they were also looking for more.
A few said they had come to learn why science is important, others to
focus on the basics but in more depth, to learn about chemistry in real life,
and to get to know other students. What they liked most about the section
when it was over was their TA, and that sessions were interesting.
As in all experiments in higher education, Sawrey could no more
predict the results than she could determine in advance who would sign
up for the special section. All she could do was compare the performance
of the students in the special topics sections and those taking help
sessions, and then see who enrolled in them 12 and 13. Sawrey anticipated that as many as sixty of the 367 students enrolled in her large lecture
section would choose special topics sections. When a course is new, there
is no student scuttlebutt, positive or negative to bias the outcome; sixty
students did indeed sign up.
Sawrey's instructions to Stephen Everse were to not preselect topics
but to let them emerge from student interests. In other words, he was to
navigate the section rather than plan it. So no topics were announced, but
interested students initially could assume, since this was chemistry, that
the subjects would include environmental degradation, AIDS, nutrition,
P1 "-+
and the like. And, in fact, those were among the topics they chose.
After asking the students for comments, Everse divided the ten
weekly sections as follows: orientation; a review session midway in the
quarter; and, in the last week, thought-provoking questions prepared by
Everse and the other TAs to help students prepare for the final. The
remaining seven weeks were devoted to special topics, with some initial
discussion each week about previous or upcoming quizzes.
The seven topics that emerged were: (1) Everse's own graduate
research on fibrinogen; (2) AIDS; (3) nutrition; (4) drugs and the brain; (5)
environment and pollution; (6) plastics, waste, and recycling; and (7) the
ozone layer. At no time were the topics coordinated with the lecture
material. The students didn't seem to mind this, according to rapporteur
Suzan Potuznik, and, indeed, they were as interested and enthusiastic
about controversial topics in chemistry as they were about politics. They
were particularly responsive to anything Everse could share with them
about his own and the wider world of research.
The Special Section
What do students who are not especially committed to chemistry want
to know about the subject? What does an instructor offer them when they
attend a section voluntarily? Everse had no firm curriculum, but he did
have an agenda. His purpose was to seduce his students into chemistry
by demonstrating his own enthusiasm for the subject, and by explaining
in depth chemical effects important in everyday life. To get them
involved he began by sharing his own doctoral research on fibrinogen.
Since the question, "what is fibrinogen?" failed to evoke a completely
satisfactory response, the discussion devolved to "what is fibrin and
what are blood clots?" As the class got into the subject, Everse presented
examples that could be made sensible with a model systemthe perfect
opportunity to talk about models and how a scientist chooses a model
system and alters its parameters to make it possible to observe effects in
a shorter time frame.
Everse displayed a test tube of fibrinogen and thrombin which
polymerized to form fibrin. As students examined the test tube they were
encouraged to ask whatever questions came to their minds, and he
spontaneously led them into related areas such as growing crystals and
X-ray crystallography. Everse's bag of tricks included a string of PingPong balls to help his students visualize the polymerization and folding
of fibrinogen, and he concluded with a discussion of the "snowball
effect," how one chemical event starts a whole series of reactions. With
fibrin, he made students understand that the challenge is to find at what
point the clot formation sequence begins and can be stopped.
Everse's students were better informed about AIDS and knew such
terms as "HIV" and "retrovirus," but their lack of chemistry, he helped
them see, limited their ability to analyze the disease. A flow diagram of
the immune system was Everse's introduction to killer cells, neutrophils,
and macrophages, and he presented their function in simplified form
before turning to anti-AIDS drugs and the challenge of finding a vaccine.
Here students brought up social and moral issues (should prisoners be
used for AIDS vaccine testing, for example). At the close Everse deftly
brought the discussion back to biochemistry.
In the hour dedicated to nutrition the leading questions were what are
nutrients, and how are they absorbed in the body? High and low density
lipoproteins and "good" and "bad" cholesterol were familiar terms, but
not their biochemistry. Everse next explained steroids and vitamins,
asking leading questions with no penalties for wrong answers. Gradually
the function of steroids, why some vitamins are water soluble and others
fat soluble, and the sources of body energy became clear.
The following week the discussion turned to the brain and drugs.
Students were liveliest when talking about drugs and drug abuse in terms
of their own experiences with work-related testing. The brain structure,
the brain-blood barrier, the function of the neurotransmitter and how its
rate of response is affected by drugs were Everse's topics. Determined to
focus on chemistry, he was able to return to the periodic table by
mentioning lithium as a treatment for manic depression. Tackling cancer
and the environment (the subject of another session), Everse first defined
mutagens, carcinogens, and teratagens and why mutating cells divide
rapidly. This led to a discussion of the chemical treatment of cancer and
how anticancer drugs are designed to be tumor-specific.
The session on plastics and recycling began with composition (monomer polymerization), and Everse impressed upon students how many
thousands of monomers are involved. Once he had the students thinking
at the molecular level, he explained how plastics vary in decomposition,
making them appreciate why recycled materials are generally thicker
than standard forms. Solid waste, students were surprised to discover,
is primarily paper and only 9 percent metals, 8 percent glass, and 7
percent plastic. Always returning to chemistry, Everse had the students
speculate what temperatures would be necessary to kill bacteria and
which plastics could survive such heating during recycling.
Earth's stratospheric u. one envelope, students needed to know,
protects us from ultraviolet radiation. The ozone molecule absorbs highenergy ultraviolet light generating molecular oxygen and oxygen radicals. Chlorofluorocarbons generate chlorine radicals, which also react
with ozone in the upper atmosphere. Although they were not familiar
with radical chemistry, students could follow the reaction and the role of
chlorofluorocarbons in atmospheric ozone depletion.
Suzan Potuznik, in monitoring Everse's special sections for this report,
found his students to be far more involved than students in introductory
chemistry, a subject she had often taught during her graduate years. Still,
she noticed that few students were very active and many not active at all.
There was a shyness about answering questions that required knowledge
of which they were unsure. Potuznik observed that these students, many
of them humanities and social science majors, were comfortable with
discussion, but uncertain about the language of chemistry and "insufficiently practiced" in the logic of scientific deduction. The exercise of
precisely those skills was another purpose of the special section.
Although there is no way of knowing how many chem 11 students
were recruited to chemistry, their responses to a final questionnaire were
heartening: fourteen said they would willingly take another chemistry
course if it were structured like the first quarter. Five said "maybe," and
at least as important, fifteen had "changed their mind" about science and
scientists and felt more positive about both.
Barbara Sawrey's experiment proved inconclusive the first time
around. Only one of the students from the 'special section went on in
chemistry specifically because of it. Perhaps two or three more might
have decided to do so after another quarter. It is this last that Sawrey
ponders when she thinks about chem 11. For certain populations, she
believes, chem 11 will be an important alternative route into chemistry.
Among them: transfer students from community colleges; students who
received inadequate or no exposure to the physical sciences in high
school; and those interested in chemistry-based careers, but not confident enough to enroll in the regular chemistry sequence.
Suzan Potuznik thinks more majors could be recruited if UCSD's
registration system were more flexible. It is difficult for freshmen to
switch plans the same year, and anyone wishing to cross over to
mainstream chemistry after chem 11 has difficulty negotiating the system. Even selection of the special topics section was hard for students
because of university-wide scheduling rules. Another factor, Potuznik
says, is counseling. If advisers let students wait until their last two years
to fulfill science requirements, recruitment opportunities are lost.
Measured by student satisfaction, chem 11 succeeds but not, Sawrey
believes, solely because of her teaching. The structure of the course, the
fact that it presumes no prior knowledge of chemistry, and that it
provides substantive links between topics make it special. "The TAs
always say they learned about certain aspects of chemistry for the first
time in this course," says Sawrey. This is true to some extent of all courses
and all first-time teachers, but the sequence of topic: and the sloweddown pace in chem 11, believes Sawrev, helps the TAs deepen their
The absence of laboratories in chem 11 leaves substantial gaps in
students' hands-on experience with chemistry. Sawrey would gladly
add laboratories to the course if places and equipment were available, but
chem 11 was designed so there would be lab space for would-be majors.
So, for the foreseeable future, the alternative has been to make chemistry
come alive through in-lecture demonstrations.
Who will decide the future of chem 11? Barbara Sawrey is not
obligated to teach it, but she is in a position to maintain it through her
persuasive ability and influence over the teaching allocation process in
the UCSD chemistry department. And since all students enroll voluntarily, that is, are free to take other courses to meet science requirements,
their satisfaction with chem 11 (87 percent recommend the course, 92
percent the instructor)5 is significant in the department's plans for the
From UCSD's CAPE (Course and Professor Evaluations) booklet. Even when there was
a different instructor in chem 11 in 1990 (recommended only by 61 percent of the student
respondents), 83 percent still recommended the course.
Can Introductory Science
Be Multidisciplinary?
Harvard's Che;n-Phys
Because chem 11 was an attractive alternative to chem 4 at UCSD,
Barbara Sawrey had a ready-made demand for the course. Dudley
Herschbach and Davicy,ayzer, laboring to launch a new, integrated
chemistry-physics course at Harvard, did not. That proved to be a major
Chemistry 8-9 ( "chem -phys") resulted from a confluence of good
intentions. Conceived l y three Harvard scientists, it was meant to satisfy
three different but complementary agendas. Biologist John Dowling
wanted to accelerate and make more meaningful chemistry and physics
training of "future physicians."' His idea was to combine first-year
physics and general chemistry in a two-semester course leading to
organic and biochemistry. These, in turn, would provide a solid foundation for a third-year 'course in molecular and cellular biology.2
Chemist Dudley Herschbach was looking for an approach to general
chemistry that would encompass the physical basis of modern chemistryprimarily twentieth century atomic physics. The traditional physics
course treats mainly Newtonian mechanics, leaving students of chemis-
try to make their own connections to thermodynamics and atomic
structure. David Lavzer, the third member of the team, professor of
astrophysics and a popular instructor in Harvard's core curriculum,
wanted a new approach to introductory physics with more reading and
writing. Once the kinks were out, he hoped chem-phys would became a
core course that would attract nonscience majors.
' At Harvard, where 98 percent of all students who apply to medical school are accepted,
the term "future physician" is preferred to the term "premed."
The medical school deans (Daniel Tostensen and Gerald Foster) were particularly
anxious to provide undergraduates with the kind of introduc',on to science that would
prepare them for the "new pathway" method of teaching medicine at Harvard.
Thus with a small grant from Harvard's former president, Derek Bok,
moral support from the medical school dean and from David Pilbeam,
associate dean for undergraduate education, and with the active suppe
of mathematician Daniel Goroff, chem-phys was born.
The course omitted some first-year physics topicssound, optics,
dynamics of rigid bodies, and special relativityto address atoms,
molecules, crystals, quantum theory, and statistical thermodynamics.
Subject matter was further constrained by three additional requirements:
depth, self-sufficiency, and coherence. "Difficult but important concepts
like the covalent bond and the second law of thermodynamics will be
fully developed, from the ground up, in ways .. . intelligible to students
with a limited mathematical background," reads a course handout.' Most
of all, the course designers wanted to tell a connected story on the ground
that, as Layzer expressed it, "the human mind is better equipped to
understand and remember stories than to memorize encyclopedias."
Since the team's goals were far more ambitious than those of standard
first-year physics or chemistry courses, they would not be able to use a
standard course format with lectures, problem sets, and problem-solving
sections. Instead they decided to adapt the format of Layzer's core
courses on "space, time, and motion," and "chance, necessity, and
order." As in the core courses, two reading and writing assignments for
weekly discussion sessions substituted for lectures and problem sets.
Students could progress at different rates according to their knowledge
of science, and course grades would assess performance in light of each
student's background. Even more unusual, reading assignments would
be drawn mostly from primary sources, such as the writings of La voisier
on conversion of mass, rrorn Bohr's theory of the hydrogen atom, and
from Einstein's quantum theory of radiation. Selections from Carnot's
Treatise would be discussed, for example, in terms of its contribution to
the theory of thermodynamics, despite Carnot's incorrect assumption
that heat is a conserved quality.
Since there were no sources that treated topics the right way at the right
level, Layzer prepared notes to supplement existing materials, a much
larger project than anticipated. Unit I, "The Atomic Hypothesis," begins
with the following overview.'
Everyone knows that the formula for water is H2O and that
Columbus reached America in 1492. But the grounds for
these two beliefs differ radically. The second belief rests on
All descriptions of the topics of the course are paraphrased or taken verbatim from David
Layzer's handout, "About Chemistry 8-9," prepared for the course in 1989.
' From chem 8-9 course material prepared by David Layzer.
historical documents. The first is supported by a complex
web of inference and experiment. In this unit we will reconstruct that web.
The unit continues with an unusual introduction to the kinetic theory
of gases. First, there is the "idealized mathematical model of a gas which
will supply statistical interpretations of two macroscopic physical quantities, temperature and pressure, and will predict a relation between the
pressure, the temperature, the volume, and the number of molecules in
a sample of ideal gas." Then the historical evolution of current theory is
Throughout this first unit (and subsequent ones) there is frequent
mention of themes and of the way scientific knowledge accrues. There is,
for example, an explanation of the subtle and complex relationships
between "qualitative empirical generalizations, quantitative empirical
rules, theories, hypotheses, and conjectures," and how, above all,
macrophysics and microphysics are linked. Assumptions are described
as lust that (e.g., "the frequency distribution of molecular velocities in a
gas is isotropic"); and their justifications (e.g., statistical entropy) are
foreshadowed. Thi, approach is in '...tark contrast to standard courses in
which physical concepts follow one another without any sense of where
the course or the professor is headed.'
Unit one is : n ambitious 100-page chapter covering molecular velocities and collisions; the origin of gas pressure, force, and momentum; the
limitations of the ideal gas law; molecular formulas and atomic weight;
electrons, electronic charge, and the atomic nucleus; the ordering of
elements; mass and energy, and conservation of matter and energy.
Throughout, key formulas are mathematically derived (presuming some
familiarity with multivariate calculus), and the whole is explained
against a background of the history of thought and discovery. For those
who can follow the argument, the web is finely woven.
What were Herschbach'r. and Layzer's students supposed to do with
all of this? First of all, read. Then prepare essay answers to o pre'llem set
with questions calling for "explanation and discussion." These assignments, in turn, were read by instructor Ruben Puentedura, a senior TA,
and returned within a week with suggestions for revision. The assignment received a "structured discussion" during two ninety-minute
sessions each week after which it was assumed students understood
everything they had read.
See the out hor's I hew re Not
umb . They" re Ihfferent: Stations:Hie Second Tier (Tucson, Ariz..
th earch.'orporation, IWO) for comments by students on the pi. oblems with the standard
introdut tory c urse in physics, passim.
In making sense of each unit, Layzer expected his students to "improve their problem-solving, writing, and discussion skills, and their
ability to read and understand scientific and mathematical texts."6 The
lab part of the coursesome assignments involving the computerhelped
make theoretical subject matter concrete, gave students basic laboratory
skills, and taught experimental problem solving. Grading was done on
the basis of successfully completed assignments.
After several months of meetings and substantial work by Layzer in
the summer of 1989 (preparing handouts and writing the first four units),
chem-phys was offered to Harvard-Radcliffe undergraduates for the
first time in the fall of 1989.
Problems surfaced immediately. The core committee rejected the
course because of its prerequisites. Students were expected to have taken
advanced placement chemistry, physics, and calculus in high school to
qualify for chem-phys. This, the committee argued, contradicted the
spirit of the core.' The chemistry department (Herschbach's home base)
approved chem-phys as the equivalent of a one-semester introduction to
general chemistry, but physics would not follow suit. This meant that
Harvard's "future physicians" could not be sure how chem-phys would
count in their medical school applications.
Partly because of the foregoing and partly because of poor course
advertising, only two sections of chem-phys filled, each with fewer than
ten students, the first time the course was offered. The poor enrollment
was surprising given student complaints about Harvard's traditional
introductory science courses.' Some of the seventeen students who did
enroll enjoyed and learned from the course, but all had a hard time. The
handcrafted material was more mathematically demanding (and more
demanding of literary skills) than either Layzer or the students had
anticipated, and he simplified the material for the second year. Now, said
the course handout, "the mathematical language of the narrative and of
the assignments is carefully graded like steps cut into the side of a
mountain, and every important . . . concept is discussed anew in its
scientific context."' But the word along the grapevine, a source students
trust more than the catalog description, was that "you have to be a
mathematical genius to do chem-phys."
David Lavter, "About Chemistry 8 -n."
The core curriculum at Harvard takes the place of general education requirements
" Personal communication from Abigail Lipson, Bureau of Ilarvard Stud, f ounsel. See
infra for more of Lipson's assessment.
David Layzer, "About Chemistry 8-9."
Although it was expected that fifty students would enroll by the
second year, only seven brave souls registered for chem-phys. They
entered a much-revised course with better text, less rigorous math, and
more experienced teachers. A visit to the class in fal11990 found students
remarkably responsive to the material and to the Socratic dialogue TA
Puentedura led them through. But it was clear that, although the course
met the goals of its designers, chem-phys might ultimately not make it at
The Promise of Chem-Phys
The course designers had written extensively about the differences
between chem-phys and the standard courses and how intellectually
rewarding it would be, but its special nature was not well communicated.
If students did not already know how interesting chem-phys promised
to be, they would never have guessed from the catalog description.'"
Once a student ventured into the first class, a more detailed course
description, which underscored chem-phys differences and benefits,
awaited. Also appealing, given the typically large lecture classes at
Harvard, would have been the opportunity to learn science in small class
discussions. But by the time this became known to other students, it was
too late to enroll.
Another feature of chem-phys was ample feedback: in a course with
exams but no curve, students were graded on the quality of their written
work (the two weekly assignments plus twelve lab reports) and the
quality of their contributions to classroom discussion. The short turnaround time for assignments to be read would permit instructors to
"tailor each meeting to the needs of the group, and to monitor the
progress c f individual students." In addition to regular class meetings a
third section was scheduled on Fridays for individual conferences and
small-group meetings.
In design, chem-phys was intended to meet student objections to
standard introductory courses: small class size; individual attention;
cooperation among students; flexible syllabus that coz-ld be tailored as
required; opportunities to pursue interesting questions in physics and
chemistry in some depth; and a chance for students to demonstrate,
orally and in writing, their understanding of a concept.
t" By fall of 1990, without Department of Physics approval, chem-phys had to be called
officially chemistry 8 and chemistry u. It was described in ffarvard's 1990-1991 Courses of
Inslruction as an "integrated, self-contained introduction to atomic and molecular structure,
chemical thermodynamics, and chemical kinetics," and was not listed as fulfilling any
The Experiment in Pedagogy
Chem-phys was more than an innovative course, at least for Herschbach
and Layzer. It was an experiment in an alternate pedagogy as revealed
by, if not the catalog description, a great deal of material on "how to take
this course." Abigail Lipson, a clinical and cognitive psychologist at the
Bureau of Harvard Study Counsel and supervisor of our student
rapporteurs, digested all the material produced by course designers and
summarized what made chem-phys pedagogically interesting.
In contrast to an introductory course organized around bite-sized
segments of new material, Lipson notes, each chem-phys unit began with
a complex phenomenon which was then teased apart, an approach
mirroring scientific inquiry. Further, chem-phys students were to question the material presented and make their own judgments. The content
was to be learned in context rather than in isolation. Layzer made these
differences explicit in his handout on how to approach reading and
writing assignments."
While you are learning physics and chemistry, you will also
be learning to learn. Your central objective should be to build
up a repertoire of thoroughly understood and usable concepts, theories, and techniques. Whenever you are reading,
writing, talking, or thinking about a topic connected with the
course you should have that objective in mind.
In the traditional model, students are given new material piecemeal,
but once learned they may not return to a unit for a long time. In chemphys concepts were revisited more than once and from more than one
angle. Lipson calls this "multiple exposures;" Arnold Arons, "reiteration."' In his handouts, Layzer frequently returned to the analogy of a
repertoire. Like musicians, the students were to know certain pieces so
well that they could "perform" them at a moment's notice. Nevertheless,
they should regularly revisit them to deepen their understanding and
polish that performance. They were to combine concepts, theories, and
techniques as they were learning them to form a coherent, well-integrated
Also noteworthy in chem-phys was the willingness of instructors to
address "why" questions. Instead of being told when a principle is and
is not applicable, students were asked to challenge, speculate, predict,
test, explain, and justify its applicability and its limits. They were to tap
into what they knew, identify what they didn't know, and keep an eye on
" David lat,ver, "About Chemistry 8-9," p. 40.
1= Arnold Arum, A Gude to haroducloryPhipues Tow /ling (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 19901.
the "big picture." This was not incidental to the course. In his 1990 essay,
"Chem 8-9: A New Approach," Layzer ascribes the "distorted picture
most students have of math and science" to standard introductory
courses and texts that discourage "why" questions and pay little attention to unifying concepts.
The "Academic Bends"
Despite the promise of chem-phys, the goals were more difficult to
realize than either professors or students had realized. Simply stated, the
new pedagogy took getting used to. Layzer and Herschbach called this
the "academic bends:" students had to adjust to greater "depths" and
different demands. Students reported some or all of the following
problems: (1) not knowing how to cope with questions they didn't
immediately understand; (2) not knowing how to cope with problems
involving multistep solutions; (3) not knowing what they were supposed
to be getting out of discussions.
Katya Fels and Steven Brenner took chem-phys the first year it was
offered. Katya returned as an undergraduate teaching assistant-Steve
was hired to be one, too, but enrollment fell too low-and both went on
to take organic chemistry the following year. Since they were familiar
with the course and able to judge its value as students of organic
chemistry, they were well qualified as on-site rapporteurs." Their assessments of student difficulties are similar to Lipson's. One was the students' need for more certain content. Even occasional lectures would
have given students a framework on which to hang concepts. A second
problem was the instructors' assumption that chem-phys students would
be able to pick up a great deal on their own. Katya thinks the course
designers overestimated students' abiliFv to master one set of difficult
concepts and go on to the next.
If someone is trying to do electric potential problems without
really understanding what a potential is, the problem takes
on a new level of complexity, a totally unwelcome one. .
Professor Layzer assumed that we were already at that level
where we could pick up new subjects just by being told the
Neither the course designers nor TA Puentedura appeared to have
realistically estimated how much time coursework would require.
Puentedura thought that the weekly problem assignment would take
" In addition, Chris Lowry, a high school science teacher, served informally as a reader of the
various materials generated by the project and contributed many insightful comments.
about three hours, the reading about one. Katya and Steve, in contrast,
put the problem assignment at six hours (not more because "people give
up after six hours"), and the reading at three to four.'4 Chem-phys class
discussion did not achieve its intended goals, and students very often
came unprepared and did not get much from one another. More serious
was the students' unmet need, as Katya and Steve recall it, or "raw
information" (in contrast, traditional courses are criticized for covering
too much without developing students' capacities to discover, evaluate,
and use the material). Discussion proved, in their view, "a particularly
unhelpful medium for straightforward information gathering." As a
possible solution to this problem Katya suggests, almost reluctantly, that
perhaps what chem-phys needed was "something like a lecture," exactly
what the course designers had wanted most to eliminate.
Returning to chem-phys a year later, however, Katya observed that
students were able to recall formulas without ha ring memorized them
because they wrote and talked so much about their underlying concepts
in class.
The Mathematics Component
Layzer and Herschbach felt very strongly that mathematics should be
employed as a language in chem-phys and not as a mere collection of
formulas and algorithms.'' Daniel Goroff, a member of the Department
of Mathematics and of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning,
joined in the effort to unify physics, chemistry, and mathematics. During
the first year Goroff led special sessions on mathematical topics. Despite
this care, the mathematics embedded in the unit narratives provided the
basis for the rumor that chem-phys required "a mathematical genius."
The level of math was lowered and the amount of work reduced the
second time around. More important, efforts were made in the second
year, both in Goroff's sessions and in the course itself, to help students
learn how to use mathematics. Also by the second year the sequence of
topics was revised so that the mathematical topics came in the "right
order and with the right spacing." For 1992-1993, the mathematics
department, chaired by Wilfried Schmid, has agreed to offer two new
courses in advanced calculus closely coordinated
'h chem-phys.
Taught by Daniel Goroff and using the same reading-writing-discussion
'' Steve comments that these estimates come from the second year. In the first, he found
himself spending fifteen hours per week on chem-phys and often not completing the
assignment even in that amount of time.
'' David Layzer, "Chem H-9: A New Approach," Ng()
format as chem-phys, the new math courses will allow students to
explore the mathematical ideas and techniques of chem-phys in greater
depth and breadth. (See Appendix C, page 179, for the new integrated
course sequence.)
The lessons from the first year produced many improvements in
course materials, but revision continues. As Layzer says, the course is
being composed "with a word processor, not a chisel." And he is grateful
for criticisms and suggestions.
What Chem-Phys Accomplished
I. "Real" Problem Solving
While much remains to be done, chem-phys did achieve some stunning results among students who were ready for it. Katya liked the fact
that science as inquiry was a focus of the course, that she was taught how
to think and how to incorporate new knowledge with old. Best of all she
felt that introduction of new topics by way of a narrative demonstrated
that "going off on a sidetrack is neither wrong nor irreversible;" that
"science isn't just something one knows, it is something one does."
Watching how different people engage the same complex problem in
different ways made science "come alive," a contrast to the stultifying
effect of standard textbooks.
The emphasis on writing out one's ideas in longhand rather than in the
cryptic language of symbolic mathematics revealed students' learning
styles. One L. lassmate, Katya reported, wrote "wonderful essays .
always presenting the larger picture.... She was very good at determining where large, basic flaws in the problems lay, the assumptions behind
other students' presentations, and the logical consequences if these
assumptions happened not to be true." A senior in computer science took
a different approach. He was very quantitative, insightful, "nitpicky,"
and sometimes rigid. "It was. very interesting," Katya writes, "for
everyone, students And instructors alike, to watch the two interact in
What students gained from these discussions, Katya thinks, is that
"problem solving inherently involves a lot of struggling, puzzling, trial
and error, false starts, and dead ends." And this was news, she believes,
to many who had never engaged in extremely difficult problem solving
before. Katya contrasts these efforts with what she calls "rote problem
solving" where "either you get the right answer or ()Wye forgotten the
formula." She thinks students in chem-phys learned that there are times
when science is vei ,' difficult, and the best thing to do is subdivide the
problem until it becomes a series of approachable subproblems. As she
puts it, this turns the impossible into the "excruciatingly difficult," but
also makes it possible to begin to work.
When a scientist sets out to solve a [real problem in science'
he or she doesn't wait for divine inspiration. He writes down
what he knows, tries to manipulate and analyze this, sees
what next step has to be taken, and then works backward
from there.
She also believes that the rough drafts expected of students were a
refreshing change from the idea (conveyed in other science courses) that
"you have just one chance to get the answer right." "Real chemists and
physicists,' she learned in this class, "spend a lot of time working in
circles, trashing what they've done and starting again, and getting wrong
answers." 5he also discovered that scientists do not work in isolation.
"Though it's important to be able to think on your own, it is also
important to work with other people, to assist and to critique their work."
It is easy to see how students might have initially felt uncomfortable with
the open-endedness, uncertainty, and frustrations they encountered in
what Katya calls "real problem solving." But they ultimately came to
appreciate these as part of the very nature of scientific inquiry, even to
recognize that "science is a lot more creative than people give it credit
II. Challenging Authority
Another theme that appears throughout Katya's and Steve's journals
concerns authority. Even in deliberately student-friendly, noncompeti-
tive settings, students tend to defer to the teacher's authority. Katya
herself, a confident and willing learner, never asks a question in her
organic chemistry course. "It's not that I don't have any. I feel that a
question has to be insightful or brilliant, the discovery of something new,
something my professors and section leaders have [never heard] before.
So [instead of asking it] I tend to go home and try to figure it out for
myself." Even in chem-phys, which featured discussion, there were
"long, long silences." Students remained mistrustful and fearful of
authority. The elimination of the grading curve, the small group format,
the patience of the instructorsnone of these succeeded, at least initially,
in making students feel safe enough to participate freely without fear of
evaluation or failure.
But by the end of the course our rapporteurs believed them -phys had
positively affected participants' willingness to challenge authority and to
assess independently their own performance. The fact that Layzer and
Herschbach often joined the class, "dissipating" authority in Katya's
words, made a difference. When Katya, an undergraduate peer of the
students, was engaged the second year as course assistant, authority was
dissipated still more. Students reserved their "dumb questions" for her
and honed their skills disagreeing with her.
Yet another factor in mitigating authority was the course's unwavering
commitment to the idea that knowledge is constructed by human beings
and that scientific "facts" are not written in stone. If scientific models are
fallible, then so might be science texts and even science professors. This
is very different from what Katya and Steve call the "I know all the
answers and you are here to learn them from me" approach, in which
professors position themselves, as Steve expresses it, as the "repositories
of all knowledge." What Steve gained from chem-phys was a certain
irreverence. "The course taught me that professors don't know everything, even about their own subject." Speaking up in class, engaging his
professors, challenging givens, and tackling hard questions are the skills
he feels were nurtured in cl em-phys. When he moved on to organic
chemistry, he found himself
. more aggressive with the material, challenging every
statement, questioning every source; [also] diving deeper
into problems; wanting to know not just empirical facts but
how and why things are the way they are. I also find myself
trying to generalize my knowledge to see what it is that I
really know. I try to form my own conceptual model ... ind
occasionally put it into writing.
Both Katya and Steve again experienced the "academic bends" upon
"surfacing" to return to standard courses. Katya reports feeling gypped
in organic chem;3try, but not really sure why. "Perhaps it's because the
course material is presented in such a way that it seems deceptively
logical: 'here's the rule for this and here's a list of exceptions,'" she
speculates. She and Steve also miss the close relations between students
and instructor in chern-phys. One of Katya's professors in another course
did invite thL class to ask questions immediately after class. But for Katya
this was not much use. "Who really has questions right after class? It
usually takes a couple of days for things to click or not." Besides, she felt
that the professor was expecting questions of clarification, not about
basic concepts.
They miss the collaboration and discussion. The isolation of the
traditional course is harder than before for them to tolerate. Most of all,
they miss the "real problems" that engaged them in chem-phys.
The problems !we work on in organic chemistry! use only a
small set of concepts and don't require any "leaps of faith" or
great insights. If you're smart and knowledgeaole, you can
do them fairly easily. In chem-phys the concepts were less
evident and required [group] brainstorming and trial and
error for the hard points, and the problems were large enough
that they could be broken up to work on the smaller ones.
While my problem sets this year are more accessible, they are
proportionally less rewarding. . . I don't feel I've achieved
anything once I'm done.
By the end of the semester immediately following Steve's graduation
from chem-phys, he was feeling a combination of sadness and nostalgia
for the course. He found himself not "questioning the material in organic
chemistry" and felt that "the material was becoming just a chore, no
longer challenging me." Then, at the end of the semester, he came across
a problem on the final take-home problem set which was "not obvious."
Two different textbooks had different formulas for the same value. Why?
It was not really necessary to answer this question because
from the handout it was clear what [the professor] wanted.
But I wanted to know why this discrepancy existed. I spent an
hour working. Eventually I gave up and called Katya. . I
could not think of anyone else who wouldn't just say "the
answer is so and so" and not care about the discrepancy.
Together, out of their own curiosity and interest, Steve and Katya
figured out the source of the discrepancy. Katya had shared with Steve
the experience of chem-phys where, as Steve remembers, they had often
been given conflicting information and assigned the task of making sense
of it. This gave them, they think, a real understanding of how to approach
Chem-ph 's is designed to be taught in small classes and features
discussion and contact with the instructor. It encourages depth of
understanding rather than breadth of coverage. Students "chunk" newly
acquired knowledge by making connections between and within theories
and bet Neen abstract ideas and the physical world, rather than merely
memorizing facts. Further, chem-phys is graded to make it noncompeti-
tive, and encourages group work and collaboration. It was created
precisely to avoid the pitfall: and solve the problems that plague many
traditional science courses. Beyond this, it was designed to demonstrate
an alternative science pedagogy.
So what went wrong? Where are all the students? Why aren't they
beating down the doors to enroll in chem-phys? In addition to being hard,
the course seems to have run aground on institutional barriers. It is as if,
in Trotsky's fateful words, "You can't have socialism in one country."
Unless more than a single course is changed, real reform of science cannot
take place even in a single institution.
The first problem to surface, as Abigail Lipson underscores from her
perspective as a Harvard adviser,16 was the question of credit: how does
chem-phys count in the Harvard system?'7 As a year of physics? A year
of chemistry? A half-year of each? Is it similar enough to other chemistry
and physics courses that it can meet the requirements of other departments? Or, is it so dissimilar that it should be taken in addition to them?
And how will the course "count," not just at Harvard, but in the larger
academic and professional worldspremed, for example.
Some of these questions have been settled, but not all. Chem-phys does
not fit neatly into the slots of the larger Harvard and other postgraduate
systems. It is not equivalent to any other existing coursea testament to
its truly innovative nature. Almost a year after completing it, both Katya
and Steve were still arguing with their departments about how chem
phys should be counted on their transcripts. Until the problems are
resolved, many students are understandably reluctant to spend a quarter
of a year's schedule (and perhaps half of their yersonal time) on a course
that maw not satisfy their requirements. This is especially true at Harvard
what students are expected to complete undergraduate work at the rate
of four courses per semester for eight semesters. They must specifically
petition to work at a different rate or to take a ninth semester in residence.
Every year the college worries about the departure of a few students and
"lost degrees," those who fail to complete credit requirements in the
allotted time. Students who are balancing course schedules to complete
the core, departmental, freshman year, and perhaps premed requirements, need to know exactly how chem-phys will count. And the course
needs to fit into busy schedules that may contain electives as well as
required courses.
Another issue is marketing, and not just marketing to students. "We
should have enlisted wider support in other departments at the outset,"
Layzer now concedes. Students learn about courses from the faculty and
in other ways, but few faculty weie familiar with chem-phys. The catalog
"' What follows is taken pretty much verbatim from Abigail Lipson's own analysis in her
final paper for this project of what went wrong with them -phys.
A not too dissimilar effort to combine clic-nistry and physics in a single course
established at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in the early 1960s, foundered on just
such a problem. Since students wishing to transfer to the University of Wisconsin at
Madison were unsure how their version of chem-phys would count, the course had to he
abandoned. See C.R. Rhyner, J.C. Norman and F.A. Fischbach, "The Chemistry-Physics
Program at the University of Wisconsin-Creen Bay," American Journal of Physics, 42,
December 1974, pp. 1106-1111.
description didn't explain its nature and said only that "the course meets
entirely in sections." The course designers meant to communicate that
chem-phys is conducted as a seminar, but at Harvard, professors give
lectures, and "sections" are usually led by graduate students. Hence, the
course description may have conveyed wrongly to students that "You'll
never meet a real professor in this course."
A third factor is the course's reputation. Word was out almost
immediately after chem-phys was offered that this course was no
cakewalk. Steve speculates that, faced with choosing between a gut
course with "terrible ratings" and one with rave reviews requiring
twenty hours a week of hard work, most students, even serious students,
will choose the gut.
There are several reasons for this. Students probably recognize that,
with small-group discussion meetings, they won't be able to shirk
homework, not even for one class. Students with multiple long-term
commitments, at Harvard and elsewhere, meet them all only by shortterm juggling. Any course that provides little leeway for work rate
variability is less attractive. The course is also one in which students are
expected to make sense of difficult material on their own. For students
insecure about their intellectual abilities or who fear evaluation (and that
includes most students, even at Harvard, Lipson says), the exposure may
be too threatening. "It was threatening," Steve confirms, "but it was
surviving that let us become more self-reliant."
Student perceptions are something of a catch-22 for a course designed
to foster independent scientific thinking. Students more comfortable
with formulas and problem sets may be unwilling to take it. A result may
be that chem-phys will only teach to the "converted," attracting students
who already value the them -phys approach, but not those who might
benefit from it most. If chem-phys aims at reform rather than simply
providing an alternative for motivated students, then the present "take
it if you can stand it or leave it" policy is very much off the mark.
What's Ahead for Chem-Phys?
Dudley Herschbach was much less involved than David Layzer in
constructing the course and overseeing its day-to-day operation, but he
remains a firm believer in the course's value as an alternate introduction
to chemistry. In answer to my question about the failure of chem-phys to
enroll more students, he replied that the course was severely handicapped by not winning course approval from the physics department.
Without physics' imprimatur, the concerns of Harvard's "future physicians" could not be allayed. The fact that both Ruben Puentedura and
David Layzer were selected by students for the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa
Teaching Award at Harvard the second year that chem-phys was offered
indicates, Herschbach believes, that students appreciated the quality of
the course and its pedagogy. As this is being written, however, the mood
in physics is changing. Howard Georgi, department chairman, is enthusiastic about a chem-phys sequence enlarged to include parallel courses
in mathematics. While his department has (so far) only agreed to list
chem-phys as "related," and will count the course in meeting only certain
requirements, mathematics is now firmly committed to providing a
mathematics complement for each semester of chem-phys. Layzer and
Herschbach intend to market the course more aggressively in 1992-1993.
They will inform all freshman advisers in a more structured way, and will
try to better match student ability with course expectations. The new
catalog descriptions feature the multidisciplinary nature of what is now
a four-semester sequence in mathematics, physics, and chemistry, with
applications to biology. (See Appendix C, page 179, for the new catalog
Looking ahead, Herschbach fears that even if chem-phys survives
(and for a while in 1990-91 this was not certain), finding instructors to
teach the course will not be easy. Puentedura is an advanced student of
chemistry with a strong background in physics and an understanding of
both disciplines that far exceeds the norm. "No one," says Herschbach,
"has ever taken courses like this one. How will they know how to teach
one?" He might have added that since even good students, the kind
Harvard recruits, haven't had courses like chem-phys, they may not
know how to take one.
Meanwhile, chem-phys has begun to demonstrate some of the shortcomings in the way elementary physics, chemistry, and mathematics are
conventionally taught and learned at Harvard. "Some people who were
(and are) skeptical of chem-phys are discovering that their students don't
understand their lectures and demonstrations or the point of their
problem sets, either." The chem-phys group is more convinced than ever
that it is on the right track.
The key, says Layzer, is timetime to get a con: ie into shape, time to
build a supportive consensus among colleagues for the new venture.
Chem-phys' staying power, however fragile, allowed the course to
evolve. It is now very different from what was originally conceived.
Materials have been changed, assignments have been altered, there is
now a mathematics component the course designers had not at first
thought to include. "Curriculum reformers," concludes Layzer, "cannot
sin iply take the position that they have something to sell. We also have
very much to learn."
Reforming College Physics
Attending to Cognitive Issues
More than in other areas of college-level science, reformers in physics
are asking not only what ought to be the content or sequence of physics
courses, but what do we want our students to know? What do we want
our students to be able to do when they complete our courses?'
As a result of this focus, few college-level physics programs have been
overhauled in the manner that Trinity and the University of Michigan
have revamped their chemistry offerings. Instead, a number of researchers, including physicists, cognitive psychologists, specialists in artificial
intelligence, and physics educators have been trying to create a knowledge base on which radical change can be built and justified. For the
physics community, then, the question "what works?" is less a matter of
creating programs to recruit, instruct, and retain students (though some
programs do a fine job) than discovering what works best, first theoretically, then practically, as curricular and instructional strategies.
The advantage of this approach is that it corresponds to the way
science proceeds and scientists work-it is familiar, comfortable, and,
though often dependent on outside funding, not necessarily limited to
local conditions or local support. One disadvantage is that it takes a great
deal of time to see what the bits and pieces of research add up to, and to
guide textbook publishers and instructors in translating new findings
into classroom practice.
It is difficult to predict where physics education is heading; and
whether or not we are on the brink of major, sustainable reform. Textbook
publishers seem to think we are. Nervous that their standard texts will
be left behind, they are signing on as authors or editors critics and
innovators whose ideas would have been considered radical five years
ago. At every meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers
(AAPT) there are twenty or more presentations on cognitive issues in
' See Arnold Arons, A Guide to Introductory Phyqcs Teaching (New York: John Wiley and
Sons, 19901.
( rs
teaching and learning physics. Even the research-oriented American
Physical Society (APS) recently featured major plenary sessions on the
subject, and has just established a new "Forum on Education" boasting
nearly 1,000 members. Heated discussions on pedagogy, content, instructional technologies, and problem solving travel at the speed of light
by E-mail and along Bitnet. But introductory physics courses are still so
standardized that four texts dominate 90 percent of the market. The
physics community is trying to combat this standardization by removing
certain topics as part of the "less is more" strategy; and by adding new
topics so that introductory courses reflect current research in modern
physics.' But if there is to be long-lasting change in undergraduate
physics, there is a long, hard road ahead.
Because such a large fraction of the physics community wants to do
"theory-based curriculum design," an outline of their studies of cognition prefaces a summary of three exemplary programs in undergraduate
Studies of Cognition
Conceptions and Misconceptions
For many years, the physics community has been uncertain about how
college studentseven good studentsreason about the material in
introductory physics. One line of research has pursued alternate conceptions (so-called misconceptions) which, researchers believe, go far to
account for students' inability to qualitatively understand physical pro-
cesses. Lillian McDermott, professor of physics at the University of
Washington, has written widely on student perceptions of kinematics,
dynamics, optics, and electric circuits; she has also conducted experiments and interviews documenting students' misconceptions in mechanics, and has proposed some solutions.' At the University of Massachusetts, Jose Mestre and colleagues are working on computer-based
methods to help students perform qualitative analysis of problems based
Introductory University Physics Project (IUPP), sponsored by the American Physical
Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers, is dealing with just these
questions. See also the proceedings of an NSF-sponsored conference on teaching modern
physics in "Quarks, Quasars, and Quandaries," ed. G. Aubrecht (College Park, Md.:
American Association of Physics Teachers, 1987), and a new text by Jonathan E. Reichert,
A Modern Introduction to Mechanics (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1991) in which
classical mechanics is preceded by substantial phenomenology of particle physics.
'L.C. McDermott, "Research on Conceptual Understanding in Mechanics," Physics Today,
37 (7), (1984), pp. 24-32; "Millikan Lecture 1990: What We Teach and What is Learned
Closing the Gap," American Journal of Physics, 59, (1991) p. 301.
on scientific principles.' Fred Goldberg, head of a new research center
and graduate program in mathematics and science learning at San Diego
State University, is studying student perceptions and misperceptions of
physical optics.' And Richard Hake, at Indiana University, is focusing on
overcoming barriers to understanding Newton's laws of motion!' Where
the misconceptions field was once inhabited by a few widely dispersed
researchers, it is now crowded with projects here and abroad. A glance
at the citation index shows that, as of 1991, there are more than 800 articles
in refereed journals on misconceptions in physics.
Much of the interest in misconceptions derives from instructor experience with the persistence of naive conceptions that students bring with
them to introductory physics. These misconceptions were always present,
but until recently were presumed to be temporary since it was thought
that a brief exposure to dynamics, for example, would suffice to replace
naive notions about motion with the Newtonian view. Long ago Arnold
Arons, now professor emeritus of physics at the University of Washington, commented that many students who complete the first-year program in physics remain "Aristotelian" in their views of motion. But it was
not until 1985 when David Hestenes and Ibrahim Abou Halloun provided a convincing experimental demonstration of the "failure of conventional [college-level] instruction in physics to overcome students'
naive misconceptions about motion"' that the physics community as a
whole took note. Hestenes and Halloun designed a test to measure
students' qualitative understanding of the physical principles underlying Newtonian mechanics and gave it to 1,000 students about to enroll in
introductory physics, then to those who successfully completed the
course. The results showed only a "very small gain in understanding"
' See "Enhancing Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Physics" to be published in Enhancing
Thinking Skills in the Sciences and Mathematics, ed. D. Halpern (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence
Erlbaum, in press).
' F. Goldberg and L.C. McDermott, "An Investigation of Student Understanding of the
Real Image Formed by a Converging Lens or Concave Mirror," American Journal of Physics,
55, (1987), pp. 108-119.
'See Richard R. Hake, "Promoting Student Crossover to the Newtonian World," American
Journal of Physics, 55, (1987) pp. 878-884 and John Clement, "Students' Preconceptions in
Introductory Mechanics," American Journal of Physics, 50, (1982) pp. 66-71.
' See I. Halloun and D. Hestenes, "The Initial Knowledge State of College Physics
Students," and "Common Sense Concepts About Motion," both published in American
Journal of Physics, 53, (1985), pp. 1043-1055 and 1056-1065. See also D. Hestenes, M. Wells,
and G. Swackhamer, "Force Concept Inventory," and D. Hestenes and M. Wells, "A
Mechanic. Baseline Test," published together in The Physics Teacher, 30, March 1992, pp.
141-158 and 159-166. These new papers contain updated findings and measures for
evaluating and categorizing students' misconceptions in mechanics.
and, even more significant, that this "small gain" was independent of the
Much of the research into misconceptions and many of the alternate
pedagogies being developed are intended to address such results.
Instead of presenting the "scientific view" and expecting students automatically to substitute it for their misconceptions, these pedagogies are
designed to activate specific misconceptions, cause students to feel
uncomfortable with their previous ideas, and from this discomfort
(sometimes called disequilibration) to have them deliberately construct
new knowledge. This means that the physics instructor is to respect
students' deeply ingrained ideas, develop teaching strategies that call
forth less memory and more thinking about real-world problems and,
most radical of all, seek to be not so much a repository of knowledge as,
rather, "present at the birth of new ideas."
Novice to Expert Problem-Solving Strategies
Another problem in cognition is that most introductory physics
students, even the better ones, do not progress from novice to expert in
problem-solving techniques, regardless of teachers or textbooks. The
first task of research on the problem has been to analyze and demonstrate
the differences between novice and expert.' The second has been to see if
the experts' problem-solving method is transferable to novice studer
Fred Reif, Jill Larkin, and others have shown that experts appro,
physics problems in the context of their physical environments, and
depend very much on qualitative representations. Novices begin at what
is for experts the last stepidentifying the equation for a particular
problem. They rarely think about the problems either physically or in
terms of type. Mestre and others at the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst are exploring how computers might be used to teach students
this sort of expert problem-solving behavior.'"
While instructors are quick to recognize these failings, they are not
nearly as sure as researcher-innovators how to test and teach more
appropriate problem-solving strategies. So long as physics students can
pass examinations by means of "plug-and-chug," there is little incentive
" Jill H. Larkin, John McDermott, Dorothea Simon, and Herbert A. Simon, "Expert and
Novice Performance in Solving Physics Problems," Science, 208, (1980), pp. 1135-1342. See
also F. Reif and J.I. Heller, "Knowledge Structure and Problem Solving in Physics,"
Educational Psychology, 17, (1982), pp. 102-127.
" F. Reif, "Teaching Problem SolvingA Scientific Approach," Physics Teacher, 19, (1981),
pp. 310-316.
"' See "Enhancing Higher-Order Thinking Skills in Physics," Enhancing Thinking Skills.. .
except among the dedicatedto master harder, more time-cone uming
methods. It is possible to render examinations more open-ended to test
for deeper comprehension, but few large departments believe they can
afford the necessary staff time to grade short explanations and written
Ordering New Knowledge
The third issue for physics educators is how courses (and, as a result,
students) organize physical knowledge. Conventional instruction appears to students like building different rooms of a house, one room at
a time. First the foundation, walls, roof, plumbing, and wiring are
completed for one room; then everything is repeated for the next. But
while physicists understand that the principles used to build the "mechanics room" apply to all others (up to relativity), conventionally taught
students rarely grasp this. This was demonstrated by researchers who
took forty problems from a standard textbook, put them on cards,
shuffled them, and asked students to group the problems by type."
Experts worked from fundamental principles, sorting problems by
"dynamics," "work-energy," and "momentum conservation." Students,
however, unable to see fundamental similarities, grouped by surface
features: inclined planes problems, spring problems, rope problems. One
professor employing this test at a community college (David Wright)
reported that he even got a pile of "hinge problems."
How this research contributes to reform in college physics is the
question that brought me to examine reforms in the making at New
Mexico State University, Dickinson College, and Case Western Reserve.
Overview Case Study MethodNew Mexico State
While David Hestenes and Ibrahim Halloun were ,-1-towing that
students who pass introductory physics do not have a qualitative
understanding of the subject matter (in Hake's terms, "do not cross over
into the Newtonian world"), New Mexico State's Alan Van Heuvelen
was attempting to correct this same deficiency in a large lecture course.
Professor of physics Van Heuvelen had been following research
reported in the literature and at AN and AAPT meetings, and was
familiar with the cognitive problems reported in physics. In 1985, Arthur
M.T.H. Chi, P. J. Feltovich, and R. Glaser, "Categorization and Representation of Physics
Problems by Experts and Novices," Cognitive Science, 5, (1981), pp. 121-152. See also
Arnold B. Arons, "Student Patterns of Thinking and Reasoning," Parts 1-3, Physics Teacher,
21, (1983), pp. 5766-581; 22 (1984), pp. 21-26; 22 (1984), pp. 88-93.
Farmer, a physics teacher at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California,
wrote about an "overview case study" (OCS) approach to teaching in The
Physics Teacher. The three-part system attracted Van Heuvelen because
it meshed with what the physics community was learning about cognition. The "overview" portion of the lesson let the instructor focus on
conceptual issues. During a middle "exposition" part, students learned
to represent concepts mathematically, thereby modeling expert problem-solving strategies. Finally the "case study" gave students an opportunity to apply what they had learned to an advanced problem involving
more than one physical principle.
Adapting and enlarging on Farmer's material, Van Heuvelen first
taught a college version of overview case studies in 1987. "I had been
teaching for more than twenty years, giving 'great lectures,' but had
never before really known what the students were thinking," he remem-
bers. Instead of lecturing on Newton's three laws of motion he had
students observe a number of experiments on an air track and come up
with their own principles. "It didn't take long for them to suggest
experiments or to challenge my statements and interpretations of events."
Students and teacher were hooked.
Sig Ice 1987 Van Heuvelen has been writing materials for the OCS
approach, using them, testing students on the qualitative and quantitative aspects of introductory physics, and comparing their scores on the
Hestenes-Halloun test to those of conventionally taught students. He has
also been giving workshops around the country, and collaborating with
others on projects of mutual interest. Along the way he has spent two fall
semesters with David Hestenes at Arizona State University on an NSF-
funded project, and has won a grant to author materials for wider
distribution.12 Van Heuvelen claims that the more OCS resources he has
at his disposal the less he lectures, and the less he lectures the more his
students learn.
OCS in Action
When I visit his campus I find Van Heuvelen teaching a typical
calculus-based physics course. His 140 undergraduates, most of them
engineering majors, are still using the standard text. But he has also given
them an "active learning" study guide which explains that the course is
organized around "conceptual chunks," each with the same sets of
activities. The overview part of OCS in Van Heuvelen's version includes
the representation of physical quantities in terms of diagrams and
12 Called ALPSActive Learning Physics Sheetsand available from their author, c/o
Department of Physics, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N. Mex. 88003.
graphs; small-group d scussion of basic principles; and the analysis of
physical processes without computation." Following the overview comes
the exposition. Here the fundamental mathematical equations are introduced for the first time, and students are taught to solve problems using
pictorial representations as well as formulas. But the overview sequence
remains in force: students are first to go after qualitative understanding,
then a mathematical treatn.ent of the model, and finally to apply the
model to the solution of problems.
The case study is a problem which requires students to draw knowledge from everything that has come before. A typical case study might
employ kinematics, work-energy, projectile motion, and circular dynamics, all in one. What Van Heuvelen is trying to prevent is the "spring
error" -the temptation to assume the relevant formula is the one last
associated with a familiar object. Instead, his students are learning to
identify not the familiar, but the essential in a problem. Throughout the
course, handouts are available that remind the students where they've
been and where they're going, how far the house they're building is from
completion and, above all, how several fundamental principles are
shared by different rooms.
What is unusual in this approach is: first, the focus on conceptual
reasoning; second, that students are figuring out principles for themselves; and third, that pictorial representation is presented as a key step,
whether in the free-body diagram in dynamics, or in the work-energy bar
graph Van Heuvelen has invented to help analyze energy conservation.
The point is to overcome students' previously learned habits of treating
every physics problem like an applied mathematics problem.
Examinations have to be constructed and graded differently. In
addition to standard problems, Van Heuvelen includes qualitative ques-
tions-sometimes in clusters-that test understanding of physical principles. He very often reverses problems, going from their mathematical
representation to the physical situation from which they derive. He gives
his students case studies to describe and certain carefully phrased
multiple choice questions. The work of preparing and grading exams like
these following through a student's reasoning in solving complex
nonstandard problems-requires time, time that a grant from the Fund
for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE) from 1988
through 1991 has provided." How such activity can be mainstreamed,
"A description of his course and its outcomes can be found in his articles, "Learning to
Think Like a Physicist: A Review of Research-Based Instructional Strategics," and "Overview Case Study Physics," both American Journal of Physics, 59,
October 1991, pp. 891-907.
" The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education is a division of the
Department of Education.
without department-wide commitment to this new approach, is yet to be
determined. Nonstandard examination types and questions can be
circulated among physics faculty, but who will do careful, line-by-line
Alan Van Heuvelen sees himself preparing students to do well on the
type of qualitative posttest that conventionally taught students fail, and
to do better on quantitative problem solving as well. "What makes this
possible," he believes, "is having students construct conceptsrather
than simply handing them predigested materialand an approach to
problem solving that emphasizes qualitative thinking and pictorial representation." His course is now getting attention both inside and outside
New Mexico State University. There are 100 copies of his carefully crafted
materials in circulation and, perhaps even more significant, some of his
colleagues at NMSU are using them.
Workshop PhysicsDickinson College
The private liberal arts colleges educate only a fraction of the nation's
undergraduates, but together produce a disproportionate number of
professional scientists (and mathematicians).'' Recently the results of a
two-year study of the science and mathematics programs of 200 liberal
arts colleges and universities was published. Called "Project Kaleidoscope," it describes a number of successful programs at these institutions
and includes recommendations for improvement elsewhere.'' Our focus
is on more typical, mainstream institutions, but there is one program in
the Kaleidoscope survey that should be included in any discussion of
what works in college level physics. Because of its radical departure from
most approaches and its commitment to adapting to learning environ-
ments typically found at large universities,'' workshop physics at
Dickinson College deserves attention.
Workshop physics was begun in 1986 at Dickinson, a small liberal arts
institution in central Pennsylvania, when it was found that physics
students, despite small classes, individualized instruction, and an unusual computer-based laboratory program, were doing no Bette' (actu11.P.Gol lub and N.B. Abraham, "Physics in the Colleges," PhysicsToday,June 1986, pp. 28-34.
"What Works: Building Natural Science Communities," Project Kaleidoscope, 1991.
Available from Project Kaleidoscope, 1730 Rhode Island Ave., N.W., Suite 1205-ICO,
Washington, D.C. 20036.
I" Taken from "Interactive Physics," proposal to the Fund for the Improvement of
Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), 1989. A packet of materials, entitled "Workshop
Physics," is available at no cost from Priscilla Laws, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Penn. 17013.
ally a little worse) on the Hestenes-Halloun mechanics concept test than
students elsewhere." Despite high teacher ratings by students, a group
of faculty concluded that this was a problem they couldn't ignore, and
decided to make at least one radical change: abandon lectures in favor of
a computer-enhanced workshop in introductory physics. In the words of
proponent Priscilla Laws, professor of physics and astronomy, workshop physics is designed to teach by means of "guided inquiry rooted in
real, concrete experiences . . . from which students are to construct their
own knowledge of abstract principles."'9
Taking [conventional] introductory physics . is like trying
to take a drink from a fire hose. There are far too many topics
presented . . too many abstract theories about things that
don't constitute part of everyday reality.... The majority of
students . . do not have sufficient concrete experience with
everyday phenomena to comprehend the mathematical representations of them.
Beginning in 1986, FIPSE awarded Laws and her team.'" grants now
totaling $600,000 to develop workshop physics. FIPSE suggested that the
Dickinson group collaborate with Ronald Thornton and colleagues at
Tufts University Center for the Teaching of Science and Mathematics on
the use of microcomputers as laboratory instruments. During the first
year of the grant, the Dickinson group continued to use the lecture
method while they tested, polled, and interviewed students in introductory physics. Their students were not unhappy with the way physics was
taught, Laws reports, but they had two complaints about the introductory courses:2'
that attending lecture and lab sessions did not leave
enough time [for their instructors] to teach them problem
solving, and [that there was] a lack of connection between lab
activities and lectures. Laboratories seemed superfluous be-
cause they did not help students master the textbook problem-solving skills needed to get good grades. The narrow
understanding of what it means to know physics, which we
had communicated to students via our traditional teaching
methods, was at odds with the new goals we had developed.
" "Workshop Physics: Learning Introductory Physics by Doing I t," Change July/ August 1991,
20-27; "Calculus-Based Physics Without Lectures," Physics Today, 24, (12), 1991, pp. 24-31.
Taken from an invited talk by Priscilla La' vs at The Conference on Computers in Physics
Instruction, North Carolina State University, August 1, 1988.
7" The team includes John Leutzelschwa b, Robert Boyle, and Neil Wolf from Dickinson.
21 Laws, "Workshop Physics . . .," p. 22.
After findir Y, funds to remodel laboratory facilities and outfit them
with Macintosh computers, the team spent the summer of 1987 developing student activity guides for both algebra- and calculus-based courses.
These guides are workbooks for students to enter predictions, observations, develop theories, and apply them to quantitative experiments. By
fall of 1987 all was ready to offer workshop physics for the first time.
A preliminary step was to reduce course content by 30 percent. Then
the team removed all formal lectures, replacing them with sections of
twenty-four students meeting for three two-hour workshops a week.
Each section had one instructor and two undergraduate teaching assistants, who staffed labs during evening and weekend hours." Pairs of
students shared a computer, an extensive collection of scientific apparatus and other gadgets. Among other things students pitched baseballs,
whacked bowling balls with rubber hammers, pulled objects up inclined
planes, attempted pirouettes, built electronic circuits, ignited paper with
compressed gas, and devised engine cycles using rubber bands.
What remains of the standard two-semester introductory course is
included in the student activity guide in twenty-eight units on selected
topics. 1 he guide, which is keyed to the textbooks, provides exposition,
questions, and instructions, as well as blank spaces for student data,
calculations, and reflections. The unit-week begins with a pretest of
students' preconceptions and invites them to make observations. After
discussion the instructor helps them develop definitions and mathematical theories. The week usually ends with quantitative experimentation
designed to verify mathematical theory. 24
The computer is used extensively, but not in the usual computerassisted instruction. Programming is de-emphasized because, as Laws
writes, "previous attempts to include it in ',.he introductory lab left us
using physics to teach computing rather than the other way around."
Instead, the decision was made to employ the spreadsheet as the major
tool for calculation.25
72 With a total enrollment of seventy-five students, the allocation of faculty contact ho .. a
is essentially the same as it had been under the lecture system at Dickinson. But at other
universities, with much larger lecture courses, this would not be the case. Additional
students were hired to help with classroom discussion and equipment management.
" D. Halliday and R. Resnick, Fundamentals of Physics, 3rd ed. (New York: Wiley, 1988); R.
Serway, Physics pr Scientists and Engineers, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Saunders, 1986); J.
Faughn and R. Serway, College Physics (Philadelphia: Saunders, 1986).
" The above description is taken from Priscilla Laws' invited talk at the Conference on
Computers in Physics Instruction, cited above.
2' See R. Thornton, "Tools for Scientific Thinking-Microcomputer-Based Laboratories for
Physics Teaching," Physics Education(22), 1978. See also Charles Misner and Patrick
Cooney, Spreadsheet Physics (Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley, 1991).
Dickinson's computer-based laboratory has three purposes.'" First,
computers display a real-time graph of changes in physical variables
such as position or temperature. This helps students develop an intuitive
feeling for graphs and for the phenomena they are observing. Second,
students enter data directly into a spreadsheet for analysis and eventual
graphing. Spreadsheet calculations become a tool for numerical problem
solving and mathematical modeling. Finally, the use of a real-time raw
plot helps students discover for themselves how to use physical defini-
tions in the measurement of, for example, velocity and acceleration.
Where acquiring real data is not feasible or is too time-consuming,
students can use simulations for a ball rolling down a set of inclined
planes, for wave interference, or for the display of electric field lines from
a collection of charges.27
Although computers play a large role in workshop physics at Dickinson,
Laws insists that the focus is still on direct experience and that the
program could survive without them. Still, much of what is tested relies
on the kind of data generation and data analysis that is greatly facilitated
by computers. Indeed, the two-hour exams students take every few
weeks are not only twice as long as exams in more traditional courses, but
feature sections on concepts, data analysis, and experimental design in
addition to standard problem solving.
Since the fall of 1987 over 250 students have completed workshop
physics courses under six different instructors. Although assessment is
ongoing, Laws and her team identify gains in several areas:28 (1) student
attitudes toward the study of physics; (2) a 30 percent increase in
enrollments in upper level physics courses at Dickinson (and a proportionate increase in majors); (3) better mastery of concepts difficult to teach
because they involve classic misconceptions; (4) improved student per-
formance in upper level physics courses and in solving textbook problems (as well or better than students in traditional courses); (5) greater
experience working in laboratories and with computers; and (6) im-
proved understanding of the observational basis of physics and the
26 This section is taken from Priscilla Laws' "Workshop Physics" article as it appeared in
Change, July/August 1991, p. 25.
These software simulations have been developed, respectively, by David Trowbridge
of Carnegie Mellon University, Eric Lane from the University of Iowa, and B. Cabrera,
from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
" Priscilla Laws, "The Role of Science Education Research and Computers in Learning
Without Formal Lectures," Pew Trust Symposium on Teaching Strategies in the Sciences,
Cornell University, June 19, 1990, pp.15-18. See also P.W. Laws, "Workshop l'hysics:
Replacing Lectures with Real Experience," Conference on Computers in Physics Instruction,
E.F. Redish and J.S. Risley, eds., (Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley, 1990).
connections between concepts. As part of an effort to test the transferability of workshop physics to other, larger universities, David Sokoloff of
the University of Oregon has adapted Priscilla Laws' materials for 200
students in an algebra-based physics course which normally features a
fairly traditional formatlectures and weekly laboratory sessions. The
course lends itself to evaluation, since half of Sokoloff's students are only
enrolled in the lecture portion of the course, while the other half attends
lectures and laboratory sessions. Based on a force and motion diagnostic
test developed by himself and Ron Thornton of Tufts, Sokoloff finds that
the combination of interactive lecture demonstrations and laboratory
"substantially increases conceptual learning and retention."
The Revitalization of Physics 125: Case Western Reserve
Five weeks into his honors introductory physics course at Case
Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Robert Brown, institute professor of physics, distributes an anonymous questionnaire in order to
find out from his class of 120 freshmen whether they have had enough
access to him so far. One hundred percent of his class regularly answers
"yes" to this particular item. "How is this possible?" Brown asks his
interviewer impishly as if he were telling a riddle. His answer: "E-mail!"
For the past three years at Case Western, thanks to the university's
installation of a fiber optics computer network in all undergraduate
dormitories, Brown has been able to hold office hours, display homework
hints, correct any mistakes or omissions in his thrice weekly lectures, and
answer all students' questions almost immediately by means of a coursespecific bulletin board system (BBS) to which his students have access on
their home computers. Not only does he get instant feedback from one
and all ("when a homework problem is confusing, I get a barrage of
mail"), but students can confer with one another simply by logging into
physics 125 from their dorm rooms.
Within five weeks they not only feel they know their instructor and one
another better, but Brown has a feedback loop with which to fine-tune his
lectures .; assignments. By the time the questionnaire was distributed
this last toil there were more than 100 entries on the bulletin board, all of
which could be retrieved any time. Half of the entries were from the
professor, the rest from students having to do with aspects of homework
"I think problem eleven violates the principle of energy conservation,"
says oneor with aspects of physics not covered in their introductory
course which have come up in conversation or are in the news. For those
who want to reach their professor in person, there are plenty of oldfashioned office hours.
"Imagine this," begins Brown, warming up to the tale he is about to tell
of the revitalization of physics 125. "One hundred students sign up for
the course at preregistration. Two weeks later after the drop and add
period there are twenty more in class," Students interested in physics as
a possible major are particularly welcomed, but so are premeds, engi-
neers and, since Brown has taken over the course, "anyone with an
earnest desire to get in." Females constitute about 20 percent of the
enrollment, performing as well as males. With Brown's abolition of
grading on a curve, over 50 percent of the students finish the twosemester course with an "A," and no one drops out.
What the addition of E-mail has done for physics 125, says Brown, is
phenomenal. He can now cover the basic material in the standard physics
text at twice the normal pace, allowing him to allocate one-third of class
time to cutting-edge physics. For the past two years students have read
Gleick's book, Chaos,'" heard about Brown's own research in particle
physics, and studied the greenhouse effect In the spring semester, the
students read Richard Feynman's QED.'
The reason Brown can cover so much is the interaction he maintains
via the bulletin board. His three weekly homework assignments employ
the material covered in class. Since students have access to him and to
each other they waste little time spinning their wheels. Still, to allow time
for new subject matter to be absorbed, he schedules one week of review
before each of the three monthly exams and the one final that all students
must take to pass the course.
the speed at which I can
Instead of limiting coverage of physics to "
write on the blackboard," Brown passes out skeletal notes for each class,
skeletal because there are blanks for attentive students to fill in. This saves
time and precludes unintelligibility, since the key equations and diagrams are preprinted for reference and review.
Case Western makes long-term, interest-free loans to help undergraduates purchase the required computers (Mac or IBM-compatible 386
machines). Brown has purchased a Mac in addition to his PC so that he
is compatible with all of his students. The 120 enrollees in physics 125 are
listed in one file with their E-mail addresses. Brown has only to type in
a message, call up the file, and send it to individual students or all at once.
Students, in turn, are alerted that they have E-mail as soon as they turn
on their machines.
"It's nice for students, embarking on homework, to find out how
others are attacking a particular set of problems," says Brown. The fact
" James Gleick, Chao; (New York: Viking, 1987).
"' Richard P. Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Ligct and Matter (Princeton, N.J.:
Princeton University Press, 1985).
that grading is absolute and not on a curve contributes to the cooperative
spirit of the class. Brown also thinks that not being forced to face him frees
students to ask questions that would tax their ability to "speak physics"
during direct contacts. For Brown, access to his students' problems and
misconceptions has greatly improved his teaching. He now includes
optional problems, "the hardest I can find, which I would not have been
able to do as a freshman." Brown also asks short-essay exam questions
that stretch student skills and comprehension.
Not surprisingly, most of the E-mail queries concern conceptual issues
that surface when the student sits down to solve a particular problem set.
Students may start out saying they know how to solve a problem using
the equations they've been taught, but don't really know what "tension"
(for example) is. E-mail not only encourages digging, but risk-taking.
"Students can speculate wildly about a problem, knowing they will get
feedback from the professor before the assignment is due," says Brown.
He also benefits. "When a problem is poorly stated, I hear about it right
away," he laughs.
The revitalization of introductory physics at Case Western began
inauspiciously when the department chair asked Brown to consider
taking over physics 125 in the fall of 1988. Brown had been doing frontier
physics in his upper division courses and was considered a good teacher.
Physics 125 wasn't in troublethe previous teacher was excellent at what
he was doingbut course content and enrollment were stagnant. The first
year, Brown admits, was only ordinary. He offered the frontier physics
segments, but found himself unable to give all the homework assign-
ments he thought the students needed, and was unhappy with the
average class performance. When the fiber optics network was added in
late 1989, students started E-mailing him questions. He quickly got up to
speed on the network and discovered its possibilities. It was an unstructured innovation as far as Brown was concerned: neither Case Western
president Agnar Pytte nor Ray Neff, vice president for information
systems, were definite about how the system would be used when they
initiated it. But they were confident that faculty and students would find
ways to use it, and they were right. Today Brown believes that networking with students will turn out to be a far more useful application of the
computer to teaching than instructional software.. He now gets more
questions from more students in class than he ever did before.
Concepts and Conversation on E-Mail
To give me a sense of what student-professor and student-student
interaction is like via E-mail, Brown gave me the unedited network
correspondence for a single week during fall semester, 1991. I found
myself sorting it into three categories: (1) questions related to problem
sets that Brown may or may not have covered in class, but for which
students needed further clarification and elaboration; (2) common conceptual confusions, including "wild" speculations that Brown now has
a chance to deal with; and (3) feedback to (and from) the instructor about
specific problems, about exams, about the course, and about physics
generally. The batch of E-mail also included a couple of tales of woe,
unrelated to physics, but very much to the late adolescent lives of physics
"I have a question about the problem with the plane traveling in a
vertical circle and releasing a coin at the top of the circle," begins one
missive. Trying to figure out the direction the coin will travel (perpendicular or tangential), the student is confused. This, a physicist tells me,
is a very common confusion, having to do with reference frames. Brown
might well have dealt with it in class, but it helps this particular student
and the rest of the class reading the correspondence that Brown has a
chance to clarify it by E-mail.
Sometimes student questions are specific, sometimes remote and
speculative, the kinds of questions not likely to be asked in class, not even
in the privacy of the office: "I was wondering, if time is just a fourth
dimension, why is it not measured in meters, like the other three?" (The
student was confusing physical coordinates with mathematical coordinates.) Often Brown will get a number of questions on a single topic (like
tension or Newton's third law). When this occurs, he may direct a
response to everyone in the class. Still, he makes it a rule to answer each
student individually, sometimes quite personally"Well, you are much
further along than I was at your age," he writes to a student anxious about
his abilities.
The style is informal. Students write the way they talk with "sort ofs"
and "you knows" dotting their prose. Brown is more articulate but not
fy. When asked specifically to go over something in an upcoming
review session, he writes back, "okeydokey. Just raise your hand if I
forget." Because they get to know their instructor better as a result of Email, some students feel comfortable asking personal questions. ". I am
double majoring in physics and astronomy so I find that stuff Especial
lectures on cosmology] fun. How did you decide to teach physics? I
would like to teach also . . " What's missing from the E-mail (owing no
doubt to the limitations of a particular word processing system) are
graphics (no free-body diagrams show up on the screen) and complex
mathematical equations (integrals, for example). On the other hand, this
forces students to express in spoken language the physical ideas they are
trying to grasp.
Even the best students enrolled in physics 125 cannot always get what
they need to know out of lecture or their text. One writes: "I have already
heard your explanation of [nonconstant forces], but I'm still not comfortable with it. The explanation in the book is [also] not enough. If you would
please reply to this message and explain it one last time. .. " Nor are they
able to sort out what is relevant and what is not in a particular physical
situation. Responding to their questions by E-mail gives Brown the
opportunity to repeat certain points and to draw students' attention to
Laws and Van Heuvelen have obviously been influenced by physics
education research. Both are at pains to have students observe and
speculate prior to being given the "scientific view" of physical phenomena. Instead of denying student misconceptions as if these play no role
in the process of learning physics, they seek to activate these so that
students can consciously replace old meanings with new ones. Their
employment of enhanced (more difficult) problems is intended to have
students link concepts instead of mastering them in isolationall of which
contributes to students' ordering of new knowledge. Brown appears to
be attempting the same, but in a less organized fashion, simply by
exponentially increasing the frequency and depth of his two-way com-
munication with the students in his class. E-mail allows Brown to
examine what his students are thinking before, during, and after the
presentation of new knowledge.
How are students responding to these improvements, and what is the
chance that any can be exported? Laws and her colleagues have done the
most extensive querying of students. While there are complaints that
workshop physics is too complex and time consuming (six class hours per
week plus six to eight hours outside class to complete activities and
assignments), the new approach earns high ratings from nearly all of
them by the end of the second se-9ster. They enjoy being active and
acquiring computer skills. Most important, when tested on mechanics
concepts, workshop physics students show statistically significant gains
over students in the standard course, having developed more than
procedural knowledge.
Not all students are happy with the perceived increased work load.
Even though the number of topics has been reduced, more different types
of learning are required: textbook, problems, observations, experiments,
discussions with peers, essays, mathematical derivations, data analysis,
and the writing and revising of formal laboratory experiments. One
subset of students (about 10 percent) state emphatically that they would
prefer a return to the lecture format. These students resent having to
"teach themselves everything"a comment that Steve made in reflecting
on why chem-phys at Harvard might not be popular (see chapter 6). Laws
and her team take these criticisms seriously; they continue to try to
simplify demands made on students and on themselves. They insist,
however, that more physics students were unhappy with the traditional
course than are frustrated with workshop physics.
But the question of exportability cannot be ansv.ered with surveys of
student satisfaction at Dickinson. Can an inquiry-based approach to
introductory physics as labor- and laboratory-intensive as this one be
adapted to larger settings? A second grant from FIPSE is making it
possible to test the workshop model not only at the University of Oregon,
but at Boise State, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Rutgers. To extend the
concept to other disciplines, mathematicians at Dickinson and elsewhere
are working on a "workshop mathematics," and biologists at Dickinson
have designed computer-interfaced experiments in physiology for their
introductory course.
Priscilla Laws is an indefatigable disseminator. She appears at many
science education conferences with a video of her students' responses to
workshop physics and examples of the microcomputer-based laboratory
tools her group is using. She is publishing widely, not just in physics
education journals, but for a more general readership, as in Change:"
Outside funding is making it possible for the project to offer information,
sample materials, microcomputer-based laboratory software, and traveling workshops to all who are interested. The project has "propagation"
written all over it. Still, workshop physics is expensive, both in terms of
capital purchases and faculty time, and even Laws admits that "our
enterprise is both exhilarating and exhausting."" Whether faculty elsewhere will be willing to give up lecturing, and whether graduate TAs will
be willing to take on the tasks that undergraduate assistants are doing at
a liberal arts college, remain to be seen.
Students are not complaining about work load at Case Western
Reserve. But Brown might well. "The best thing about E-mail is that
everyone is working more productively than ever, including me," says
Brown. "As we speak [we are meeting at a conference in Racine,
Wisconsin] my students are talking to each other about homework
assignments ten and eleven which I typed in just before leaving Cleveland. When I get back, there will be questions and comments . . . I look
forward to that."
" Priscilla Laws, "Workshop Physics...," Change, July/August 1991, p. 27.
" Ibid.
He doesn't look forward quite as much to grading the first exam,
which is one week away. Because of the short essay questions and
problems that invite speculation, Brown reads all 120 examinations and
grades them himself. It takes an entire weekend, from 5 P.M. Friday to
10 P.M. Sunday, but it's worth it, he thinks. It's the best way he knows,
together with E-mail, to diminish the impersonal effects of the large class.
In addition to an ever-improving grade point average, Brown thinks that
the fact that twenty students stuck with physics until graduation this past
year (compared to ten to fifteen in previous years) reflects the networking
which began four years ago.
Propagation at Case Western is less intensive and extensive than at
Dickinson. There are twenty-two faculty in the Department of Physics,
over half involved in teaching introductory physics. Brown has not made
any formal presentations to the department or to his colleagues in other
science fields at Case. Nor has he written about or traveled to many
meetings to tout his course improvement strategy. But there has been
good local publicity about the homework networking. The physics
faculty who teach core courses have become increasingly interested in Email, and are now beginning to put "homework hints" on the network for
their own students.
Alan Van Heuvelen believes that the overview-case study method has
wide applicability and that, in time, his active learning materials will be
included with auxiliary items that accompany standard texts. He has
been giving workshops around the country to physics instructors ranging from community college teachers to research university faculty. His
publications generate so much mail that he has had to set up a post office
box to keep it separate. So long as outside funding provides copying and
postage, he is willing to mail out his materials to all who ask. But Brown
and Van Heuvelen are still loners in their respective departments. And,
while the times seem ripe for change, without additional injections of
support -from funders or from the physics community more generallyeven these successful programs may wither. Reform has not yet, except
perhaps at Dickinson, involved structural change.
Students Teaching Students
Harvard Revisited
For physics instructors a first encounter with unexamined assumptions
about teaching and learning a subject they know well can be just as
"disequilibrating" as students' experiences trying to cross over from the
Aristotelian into the Newtonian world. Eric Mazur, Gordon McKay
Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard, knows this because in less than
two years he has transformed himself from a successful lecturer to a
determined reformer of introductory physics. It was a painful, sometimes depressing, but ultimately exhilarating task to rethink the standard
approach, he says. Today he is both creator and publicist of an improved
method of teaching large lecture courses.
Mazur had been teaching physics 11 for eight years-successfully, he
thought, judging by student ratings and their performance on his standard exams until, in 1990, he came across Hestenes and Halloun's Force
Concept Inventory.' Like many, Mazur's first response was "not my
students." Still, he was challenged to see if the paper was right, and
decided to present Hestenes and Halloun's test to 200 introductory
physics students in his calculus-based course for premeds, engineers,
and honors biology majors, and to 100 students from another physics
course. While Harvard undergraduates did a little better than Hestenes
and Halloun's average, fully 40 percent failed to extend quantitative
problem-solving skills in mechanics to a qualitative understanding of
Newton's three laws. Mazur writes:
After a few months of physics instruction all students are able
to recite Newton's third law"action is reaction"and most of
them can apply this law to problems. . . . [But] when asked,
for instance, to compare the forces in a collision between a
heavy truck and a light car La typical Hestenes-Halloun
' The Force Concept Inventory is a newer version of the Hestenes-Hallouit test of
qualitative understanding of mechanics. See earlier discussion, chap. 7, p. 98.
example], a large fraction . . firmly believe that the heavy
truck exerts a larger force on the light car than the reverse.'
The first warning came when he gave the test to his own class and a
student asked, "Professor Mazur, how should I answer these questions?
According to what you taught us, or by the way I think about these
things?" Mazur was baffled but, as he recalls, ".. . didn't get the message-
quite yet." On subsequent examinations he paired simple qualitative
questions with more difficult quantitative problems on the same physical
concepts. While about half of his students did equally well (or poorly) on
both quantitative and qualitative questions, 40 percent did better calculating answers to formulas than resolving the conceptual issues on which
the problems were based. Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
Students concentrate on learning "recipes," or "problemsolving strategies"... without bothering to be attentive to the
underlying concepts. This explained the blunders I had seen
from apparently bright students. Problem-solving strategies
worts on some but not all problems. No wonder students
were frustrated with physics. How boring physics must be
when it is reduced to a set of mechanical recipes without any
apparent logic. Newton's third law is obviously right, but how
do I convince my students? Certainly not by just reciting the
law and then blindly using it in problems.'
Converted to a new cause, Mazur embarked on what he now calls his
"little crusade." Hestenes' paper had alerted him to what was wrong, but
there was no clear prescription as to what to do about it. How do you deal
with persistent misconceptions, particularly in the large lecture class
which is so typical of introductory physics?' Aware that at most large
universities any useful innovation would have to be compatible with
large classes and not demand additional time from an instructor or TA
(that is, additional funds), Mazur realized he would have to make small
changes that would, in total, have a large and lasting impact. Teaching
physics to small groups of students-Mazur's first idea-would simply not
be possible at most places.'
2 Eric Mazur, "Qualitative vs. Quantitative Thinking: Are We Teaching the Right Thing?"
Optics & Photonics News, February 1.992, p. 38.
' Ibid.
While Hestenes is reluctant to tell instructors specifically what to do, his group is now
offering summer institutes in "modeling instruction in mechanics" for high school
teachers. See David Hestenes, Malcolm Wells, and Greg Swackhamer, "Force Concept
Inventory," The Physics Teacher, 30, March 1992, pp. 141-151, and the announcement of a
summer program, p. 151.
At Rutgers, where Mazur has recently given a talk about peer instruction in the large
He began by interviewing half of the 200 students he was then
teaching. In twenty minutes with each lie confirmed the truth of research
on misconceptions in introductory physics. They were rife among students. Meanwhile, he made an interesting observation: when he started
a discussion in lab with one student, other students would take the
dialogue further. Students have many advantages over their instructor
in explaining difficult ideas to one another, Mazur noticed. Things that
are obvious to a trained physicist are not yet obvious to them. Ignorant
of the subject's jargon, they find other ways to convey what they are
trying to understand. "They know where the difficulty lies, how to
simplify an issue and, in language their peers can understand, how to
express it." Students, he concluded, could be patient, empathic and, if
there were no grading on a curve enthusiastic about peer instruction.
Mazur decided to try to integrate discussion cycles into his lecture class.
There was support for this reform, because coverage in introductory
physics had long been a topic of discussion within Mazur's department.
During the summer of 1990 he compared old textbooks with current
editions, noting that the older the text, the more detailed the conceptual
explanation of each topic. Textbooks had become so overburdened with
derivations, examples, and problems that there was no need to regurgitate them to the class. If he could get his students to read the text in
advance and provide them with his ideas as printed notes, he might be
able to save most of the time spent on problem solving. In the time thus
freed up he could engage his students in what he calls peer instruction
Beginning in the fall of 1991, he says, "I just did it." In addition to
detailed lecture notes (printed and available from his office), Mazur
found or created five new "thought" questions for each ninety-minute
class. He begins by sharing his goals with his students. He wnnts them
to learn to "critically reason" about physics, not merely merilorize
equations. To accomplish this he insists that they prepare by reading the
text in advance of each lecture. To motivate them to stay on schedule he
gives a five-minute, graded, one-question quiz every class on the conceptual content of the reading assignment, a question not difficult to answer
if the material has been read. Thereafter, the class is divided into
segments as follows.
lecture course in physics, there are 700 students taking introductory physics in each
entering class.
Mazur had never employed curved grading. On the contrary, his course handout had
always made it perfectly clear that a certain number of points in the course would
translate into a certain letter grade; even students who had not done well early on in the
course had the possibility of an "A" if they did well on the final.
A ten- or fifteen-minute lecture is followed immediately by a display
on the viewgraph of a "simple" conceptual multiple choice question (the
"Conceptest") to which students record after a minute or so both an
answer and a confidence level ("pretty sure," "not quite sure," "just
guessing"). Then they discuss the question and their answer with a
neighbor. Mazur's directions: "Try to convince your neighbor of your
answer."' The single voice in an otherwise silent classr( ,m is instantly
transformed into a buzz of earnest discussion. Mazur watches and waits.
After another minute his students record a second, possibly revised
answer (and revised confidence level) on the same machine-readable
sheet.' Then there is a straw poll. If most have gotten the answer right, he
moves on. If 40 percent or more got it wrong, he repeats the cycle on the
same topic. "The system," he says, "prevents any great gulf from
developing between my expectations and those of the class." He knows
immediately what his students have grasped and what they need more
help on.
Teaching this way requires preparation, but not the volumes of lecture
notes Mazur has assembled over many years of introductory physics. For
this revised format it is more important to prepare the quick quiz he gives
at the beginning, and the five concept questions asked during lecture. Not
knowing which questions students will find difficult, Mazur cannot
predict which topics will require additional explanation, so he has to be
able to improvise. But it is worth the effort. Just as Mazur has to be very
alert, no student can sleep or daydream through class. "I put them on the
spot at least five times during the class hour, but because their answers
are recorded only to give me feedback, they're not under pressure."
Eliminating derivations, problems, and examples from lecture has not
affected learning. Mazur explains to students that he doesn't deal with
these in class, not because they are unimportant, but because they're in
the book." "There's no point wasting their time and mine going over these
in class." There was a time in his former life, he says, when the brightest
students would ask him for more and more difficult practice problems,
as exams consisted only of problems. Today's exams include concepts
and qualitative essay questions of his devising. "But if class discussion
calls for a difficult problem," Mazur adds, "I can always find one in my
old notes."
The technique is not unlike the "Whimbey Pairs" employed at University of Wisconsin-
Eau Claire (see chap. 2, p. 29). There, however, talking-to-your-neighbor was employed on
an as- needed basis. Mazur structures his lecture around five scheduled cycles of peer
' The sheets are handed in at the end of the class for purposes of data collection, not to be graded.
" Problem solving is handled in recitation sections run by teaching assistants.
Paul Martin, dean of the division of applied sciences at Harvard,
encouraged Mazur with a small grant to cover the salaries of a postdoc
and two extra TAs. The extra help has made the search for good questions
easier. (Mazur insists there are many publications from which faculty
could cull such questions, but he plans to publish his in the near future.)
A modest one-year Pew Charitable Trust grant of $50,000 has helped
document students' performance which, in turn, will allow Mazur to
quantify the results of his technique with hard andhe hopesconvincing
data so the technique can be systematized and widely applied. He is
convinced that his students are doing better, not just on the Mechanics
Baseline Examination (now called the Force Concept Inventory) which he
continues to give them, but on more traditional problem-solving tests as
well. "' Most of all, he believes that lectures mixed with peer instruction
address the "primary factors contributing to students' frustration and
consequent difficulties with introductory college science and engineering courses.""
Mazur is a pragmatist. He was looking for a simple and convenient
way of eliciting and monitoring students' understanding. And he thinks
he found it. The technique requires no capital investment and little
preparation other than a suitable set of conceptual questions. The
rewards, however, are substantial for students and instructor alike. He
When the students are asked to convince their neighbors of
the validity of each other's choices, all students are suddenly
involved in the lecture. Because there is no faculty-student
pressure, the discussion is completely uninhibited-for the
faculty member, the experience of standing in front of [an
animated] class of students is exhilarating.'
In addition to breaking the monotony of passive lectures, the remarkable improvements in the percentage of correct answers in class and on
both standard and Hestenes-Halloun type examinations demonstrates to
"'Average posttest scores on the Hestenes-Halloun Force Concept Inventory and Baseline
tests for Mazur's 1991 class (223 students) are 85 percent and 72 percent respectively, a
clear improvement over the 1990 scores of 77 percent and 66 percent. The pretest-posttest
gain was 17 percent for the 1991 class compared with a modest 9 percent gain for the 1990
class. Even more interesting, most of the gain was at the lower end of the distribution. As
reported in David Hestenes and Malcolm Wells, "A Mechanics Baseline Test," The Physics
Teacher, 30, March 1992, p. 162.
"Eric Mazur, "Stimulating Renewed Interest in Science, Mathematics and Engineering by
Peer Instruction," a proposal to the NSF Undergraduate Course and Curriculum Development Program, September 16, 1991, p. 6.
12 Ibid.
Mazur the effectiveness of the method. Even after just a minute or so of
discussion, "ti-ve force of clear thinking usually overwhelms common
sense misconceptions." Not only is the technique doable in a large class,
but Mazur believes it works better because there is a reasonable number
of students who do understand the concept, enough to make "peer
instruction" work.
Other benefits, reports David Hall, a graduate student in physics and
a TA for the course, are a cooperative rather than competitive class
environment; a chance to verbalize physical concepts; and, due to the
qualitative nature of the questions, a de-emphasis on calculations.
Furthermore, should students become lost during lecture, discussion
during Conceptests gives them time to catch up and helps them pinpoint
weak spots in their conceptual understanding of the material. Altogether
the course makes students aware of the need to correctly interpret
physical phenomena.
One of the several reasons Mazur has enjoyed support for his effort to
improve his lecture course is Harvard's Bok Center for Teaching and
Learning which encourages collaborative and interactive learning. In a
Bok Center video released in 1991 two other faculty join Mazur in a
display of variants of peer instruction." Chemistry professor James
Davis trains his TAs to encourage group problem solving in the recitation
sections of a large introductory chemistry course, and astronomer Philip
Sadler teaches entirely by group work. Students interviewed for the
video talk about "being involved," about "having to think while we're
learning," and about having to come to class better prepared. Perhaps the
most convincing statement is that of a student in Mazur's class who
understands that "if I can figure something out for myself, I will probably
be able to figure it out on the exam, and [best of all] for the rest of my life."
Of course there is no guarantee that students will take the time to really
absorb and retain conceptual underpinnings of problems. Hall reports
that when Mazur momentarily forgets to give the right answer after
discussing a particular conceptual question or Conceptest, the students
are impatient to know what it is.Does this mean they aren't following the
reasoning, Hall asks, or are they so insecure that they want the professor's
response as reinforcement? Another concern is retention. Hall notes that
when a Conceptest is given out of context, students sometimes don't do
as well. Newton's third law, for example, heavily emphasized in physics
11A, was sometimes forgotten when the application was to electrostatic,
rather than mechanical, forces as in physics 11B. Still, the discussion of
" "Thinking Together: Collaborative Learning in Science," The Derek Bok Teaching and
Learning Center, Harvard University.
concepts has an important role. Hall writes:
Lectures without Conceptests howl seem long to me, and I
can imagine that the students find them less engaging, too.
When one is used to Conceptests, it can he difficult to live
without them.
Like Layzer and Herschbach's chem-phys," physics 11 is not a course
for the physics major. Mazur thinks it is the place where "second tier"
students might be recruited to science and that, if large numbers of
students experience physics more positively, he public's perception of
science will be improved. Hall doubts that the technique would be as well
received by physics majors as by those with only a passing commitment
to the discipline, and feels that the '.onceptest and peer discussion might
be considered condescending. 7 ._ real test of Mazur's technique, then,
will come when instructors at other levels of physics decide to substitute
discussion and debate for full-time lecturing.
In 1991, in order to convince his critics, Mazur agreed (with some
trepidation) to expose physics 11 students to one of his old (and very
tough) problem-solving examinations. When his students on average
scored seven to ten points higher (out of 100) th:.:1 their predecessors who
had taken a more traditional lecture course in 1985, his point was made.
Now plans are in the works to try out variants of the peer instruction
method in Harvard's algebra-based physics course, physics 1, and in the
faster-moving physics 15.
Other variants of peer instruction in physics are being implemented at
a variety of institutions. Ever since Mazur described the idea at a meeting
of the American Association of Physics Teachers he has been inundated
with requests for details from diverse institutions. At Appalachian State
University (ASU), as one example of how rapidly peer instruction can be
modified and applied elsewhere, physicist Patricia Allen returned from
the AAPT meeting and contacted her coinstructor's to propose a modi-
fication of Mazur's technique in the very next (second) semester of
calculus-based physics. Instead of four Conceptests and discussions per
lecture period, Allen and Walter Connelly introduce about two a week.
Like Mazur, the two North Carolina physicists are collecting first and
second answers (and confidence levels) on Conceptests for analysis.
" See chapter 6.
'' The course at Appalachian State University is taught in two independent sections of
approximately fifty students each.
They are looking forward to comparing the results of 1992's final exam
with 1991 as a measure of the effectiveness of peer instruction.
So far, Allen is intrigued by gender differences in stated confidence
levels in answering Conceptest questions. Males start out far more
confident (even about what they don't know), lose confidence in the
middle, and then slowly regain it. Females are lower in confidence at the
beginning and grow steadily more confident as the semester progresses.
And there are other interesting changes, she says:
The class is active, not just during the discussion of the
Conceptest, but afterwards. They are asking more questions
and not just the "how do 1 solve . . ." kind. They talk more
outside of class, and seem to have formed ongoing study
What she likes best, as does Mazur, is that by testing students on
material they may not know, she can uncover gaps early on. She adjusts
her coverage immediately, no longer having to wait for an in-class
examination to tell her what she needs to cover in greater depth or detail.
The students in calculus-based physics at Appalachian State are not
necessarily matriculating in either physics or engineering. They are first-
generation college goers, and one-third to one-half are majoring in
education (mostly math education). This may eventually facilitate the
introduction of the instruction method into the high school, Allen says.
Student Response
How are students responding to the new lecture format? Mazur wants
to believe that it provides enough structure to prevent floundering, but
at the same time is open enough to engage students' curiosities. To get
students' views of the project TA Wayne Yang interviewed two biology
concentrators taking physics 11 to fulfill a requirement, and a literature
concentrator who selected physics 11 both to deepen his understanding
of chemistry and out of sheer curiosity about physics.
The lecture format, Conceptests, and the ensuing discussion get high
marks from these very different students. But when questions about
concepts appear on final examinations, attitudes are more mixed. One
student liked being able to justify her answer in essay form, while another
felt the conceptual questions were too tricky. The literature major was
originally attracted to physics 11 for its grading on an absolute scale and
not on a curve. "It looked like it was going to be friendly," he reported
At the end he found the course tough, well-taught, and time-consuming
16 Personal communication to the author.
Overall, Yang reports students equally praise Mazur's ability to teach
physics and his commitment and concern with their learning. He is often
applauded at the end of the ninety-minute lectures, and 90 percent of
those enrolled regularly attend. Students quite obviously enjoy his
What's interesting about Mazur's modification of introductory physics is that it is a modification, not a radical departure. In describing the
course David Hall notes that the lectures are very similar in content to
those he took as an undergraduate. The material is presented in the same
order as the textbook, although Mazur sometimes goes into more detail
about a particular subject. One difference previously noted is that the
emphasis is on exposition rather than problem solving. Mazur will talk
about the history of physical laws, for example, especially in the electricity and magnetism semester. Accompanying the exposition are demonstrations, usually spectacular, Hall reports, owing to Harvard's full-time
demonstration. staff. But it is the Conceptest which makes the class
unique. "If you take away the Conceptests," Hall says, "little would
distinguish physics 11 from other introductory courses."
In theory, this means that after watching a video on how Mazur
organizes his course, instructors elsewhere could do it themselves. Once
Mazur publishes a full set of Conceptests for the two-semester calculusbased physics course, presumably, he could retire as an innovator. But
in fact the ease with which peer instruction can be added to the mainstream physics course is deceptive. It's like the old light bulb joke, as told
by psychologists. What is going to make the physics community (the light
bulb in this case) really want to change ?"
'7 "How many economists (physicists, bureaucrats, etc.) does it take to change a light
bulb?" The psychologists' answer: "Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change."
Affirmative Education
California State University,
Los Angeles
On April 15, 1991, Chemical & Engineering News, read regularly by
350,000 chemists in academe and industry, published a special report on
minorities in science.' The collective impact of efforts to increase participation of historically underrepresented minorities in science, the report
concluded, "has been disappointing."' Membership in the American
white and
Chemical Society (ACS), for example, remained 98 pert
Asian in 1990, just as it had been in 1975. Of the 1,286 Ph.D. degrees
awarded in chemistry to U.S. citizens in 1989, only sixty-five, or 5 percent,
went to underrepresented minorities. What was learned over the past
two decades was "what doesn't work," Luther Williams of NSF's
Directorate for Education and Huma:-. Resources was quoted as saying.
Much of the focus (of the article and of funded projects) was on a
precollege educational system that doesn't serve minorities well, this
according to authorities like George Castro, president of the Society for
Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).
Public schools with the highest minority enrollments also have the lowest
average family income and are much more likely to be in inner cities. They
have fewer resources and offer fewer math and science courses than do
schools with predominantly white students.' The prevailing belief seems
to be that expressed by Joseph Danek of NSF's human resources development division: "By the time [students] are seventeen years old, they are
either in or out; if they don't perform within those years . . everything
closes down for them."'
' "Minorities in Science," Chemical & Engineering News, Vol. 69, No. 15, April 15, 1991, pp. 20-35.
2 Ibid., p. 21.
' Ibid., p. 24, quoting a 1989 Rand Corporation study undertaken by Jeannie Oakes, now
professor of education at UCLA.
Ibid , p 25
Because of that view, programs for K-12 minorities are better funded
than programs for minority undergraduates. Only in the past two years
has NSF created the Alliances for Minority Participation program, which
offers five-year grants at $1 million per year to coalitions of undergraduate institutions in regions that serve minority students. But one model
stands out among programs that work for minority undergraduates: the
Minority Biomedical Research Support program (MBRS). Funded by the
National Institutes of Health (NIH), MBRS was established in 1972 to
address the shortage of minority students in the biomedical sciences, and
focused on institutions that graduated the largest numbers of minorities.
The program's first thirty-eight schools were mostly black colleges and
universities, but it later expanded to include southwestern schools with
predominantly Hispanic enrollments, and a growing number of large,
inner-city universities with sizable enrollments of both block and Hispanic students.
Beginning with $2 million in 1972, MBRS is now budgeted at $42
million and operates at about 100 schools. Some 500 MBRS students get
bachelor's degrees every year, and 80 percent of them go on to some form
of postgraduate study, half in the health professions and half in Ph.D.
programs.' This outstanding record belies the fact that MBRS targets
academically average minority students with GPAs as low as 2.0. How
does MBRS accomplish its aims? What kind of environment must be in
place to sustain this successful exercise in "affirmative education?" The
Department of Chemistry-Biochemistry at California State University,
Los Angeles (henceforth Cal State LA), site of one of the longest continuing MBRS programs in the nation, provides some clues.
The Demographics
Of the 361,000 students enrolled in the '.wenty campuses of the
California State University System in 1988-89, only 101 black, American
Indian, and Hispanic students were expected to graduate with majors in
physical science or mathematics.' These figures are disputed, but even if
minority physical science and mathematics majors are underestimated
by several hundreds, their low percentage underscores the need to attract
and retain minority students in science. Cal State LA is located in
northeastern Los Angeles, in an urban center distinguished by an unIbid., p. 30, quoting Ciriaco Q. Gonzales, director of MBRS at NIH.
These numbers taken from the "Report: 1988-89 CSU Bachelor's Degrees Awarded to
Underrepresented Minorities in Engineering and Science." Source the Cf.ILI Chancellor's
Office, Long Beach, Calif.
usual degree of racial and cultural diversity in its population. Within a
fifteen-mile radius of the school lie the black community of Watts, a barrio
of Mexican-Americans, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Koreatown. The
surrounding communities, which have experienced increasing Asian
and Hispanic in-migration in recent decades, also feed the school. Since
the college recruits largely from its immediate neighborhood, it is not
surprising that the fall quarter 1990 figures show that only 27.5 percent
of the 21,596 students enrolled are classified as ''white, non-Hispanics,"
and of the 72.5 percent minority students, 32.2 percent are Hispanic, 28.4
percent Asian-Pacific islanders, 11.4 percent black, and .5 percent native
American. The average age of all students is 25, and 57.5 percent are
female. Only 72.2 percent are U.S. citizens; the remainder are classified
as "visa students," "immigrants," or "refugees."
For those of us who concentrated full time on our studies in college,
it is difficult to imagine the complexity of some of these students' lives
Many are married and have families requiring financial support and time
away from academic pursuits. Recent immigrants find parents and
relatives sometimes returning to the countries from which they emigrated, leaving their more Americanized offspring to fend for themselves. For students like these, majoring in science at college is probably
the most challenging course of study they could pursue. The demanding
curriculum, coupled with laboratories requiring many additional hours,
contribute to their real personal difficulties in completing these majors.
Still, science is appea:*ng. The material is culture-blind, and the
knowledge and skills acquired seem certain of recognition and remuO
neration. There is the possibility of a career in medicine, with its
disproportionate rewards. And there is a traditional pathway, so far little
traveled by postwar minority populations, to upward mobility through
science and engineering. So it is not surprising that many new minority
students want to major in science or engineering. But it takes part-time
science majors seven or more years to graduate. And 30 to 55 percent fail
or change to nonscience fields during their first two years of college.'
The State University System
The California master plan for higher education designates three
separate higher education systems: the University of California (UC), the
The Minority Science Program Report, prepared by Margaret Jefferson of biology and
Raymond Garcia of chemistry-biochemistry, scans ten science departments at Cal State
LA. It shows a disproportionately high number of Asians (45.6 percent), and fewer
Hispanics, blacks, whites, and females majoring in science, compared to the general
population at the college (April 1990, p. 3).
California State University (CSU), and the two-year community colleges.
Each has different functions, responsibilities, and entrance requirements. Whereas the UC campuses accept the top 12.5 percent of graduating high school seniors, the CSU campuses accept the top 30 percent,
a population with poorer academic records and lower SAT scores. CSU
gives these students access to an undergraduate education, some masters' programs and, in some selected cases, a Ph.D. degree in conjunction
with one of the state's public or private universities.
Within this framework, Cal State LA can be described as an undergraduate liberal arts and science campus with some ancillary profes-
sional programs in business and in nursing. It offers bachelor's and
master's degrees in most disciplines, and a Ph.D. degree jointly with
UCLA in special education.' The Department of Chemistry-Biochemistry offers B.S. degrees in both disciplines with honors options, a B.A.
degree in chemistry (with less stringent requirements), and an M.S. with
an option in biochemistry. The department's program is approved by the
The successful recruitment and retention of minorities in science at Cal
State LA results from several factors. One is that several departments
have managed to attract research-minded Ph.D.s who come to Cal State
LA to continue their research along with teaching. Since most of the
available research assistants are undergraduates, the faculty set out to
design and develop an undergraduate research component for its majors
long before outside funding for minorities became available.
At any one time there are more than fifty undergraduates doing
research with the faculty in chemistry-biochemistry. Of these some will
get course credit for directed study, others will take units of honors
studies in chemistry, and many will complete a research project and write
and defend a thesis embodying their research. Cal State LA thus joins a
number of institutions, elite private as well as state-funded schools,
where the faculty insists that research experience, especially in chemistry,
is more valuable to a student than additional coursework. Undergraduates are better served, it is maintained, by a faculty that pursues research
than one involved solely in teaching. What makes Cal State LA's program
noteworthy is that minority students are targeted in their sophomore
year (most begin a research project in their junior year), and there is real
evidence that this is what gets them hooked on science.
Associated with a young and growing institution, the chemistrybiochemistry department has shaped itself around both teaching and
research. Recruiting in the early postwar years, recalls Tony Andreoli,
In the entire CSU system there is only one joint Ph.D. in chemistry, offered by San Diego
State University in conjunction with UC, San Diego.
professor of biochemistry and the department's senior member, he
enlisted the services of young research-oriented Ph.D.s who wanted to
teach in an urban school and continue their research. In the growth years
of the 1960s and 1970s senior faculty consciously recruited additional
members who shared the department's philosophy and goals. An external reviewer, evaluating the department a few years ago, commented
that "The core of the senior faculty . . . must be given the credit for the
wisdom and foresight to understand the unique opportunity offered
here. They were dedicated to the education of undergraduates, to the
incorporation of minority undergraduates in the programs, to an active
research program, and to recruitment of new faculty dedicated to the
philosophy of utilizing undergraduates as the major research tool."9
Indeed, long before the MBRS program was initiated, the stage was set
for chemistry-biochemistry at Cal State LA to take advantage of minority
undergraduate research support.
When the definition of "minority institution" was expanded from its
original focus on historically black institutions, Cal State LA, with its
overwhelming minority population and its preexisting undergraduate
research programs, readily qualified. Within a year of the MBRS program's
creation, Cal State LA received one of the grants in 1972. Under the
leadership of Lloyd Ferguson until 1984, this interdepartmental program, with chemistry-biochemistry and biology the main players, began
an eighteen-year relationship that has generated nearly $17 million in
g ants.'° In 1984, Tony Andreoli became the director of the program and
under his leadership the funding has increased to $1.3 million in 1990,
allocated in four-year funding cycles, distributed to qualifying principal
investigators for research involving minority undergraduates and gradu-
ate students."
This long-term, continuous support allowed Cal State LA to develop
an infrastructure which sponsors research of such a caliber that the
faculty has become competitive in seeking grants under other programs
and from other sources. Supplemental grants from MBRS for instrumen-
tation, coupled with matching university funds, made possible the
9 External review of the programs of the Department of Chemistry-Biochemistry, 1986.
'"The program also includes the Departments of Biology, Microbiology, Psychology and
Family Stud es antl Consumer Affairs.
" Lloyd Ferguson was the first director of the MBRS program at Cal State LA starting out
in 1973 with a budget of $228,678 per year and remaining in that position until 1984.
acquisition of first-class equipment, including costly NMR and electron
spin resonance spectrometers, mass spectrometers and the like-supplies
essential for state-of-the-art chemical and biochemical research.
Graduates of the Department
During the past twenty years, chemistry-biochemistry at Cal State LA
has graduated an average of fifteen majors a year, twenty-five in some
peak years in the late 1970s. Neither the rate nor the accrual (400 in the
past twenty years) is modest, and the numbers compare favorably to
much larger and better endowed universities where, of the hundreds,
sometimes thousands, of students enrolled in introductory chemistry,
only one in fifty may complete the major. Detailed records of ethnicity
and postgraduate work have been kept for only ten years, but fully half
of the 182 graduates in chemistry-biochemistry between 1980 and 1989
(counting Asian-Americans) were minority.
Most of these students have not stopped at the B.S. level. Of the 182
graduates between 1980 and 1989 sixty-six attended graduate schools,
some at UC campuses (Irvine, Berkeley, Davis, Riverside, Los Angeles),
some at private Eastern institutions such as Cornell, Yale, Purdue, and
Johns Hopkins, and an additional twenty-eight chose professional schools.
Most importantly, 90 percent of the students who entered Ph.D. programs completed the degree, an outstanding proportion when one
examines national statistics.12
Undergraduate Research
Most of the sixty to eighty undergraduate students served by these
research programs in the chemistry-biochemistry department would not
have been able to "do science"-they are quick to tell the visitor-without
the combination of financial support, encouragement, and pure dedication of the faculty. The department is a beehive of activity, with a typical
research group including juniors and seniors, an occasional sophomore,
and a few master's candidates mixed in. Some students are funded by
MBRS, some by MARC (NIH's Minority Access to Research Careers
program, see page 137), and others are simply honors students or in the
undergraduate directed-study course. Since the department also attracts
research grants based solely on scientific merit, still more undergradu"Harold Cold white and Tom Onak, "Undergraduate Research in Chemistry at California
State University, Los Angeles," CUR (Council on Undergraduate Research) Newsletter,
Vol. 8, 1988, p. 25.
ates can be paid to assist.° Immediately obvious to the outsider touring
the lab is the range of ethnicity and academic competence; noteworthy
are the students' intensity, willingness to help each other, and high
Faculty researchers have developed plans of action for dealing with
students who may not be performing well academically, and who may
not have decided on science as a career. It can be time-consuming, for
these are novice students who had no encouragement to "play" at science
at home. They need to build self-confidence, to discipline themselves,
and to find rewards in their studies and in research participation.
Recognizing the demands of supervising MBRS research, the NIH
grants 20 percent release time to a principal investigator and two-thirds
summer salary when student laboratory work is at a peak. Faculty
members who supervise MARC students receive 7 percent release time.
Another endorsement of the department's commitment to minority
students comes from the university, which provides matching funds for
major equipment purchases.
Faculty Commitment
Much of the success of Cal State LA's minority science program is due
to the dedication and diversity of its faculty. Of the seventeen members
in the department, six can be classified as members of ethnic minorities."
There have been one or more black faculty members in chemistrybiochemistry since 1968.
Since chemistry-biochemistry became a separate department in 1959
it has grown from three to seventeen full-time faculty. All hold Ph.D.
degrees and most had postdoctoral or industrial experience before
coming to Cal State LA. Their teaching skills have been recognized by a
disproportionately large number of "outstanding professor awards"
(twelve), and system-wide "trustee awards" (five). With the selection of
Phoebe Dea as the system-wide outstanding professor in 1' )1, five of Cal
State LA's ten teaching awards had been won by chemistry-biochemistry. Cal State LA's president James Rosser calls the department " ... one
of the leading undergraduate science [teaching] departments in the
From, for example, the ACS's Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF), Research Corporation, Department of Energy, etc.
'4 The department currently has one black member, two Mexican-Americans, one Latino,
and two women, of whom one, Phoebe Dea, is a Chinese-American.
15 According to another external reviewer, "The department excels by all standards:
teaching awards, publications, research funds awarded, funding opportunities for pro-
I 93
Contrary to conventional wisdom, teaching does not compete with,
but complements research in the department. Teacher-student interactions in the context of the research program contribute to high research
productivity rather than detract from it. When it comes to promotions,
excellence in teaching is measured not just in student course evaluations,
but in the number of students in the faculty member's research group and
that member's initiative in organizing new courses and seminars. Promotions are also based on professional growth as measured by number of
grants and number of publications (including those done with students).
A last category, here as elsewhere, is called service and refers to committee
membership and service to the department and the university.
Evidence that excellence in teaching need not conflict with research
productivity is revealed by grants and publications. Fifteen faculty
members have external support for at least part of their research activity
a high proportion for an undergraduate institution. The average annual
total of such grants for the years 1986-1990 was $1.4 million. In number
of publications since 1967, chemistry-biochemistry was the most productive department of the twenty CSU campuses. From 1962 to 1990 there
were 394 publications and meeting presentations, many of them coau-
thored with undergraduates, published in refereed journals, and presented at scientific meetings. The average publication rate over a decade
was ten-fifteen journal articles and four hooks and /or reviews per year.
The release time given faculty in minority research programs contributes to productivity and to faculty enthusiasm for them. The units release
time per term produces 20 percent more time for contacts with individual
students and for research.
Tom Onak, recipient of the 1990 ACS Award for Research in Undergraduate Education, has been at Cal State LA since 1959, during which
time he has written 115 papers on carborane chemistry with forty student
coauthors. Of the total sixty-one students who have worked in Onak's
lab, ten have been female and thirty-four have been minorities: Hispanic
(seven), black (six), Asian (twenty-one). Eleven of these students have
completed either Ph.D.s or M.D.s, and six are currently working toward
graduate degrees.
Lloyd Ferguson, who in 1943 became the first black to receive a Ph.D.
in chemistry from UC-Berkeley, was a well-established educator when
he came to Cal State LA in 1965. He had been chairman of chemistry at
Howard University when the department established its Ph.D. program,
one that subsequently trained 60 to 70 percent of all the black Ph.D.
fessional enhancement, helping minority students and others to develop professional
careers, involvement in local and national professional societies, and it has played a
significant role in the administrative functions of the university."
1 :P
chemists currently working. He garnered many national awards for his
outstanding contribution to chemical education and his leadership in the
black scientific community. Ferguson, who is now emeritus, has in the
past decade guided twenty-five minority students through his lab.
The principle that the chemistry-biochemistry faculty should reflect
the ethnic diversity of the student body directs recruitment. As chairman
of the department in 1976, Tony Fratiello actively supported the hiring of
Phoebe Dea, a female Asian, and Carlos Gutierrez, a Mexican-American.
Sixteen years later both Gutierrez and Dea are in leadership roles,
Gutierrez as department chairman, a director of the MARC program,
and, as of 1992, MBRS director as well; Phoebe Dea as a distinguished
teacher and one of the department's leading grants recipients. Cal State
LA's minority faculty act as role models for minority students. So it is no
surprise that Phoebe Dea's lab has a preponderance of Asian-American
females, or that Ray Garcia's lab attracts Hispanics.
Among these minority faculty, Anthony J. Andreoli epitomizes his
own and the department's conviction that scholarship, teaching, and
mentoring of minority students naturally combine. There is no way,
everyone tells me, that the minority programs at Cal State LA would have
been so successful had it not been for Tony And reoli. Born of Costa Rican
immigrant parents, Andreoli earned a bachelor's degree on the G.I. Bill
and a Ph.D. in 1955. He came to the then-new Los Angeles State College
of Applied Arts and Sciences (now Cal State LA) in 1955 and, though
technically emeritus, still manages the minority support programs he
helped design. Throughout a long career, which in 1956 included receiving the first NSF grant ever awarded to Cal State LA and serving as MBRS
program director for the past decade, Andreoli has demonstrated that
teaching, scholarship, and research are inseparable. As the winner of the
AAAS's Mentor Award for 1991, Andreoli was cited "for his efforts to
encourage and guide generations of minority students to pursue
postdoctoral study of the sciences."
Tony Fratiello, a physical chemist at Cal State LA since 1963, grew up
in a middle-class Italian-American family in Providence, Rhode Island.
After attending a parochial high school and college, Fratiello moved to
the more diverse atmosphere of Brown University for his Ph.D. An active
researcher, studying the multinuclear magnetic resonance of metal ion
solution-complexes, he has ushered some sixty students through their
studies and published an equal number of papers (fifty with undergraduate coauthors). He has served as department chairman and was director
of the Research Improvement for Minority Institutions program (RIMI)
from 1986-1990, a $100,000-per-year initiative sponsoring ten minority
students per quarter.
p V
Costello Brown attended segregated black schools in rural North
Carolina through college. Sheltered from racial tensions in his childhood,
he first encountered racism when he left the South to earn a Ph.D. at Iowa
State in Ames in the early 1960s. This exposure, coupled with his
participation as a student in sit-ins in the South, honed his sensitivity to
minority issues and shaped his goals. He received his Ph.D. in 1968 and
was recruited in 1969 by Lloyd Ferguson, already a role model for young
black chemists. Like his colleagues in the department, he is most proud
of those minority students suffering from low self-esteem and bound for
uncertain academic careers at larger, impersonal institutions, who have
turned their lives around at Cal State LA.
Another faculty mentor eager to help minority students carve careers
in science is Ray Garcia. A professor of biochemistry since 1982, Garcia
is of well-educated Mexican-American parentage. His family, which
now includes numerous physicians, Ph.D.s, and pharmacists, came to
Texas at the turn of the century driving 5,000 head of cattle, and quickly
established itself in the community. Eager to help students advance and
move out from the Los Angeles barrio, Garcia participates enthusiastically as a faculty adviser in the university-wide Minority Science Program. He speaks with great passion about the forty or so students who
have come through his lab. Eighteen were in the minority undergraduate
programs, mostly Mexican-Americans. Six of his undergraduate lab
assistants have received B.S. degrees, two M.A.s, one a D.O., one an M.D.,
one a D.D.S.; five are in medical school and two are in Ph.D. programs.
A different picture emerges from the other two members of the
department. Phoebe Dea was born in Canton, China and grew up in Hong
Kong, leaving her family behind to go to UCLA. Not particularly affected
by discrimination against females or Asians, she graduated in 1967 and
completed a Ph.D. in chemistry at Caltech in 1972. Since joining Cal
State's faculty in 1976, Phoebe Dea has devoted much attention to
research with undergraduates. Many students now in graduate school
voice the same sentiments as a recent graduate winner of the science and
scholarship award of the Westinghouse Talent Searchnamely, that
Phoebe Dea was the "one person most influential in my career develop-
ment." In addition to receiving the 1991 California State University
Outstanding Professor Award, she was chosen as the 1991 California
Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support
of Education, a national organization.
It doesn't take long for Phoebe Dea to describe how she brings MBRS
students up to speed in her research lab. Her goal is to "develop scientific
expertise," but she also wants to cultivate students' self-confidence and
give them some sense of the excitement of doing research. To build
impetus she works side by side with MBRS students until they get their
first experimental results. She starts with a simple project to give the
student a sense of the time and effort it takes to plan and carry out a
successful new experiment. Only when the data is in hand is the student
sent out to read related papers to see where his or her work fits in. "When
the students realize that they have gotten a result 'like a scientist,' their
fears and doubts disappear," says Dea.
A similar role is played by department chairman Carlos Gutierrez,
director of MARC since 1983. His Ph.D. from UC-Davis in 1975 led
initially to a one-year, and then to a permanent, appointment at Cal State
LA in organic chemistry. In those fifteen years Gutierrez has become a
leader in minority science education. His research projects involve a
range of general synthetic techniques, particularly chelating agents,
natural products chemistry, and organo-tin compounds. His research
assistants include an Asian, an Armenian, an Argentinian, a Canadian,
two Chicanos, and one blackall undergraduates, and five of the eleven
are women.
The MBRS Program at Cal State LA
Individual attention, research opportunities, mentoring, and incremental success are needed for minority students to succeed in science,
but they are insufficient if students have to hold a job outside of school
twenty to forty additional hours per week. MBRS provides minority
undergraduates a salary of $6,000 for fifteen hours a week of laboratory
work during the school year, and full-time work in the summer. The
salary for master's candidates is $7,500. The money and the "work-forsalary ethic" of the MBRS are much appreciated by minority students. "It
is more of a real-life situation than an academic one," says an MBRS
undergrad ua ,e.
In additir n to student salaries and faculty release time MBRS provides
funds for travel to scientific meetings where participants present their
work. As students strongly indicated, this travel is highly valued, not just
for the experience (although for some these were their first trips out of the
barrio), but for the sense of being accepted in "the alien world of science
and scientists." After these exposures students begin to believe what
their mentors have been telling them: that they can fit in, and that a career
in science is a reasonable goal.
The benefits of MBRS to students are obvious, but so are the benefits
to facultybenefits, they say, which more than compensate for the time
taken to train initially low-achieving students to do research. Every
faculty member who participates in MBRS writes a section of an NIH
I 3
A 11-1RM /owl: EoucivnoN
proposal as part of a single omnibus application for every four-year cycle.
Costello Brown, who has served on a number of NIl l and NSF review
panels, says that evaluation of the proposal is based on the scientific merit
of the project, its biomedical relevancy, and the students' potential
benefit. Since teaching loads are heavy at Cal State LA (twelve units of
teaching and three units of advising per quarter for three quartert.,', the
20 percent release time for participating faculty is welcome, and provides
time to supervise students doing research. Faculty claim that the undergraduates' research contribution is almost equivalent to what one would
expect of graduate RAs. The undergraduates work as well, but "more
slowly." Indeed, the eighteen MBRS faculty in the five departments
typically produce twenty-five to twenty-eight papers per year, coauthored with their minority students.
The most valuable MBRS benefits are those to students: over the past
eighteen years 603 minority students have been employed in five participating departments, with chemistry-biochemistry and biology taking in
the majority. To date the 603 received 265 B.S. degrees, ninety-five B.A.s,
and fifty M.S.s, a success rate of 70 percent. Of those who completed
postgraduate work at other institutions, sixteen have received Ph.D.s,
nineteen D.D.S. degrees, fifty-seven M.D.s, one a D.V.M., two degrees in
pharmacy, and four degrees in osteopathy. Still in progress are twenty-
one in Ph.D. programs, sixty-four in medicine, twenty-two master's
candidates, fourteen D.D.S., and eleven in health-related disciplines.
That represents 50 percent of the students entering the program, some
with CPAs as low as 2.00. Lloyd Ferguson, the previous director, calls this
a "fantastic success rate." About 95 percent of those who apply to
graduate or professional schools are admitted, a percentage, Ferguson
estimates, about five times what it would be in the absence of the MBRS
This is a potent argument, says Andreoli, for not restricting research
opportunities to superior students. Average studentsthe kind recruited
into MBRSbenefit as much as or more than their academically better
prepared peers. Their classwork doesn't seem to suffer from time
devoted to research. In fact, it often improves becau of supportive
relationships in the lab, and the increased interest in science generated by
Indeed, some undergraduates regard their research team as surrogate
family. One student in biochemistry reported that the laboratory and his
research group were a "place to go" after class, one where he could "talk
chemistry." Before entering the MBRS program he returned to the barrio
to "hang out" with friends; now the lab has become his hangout. Students
often find a role model-mentor in a more advanced classmate. In one
instance, the role model turned out to he a precocious thirteen-year-old
female who came to Cal State LA at age nine under an early admissions
program. Her discipline and intensity about her work, even as a preteen,
so impressed a twenty-seven-year-old male Hispanic student that he
freely admits that she was his inspiration.
As a result of its many successes and its willingness to give college
dropouts from other schools another chance, chemistry-biochemistry is
becoming the department of choice for minority science students. This
sentiment is voiced by Carcy Chan, professor of chemistry at East Los
Angeles Community College. She is director and principal investigator
of one of the two MBRS programs at two-year colleges in the United
States. Chan readily admits that even though her two-year chemistry
graduates may qualify for UC (to earn B.A.$), she encourages them to go
to Cal State LA.
Her reasons echo those of Cal State LA students themselves: a caring
faculty that pays attention to minority students' needs; the MBRS and
MARC programs which provide the funds needed for them to go on in
science; and a feeling of being at home. Finally, and at least as important,
is that East LA students can go directly into laboratory research as juniors
before they complete coursework in the major. When these students
apply to graduate school with a total of three or four years of research
behind them, they have a leg up on their peers.
MBRS Students
In assessing the MBRS program our interviewer met with a number of
MBRS students at Cal State LA, and several graduates working for
advanced degrees. Many fit Dudley Herschbach's model of "longdistance runners" as opposed to the "sprinters" who Herschbach believes are favored by undergraduate science as it is currently structured
and taught.'' As if to prove the point, we found a master's student in
Andreoli's lab, an American-born Asian twenty-six years old who,
despite a high school science award, has been an erratic performer. He
is typical of minority students who are not ready for graduate school
immediately after earning a B.S. A Japanese-American professor at UCDavis recommended him for a one- or two-year stint in Andreoli's lab to
help him find direction. As part of his MBRS requirement he has had to
take additional (undergraduate) courses, maintain a laboratory work
schedule, and write a weekly report. He hopes to begin a Ph.D. in
1" 11 erschbach, as quoted in They're Not Dumb, They're Different. Stalking the Second Tier
(Tucson, Ariz.: Research Corporation, 1990), p. 61.
1 r4
molecular genetics or a Ph.D.-M.D. program after the master's degree.
As this student sees it, MBRS gave him a second chance to develop
good laboratory skills, to learn more biochemistry, and (if he performs
well for Andreoli) "get another professional chemist in my camp." He
also appreciates the salarywithout which he would have had to get some
other kind of paying jobthe small research group, the individual
attention, and the flexibility of the program. During one term, for
example, he signed up for two sections of organic chemistry which he had
taken before but never mastered. He thought the extra exposure to two
different instructors would help the material sink in.
Another student in Andreoli's group is a Hispanic male, a senior in his
second year of MBRS. He began his undergraduate career at a private
four-year liberal arts college on a partial scholarship, but felt out of place
and left after one year. When he arrived at Cal State LA, he "somehow
met Andreoli" and decided to try biochemistry. As one of four children
of a family on welfare, the MBRS salary is essential for him, he comments.
After presenting a poster at a local meeting he concluded that "in science
the work is more important than the color of your skin." He is now
thinking about graduate school.
One senior MBRS student working in Tom Onak's research group is
considering a graduate program in pharmacy or chemistry. A MexicanAmerican and the first in his family to go to college, he benefited from
better than average science teaching at a small Catholic high school. He
was recruited for the MBRS by Tony Fratiello, ever on the lookout for
promising students. Two years later the student was able to present a
paper before a local group and a poster at an ACS regional meeting. Both
experiences "reinforced my commitment to a career in science," he says.
Another student of Mexican-American descent in Andreoli's lab
graduated from MBRS and is now in the master's program at Cal State
LA. An articulate, athletic young man and a good student at a local high
school in the barrio, he earned a scholarship to Syracuse University,
where he completed two years. Family problems brought him back home
and he completed a B.S. at Cal State LA. Eager to continue study for a
master's degree, he decided to hone his laboratory skills by staying on in
Andreoli's lab. He described the experience of being part of a research
group as a "critical factor in developing the discipline and enthusiasm
needed to succeed in science."
A twenty-nine-year-old Asian-American female chose Cal State LA
for a post-baccalaureate year because she wanted to work with Phoebe
Dea. She had not been encouraged to consider graduate school at the
private college from which she graduated with a "B" average. What she
noticed right away was that, although the faculty-student ratio was no
lower than at the private college, at Cal State LA "the students were
always in the lab, working all kinds of odd hours." During her time at Cal
State LA she delivered two papers at professional meetings, one a poster
presentation at an ACS meeting in Washington, D.C., the other a talk on
ethanol-phospholipid interaction (using NMR) in Miami, Florida. In both
instances, she was prepared by Phoebe Dea and her lab mates in ways she
has never encountered since. She was taught techniques for preparing a
talk that would make her look professional. Once the slides were ready,
she had to rehearse her paper orally in front of her fellow students and
Phoebe Dea until she "got it right." Now completing a Ph.D. in chemistry
at UCLA, this student says that
If I had to list one aspect of the MBRS program important to
me, it was traveling and giving the talks .... You stayed in the
same hotel with people whose work you had read about .
and the talks prepared me for all the talks I would have to give
in my Ph.D. program.
Ray Garcia's lab attracts students whose interest is in research that
touches on medical aspects of biochemistry. One Mexican-American
young man in the group, now in his late twenties, was left to fend for
himself as a teenager when his mother, a single parent, returned to
Mexico. For a long time he had hoped to become a successful professional
boxer, and had tried out for the 1984 Olympics both in LA and Mexico.
By 1987 he finally abendoned this goal and transferred from LA City
College, where he had been a part-time student, to Cal State LA where,
as a full-time student, he was attracted to science. He has since presented
work on the effect of jojoba oil on cholesterol levels in rabbits at a number
of meetings. Membership in the MBRS research group and travel with the
team helped him get over the feeling that he was an outsider, and gave
him confidence that there is a "place for me in science."
Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC)
The presence of MBRS at Cal State LA has helped attract other
programs intended to draw minority students to science. Minority
Access to Research Careers (MARC) was started jointly in chemistrybiochemistry and biology in 1978, and is directed by Carlos Gutierrez.
Like the MBRS, MARC is designed to produce students who can compete
in graduate programs leading to Ph.D. degrees in the biomedical sciences. MARC is smaller than MBRS and is an honors program with a
target population of high-performing (GPA 3.0 or above) undergraduates. Currently there are ten junior and senior minority students in
MARC, which has graduated forty-two students over its twelve-year
history on campus.
At present, the program is funded at $200,000 per year by the National
Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH. A MARC fellow
receives a "stipend" (not a salary) of $6,500 per year plus registration,
tuition, and compensation for school-related expenses. An additional
$1,500 is available for laboratory supplies and travel. The fellowship
usually covers the students' junior and senior years. Since it involves
year-round research, students are encouraged to participate in off-site
summer programs. A seminar series is also run in conjunction with MBRS
and attendance is mandatory. Since MARC stude is write an honors
thesis on their research, their skills and experience, Gutierrez contends,
are comparable to those of M.S. graduates. Indeed, MARC student
fellows have coauthored forty-one publications in refereed journals with
faculty mentors, and have made over 100 presentations at scientific
Graduating MARC fellows are eligible to compete for NIH predoctoral
fellowships in the amount of $8,500 annually, which can be used at any
institution they select (the institution receives $2,000 as an additional
bonus). Thus, when applying to graduate schools, MARC students have
flexibility and built-in attractiveness that few other graduating seniors in
science can match. They are, as Gutierrez says, "right up there with the
best of them in every sense of the term."
Even though MARC fellows are academically talented, they share
with MBRS students the same scarcity of resources and, in some cases,
low self-esteem. Many have led sheltered, provincial lives in the inner
city, having virtually no contact with scientists. They are grateful for the
chance to venture far from home to attend scientific meetings and do
summer research. Because of their high grade-point average and their
laboratory experience, they are much sought after for summer programs
at universities and other research laboratories.
Often, summer research takes them to an entirely different cultural
setting. Recall that these students are, without exception, residents of Los
Angeles and often limited, in their experience, to a very particular milieu.
So when one Hispanic female from biologist Betsy Peitz' lab at Cal State
LA was invited to join a research group at the Jackson Biological
Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine in the summer of 1990, she was at first
reluctant to go but, encouraged by Gutierrez and Peitz, accepted the
appointment. At a post-summer meeting of MARC students the following fall, she described herself as having been at first overwhelmed by the
beauty of New England, by the luxurious accommodations (from her
point of view) in a former mansion in Bar Harbor, and by the fact that the
lab mates in her working group were from prestigious Eastern colleges
like Princeton and Harvard. The bottom line for MARC director Gutierrez,
however, was that she proved herself to be as competent as they, and
completed her assigned project in genetics with distinction. Best of all,
she found out for herself how really good and how very well trained she
was. Her fellow students in the MARC program seemed to profit from
her experience too, and underlined the importance of these exchanges.
Like MBRS students, MARC students are encouraged to present their
work at professional and student gatherings arranged by NIH for its
fellows. In 1989-90, there were ninety MBRS and MARC student trips in
total, some to a combined MBRS-MARC symposium in Nashville,
Tennessee, some to the ACS national meeting in Hawaii. MBRS and
MARC students also presented talks at the SACNAS (Society for the
Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) meeting in
Costa Mesa, California.
The interaction at campus meetings of MARC and MBRS students
reflects what makes the minority student programs at Cal State LA
succeed. A male Hispanic senior who works in Phoebe Dea's analytical
biochemistry lab discusses his calorimetry study of the effects of ethanol
on phosphatidylethanolamine as it was presented at the Nashville
meeting; a chemistry student describes his thrill at having the paper he
presented at that same meeting submitted for publication. Both students
talk of the rewards of travel and of presenting papers in a public forum.
And they are not alone. Five other MARC students gave papers that same
academic year.
At such a meeting, Gutierrez assures his students again and again that
they are as capable as anyone studying anywhere. At this particular
meeting he reminds them that the deadline for applying for the next GRE
exam is coming soon; also that applications for graduate school are due.
Fratiello, and Garcia are available for consultation, but the students
must be prepared to "edit multiple drafts" before submitting a final
Not all MARC students are headed for research. Medicine is a
powerful magnet for able, ambitious students, the first of their generation
to enter college. But some will enlarge their vision to include research and
even teaching. One black female, working on an enzyme problem in Scott
Grover's lab, wanted to pursue medicine as early as high school, where
she was one of fifteen black students in a graduating class of 200. To
further her career interest, she spent 100 hours in a "career links"
program at Livermore Hospital and enrolled at CSU Hayward, where
she stayed but one year. As a transfer student at Cal State LA, she
participated in both MARC and MBRS and presented papers at meetings
1 `1
in Washington, D.C., Canada (American Physiological Society), and
New Orleans (FASEB). She is now headed for medical school, having a
firm acceptance from a prestigious Eastern school in her pocket.
Other Programs
The faculty is ever vigilant in its search for new grants for minority
programs. The RIMI program (Research Improvement in Minority Institutions) ran at Cal State LA from 1986 to 1990, funded ten students, and
has been renewed for 1991 to 1994. Support for undergraduate honors
students may be found in the project grants for faculty research made by
such organizations as Research Corporation or the ACS-PRF. A program
called Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), funded by the
NSF, provides ten students with summer stipends for research in biology
and chemistry. The program targets minority students as early as their
sophomore year.
Grant-seeking is but one constant activity undertaken by Cal State LA
faculty; another is identifying potential science students from local high
schools. The department has an extensive network of contacts in area
-ugh schools and community colleges, and it recruits students for
precollege summer research programs. Most will select more prestigious
campuses in the UC system, but Cal State LA gives them a launch pad
There are also support services for minority students. The Health
Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) funded by HHS provides assistance to students applying to health professional schools. The Minority
Science Program (MSP) identifies and assists freshman minority students
before they can be recruited into either MBRS or MARC. MSP is part of
a system-wide initiative called ACCESS, to assist students in making the
transition from high school to college. It provides tutorial assistance in
biology, mathematics, physics, and chemistry under the direction of Ray
Garcia (chemistry-biochemistry) and Margaret Jefferson (biology).
There is much to be learned from MBRS and MARC and from
"affirmative education" as it is practiced at Cal State LA. The emphasis
on undergraduate research has resulted in impressive numbers of
graduates who have continued in Ph.D. and other professional programs
I7 Among these are SEED (Summer Educational Experience for the Disadvantaged),
funded by the ACS.
at institutions of the first rank. That a significant number of those students
are minority students, not all with high GPAs at the outset, and most in
need of financial assistance to continue as full-time students, makes those
numbers even more remarkaole.
With sufficient resources, the success experienced by Cal State LA and
the Department of Chemistry-Biochemistry over the past twenty years
could be duplicated elsewhere. A university administration must cooperate, providing release time for faculty and funding for instrumentation.
But the benefits to the host institution are many: increased faculty
productivity, loyalty to their alma mater from successful minority
graduates in science, and given the discouraging statistics quoted at the
beginning of this chaptera grateful nation. The point is that so long as
there is "affirmative education" at the college level, everything need not
close down for minority seventeen-year-olds, however badly they have
been served by their precollege education in mathematics and science.
Dedicated teaching, access to research, salaries and stipends, opportunities for travel, and constant encouragement can compensate. In the long
run, it may be more efficient to engage students at an earlier stage; but at
present it is more likely that minority students will be recruited to science
by programs like MBRS and MARC at the college level.
Indeed, it is not just minority students who are thriving at Cal State LA.
During the 1988-89 academic year, the school ranked third among the
twenty campuses in the CSU system in dollars awarded in external grants
and contracts per full-time equivalent students. Still, the programs
described in this chapter are always at risk. During the 1980s, NIH
funding for both MBRS and MARC was frozen, and only in June 1991, for
the first time in a decade, were there salary and stipend increases for
participating students nationwide. Cal State LA has reason to believe that
additional funding will continue to be available from a variety of sources
to support MBRS and MARC. But no one can be sure. "Take away our
funding," says former chemistry-biochemistry chairman Don Paulson,
"and we're dead."
This chapter, more than any other, results from the work of a rapporteur.
Sylvia Horowitz conducted all but a few of the interviews, compiled and updated
information, and provided insight into, and interpretation of, the history and
current activities of chemistry-biochemistry at Cal State LA.
Teaching Teachers
LICSD Revisited
We have been looking at the role of the university in training scientists
for the next generation. What is its role in training teachers of science? The
temptation is to say that scientists are obligated first to the advancement
of science; second, to the training of their graduate students; and third,
to the education of undergraduates. The tendency has been to leave the
training of precollege science teachers to education specialists.
What this means is that as colleges and universities are currently
structured, science and "science education" are artificially disjoined.
This is not entirely the fault of the science community. Ever since the rise
of Deweyan philosophy in America, teachers, particularly teachers of
young children, have been certified in pedagogy. So a thorough background in science is often sacrificed to "science methods" courses. As a
consequence, more than half of the teachers of high school science have
not majored in the subject they teach. Of the nation's one million
elementary school teachers, only one in three has had a college chemistry
course and only one in five a course in college physics.' Can anything be
done about this? Should anything be done about this? Is there a role in
teacher education, particularly elementary teacher education, for the
great research universities?
Paul Saltman, former vice-chancellor of the University of California,
San Diego (UCSD), research biochemist and popular teacher of the
biology of nutrition course, thinks that there is. A science education
activist, he is appalled, as he puts it, that the research universities have
not only "abandoned the teaching of their own undergraduates, but
public education (K-12) as well."2 Saltman first turned his attention to
teacher training in response to a mid-1980s demand to retrain teachers in
' 1985-1986 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education conducted for NSF by
the Research Triangle Institute, quoted in "Precollege Science and Mathematics Education," pp. 20 and 26.
2 Quotations from personal interviews with Paul Saltman.
science and mathematics. Owing to a shift in demographics, San Diego
County found itself with too few science and math teachers and too many
(with tenure) in other areas. The challenge was to retrain some fifty
"cross-over" teachers (grades seven to twelve) through intensive twosummer programs in science. The challenge for Saltman: What to teach
them? How to teach them? Who to teach them?
UCSD does not offer degrees in education and has no school or
department of education.' So Saltman had to create a science education
team made up of research scientists and local master teachers of school
science. Conspicuously absent were professors of education. He drew on
UCSD faculty scientists to teach the science content and a husband-andwife science-teaching team, Bob and Melanie Dean, from the public
schools to run the afternoon laboratories. Mary Walshok, the energetic
dean of extension at UCSD, offered the flexible administrative shelter of
the continuing education department. The Deans provided direct access
to the teachers and their schools. Together with Saltman, the team
constituted a diverse group of people with different affiliations and skills.
Phase One: Retraining Cross-Over Teachers
From the beginning, Saltman laid down his "conditions:" first, the
project had to involve the top faculty of his institution, "world-class
scientists" who, as Saltman puts it, specialize in "knowing and loving
their subject." Second, the teacher education model to be developed had
to be exportable; other institutions should be able to duplicate it. Third,
the project had to involve (at all stages) local educators, teachers, and
By 1984 he had a program working. In its first design, fifty teachers
enrolled in two six-week summer programs that included chemistry,
physics, biology, earth sciences, and astronomy. Five or six of the best
faculty in these fields from UCSD gave morning lecture-demonstrations;
afternoons were spent in a laboratory-like atmosphere learning to translate new knowledge into the curriculum the teachers would employ. For
the afternoon sessions Bob and Melanie Dean recruited experienced
science teachers from local schools as instructor-facilitators. Not just a
' Teacher Education Program (TEP) is the only "education" unit on campus, with a
mandate to develop, in cooperation with the San Diego County School District,
postbaccalaureate programs in certification of middle and senior high school teachers,
particularly, but not exclusively, in science and mathematics. Graduates of UCSD with
,standard majors in science and mathematics are invited to take three summers and two
afternoon," per week of coursework in "education," all the while working part-time as
apprentice teachers in the district.
summer experience to be forgotten, the program had teachers come back
one Saturday per month during the school year for lectures on "contemporary issues in science" and for field trips.
With substantive lectures in science in the mornings and curricular
applications in the afternoon, Saltman's model essentially eliminated
traditional teacher training in science, namely "science methods." To the
extent that pedagogy showed up at all, it did so as an application of the
science learned. Since there were no professional pedagogues on the
team, the informal treatment of pedagogy was not a problem. The
working assumption was that once informed about science and provided
with materials, the cross-over teachers could figure out how to teach
science on their own.
The cross-over program continued for two years. In Saltman's view,
the program was good but not great.
The teachers, even those under duress, got something out of it.
They improved their science literacy. They felt better about
science. They knew how to look things up in a textbook. They
had a whole set of experiments to take back to their schools.
And they felt more comfortable going into a science classroom
than they would have . . . Above all, they felt comfortable
with the [university] science faculty, perhaps for the first time.
The problem, as Saltman sees it, was that there was no way for the
program to reach more than the fifty teachers enrolled; there was no
"amplifier," as he puts it. Further, they were rushed through so much in
so little time, they could not "embrace science with a passion;" they
accepted it. They absorbed it as if their lessons were intellectual nutrients,
but not (Paul Saltman is a nutritional biochemist) as if they constituted a
By the time the cross-over program was completed, Paul Saltman had
spent two years on the advisory panel to NSF's Science and Engineering
Education (now Education and Human Resources) Directorate. He came
to believe, as does NSF, that the "science education crisis" did not
originate in junior and senior high school, but in elementary school.
Could the cross-over program be modified to improve the science
competence of elementary school teachers?
Phase Two: Educating Elementary Teachers
Phase two was designed to retrain elementary teachers. This time
Saltman "spaced out the learning curve," making the program more
intense and longer (three summers) in duration. Using the format tested
on the cross-over teachers, mornings featured UCSD faculty presenting
substantive material, and afternoons were spent pr..viding practical
experience to illustrate general concepts. The afternoon sessions featured
experiments teachers could perform in the classroom.
One hundred elementary school teachers were selected to spend three
summers and many school-year Saturdays in a program which Saltman
hoped would proceed from familiar biology (the first summer) through
earth sciences, the cosmos, oceanography, and meteorology (the second
summer) and finally, in the third summer, to the subjects he believed
elementary teachers feared most, chemistry and physics.
He was correct in his perceptions of teachers' attitudes toward physics
and chemistry. One teacher told our interviewer that if physics and
chemistry had come first, "many of us would have dropped out of the
program right away!"
When you listen to Paul Saltman talk about the program, you realize
that, in addition to science content, he intended that an imaginative
attitude and approach to science be conveyed in those morning lectures.
To accomplish this, he encouraged his university faculty to construct
their own syllabus, and to present topics creatively and in whatever order
they chose. Given the vertical structure of science, the fact that topics are
logically nested inside one another, this was a most unusual organization. Scientists believe-and their textbooks and courses reflect it-that
there is an internal structure to each discipline and that teaching an array
of different topics does not reflect the methods of science. Saltman was
willing to have his instructors depart from traditional scope and sequence, urging them only to "tell them why you love your subject and
what you know about it."
Teacher candidates were offered stipends of $2,400 for the full threeyear program, books, materials, and equipment, as well as units towards
the master's degree and science teachers' certification. With all these
benefits and the possibility of achieving some kind of "comfort zone" in
science, it was expected that hundreds of teachers from San Diego
County's numerous school districts would respond to a mailing sent to
6,000. In fact, the elaborate selection procedure which had been set up to
achieve a balance of teachers never had to be put to use. For 100 budgeted
openings, only 102 teachers applied, so the program took all of them.'
Saltman built an "amplifier" into the program. Even 100 retrained
elementary teachers wouldn't make a dent in one local district, so each
teacher had to agree (a la Mao Tse-tung) to teach ten colleagues in her or
his home school. And each local principal would authorize the time as
' After three years, seventy-five of the original 102 were still with the program, and all but
a few of those who dropped out had either moved away or left teaching altogether. Their
places were filled as the program progressed.
part of a contract with Saltman's program. Again, professional science
educators were not involved. The afternoon sessions were led by what
Saltman calls "on-line" science teachers.
With $940,000 from NSF for the three-year program and $50,000 raised
from private sources, the UCSD Science Institute for Elementary Teach-
ers began. Based on Saltman's view that the problem in elementary
science resides not in the curriculum, but in "the scarcity of knowledge-
able and understanding teachers," the program's goal was not just to
increase the teachers' knowledge of science, but to empower each with
"a love of science." His view of their needs was confirmed by many of the
teachers themselves. One, Terry Early, admitted that prior to the program her greatest fear had been that her students would ask questions she
could not answer. Like most elementary school teachers (only 8 percent
of the participating teachers-4 percent nationallyhad ever taken a
college physical science course), her science background was limited.'
I relied on classroom textbooks and prepared workbooks for
many of my lessons. Science was my least favorite subject.
The UCSD program has changed all that. More than anything, I have gained self-confidence. I see now that I was
simply memorizing facts with no real understanding of
scientific principles.
Another teacher, George Olguin, said he used to think his obligation
was to make sure "the kids got a lot of facts," but was uncomfortable with
that approach. After participating in the institute, he now finds ways to
have them "experience science."
The program directors believe that Olguin's conversion is typical.
Teachers who used to teach science twenty minutes a week now claim to
be spending forty minutes a day on it. "Teachers are excited. Their
students are excited. The institute has given them the knowledge, tools,
and confidence to teach the subject," says Saltman. Now the questions
are: Will the excitement last? Will the teachers maintain their new level
of competency by adding to their knowledge on their own? And can the
program, indeed, be exported?
Teaching Elementary Teachers (Not So) Elementary Science
Some of the institute faculty had never taught an undergraduate
course before, much less a course for elementary teachers. They were
selected from the greater UCSD science community because Saltman
'The following quotes are taken from an article about the program by Sharon Taylor which
appeared in UCSD Perspectives.
thought they could, as research scientists, convey to the teachers the
"experience" of science, as well as the principles of their discipline.
Among others the institute's faculty included Walter Munk from the
Scripps Institute of Oceanography; geologist Joseph Curray; meteorologist Richard Somerville; astronomer Harding Smith; physics professor
Sheldon Schultz; and biochemistry professor Russell Doolittle. Doolittle's
two-week offering in chemistry was the last minicourse in the series, and
was monitored for this study.
Teaching Chemistry 6
Russ Doolittle's goal for his two-week introductory chemistry course
was to give the teachers a feel for what chemists do. He didn't fret much
about the topics he was going to cover, for Saltman gave him free rein.
The purpose, in any case, was not so much to 'deposit" information as
to demonstrate that "even the most baffling and mysterious [things in
science] can be known." Although there were assignments in two texts;
Doolittle relied on them mainly for charts and tables, providing the
continuing narrative himself.
Doolittle began with the periodic table, simple reaction equations, the
historical derivation of atomic weights, and exercises involving combining ratios. In succeeding classes he explained the basic concepts of
electricity and the nature of compounds and solution chemistry. He went
into detail about a few important experiments which revealed the nature
of the atom (Thomson's and Millikan's), a little about the light spectrum,
X rays, and radioactivity. He ended his minicourse with what he called
the "modern understanding of atomic structure." In eleven two-hour
lectures (August 2-16, 1990), Doolittle exposed the class to increasingly
complex descriptions of atomic structure to give them an understanding
of how and why elements combine to form compounds.
Each two-hour lecture featured a large amount of sophisticated
material, but what made it accessible to the teachers was Doolittle's
conceptual narrative and the downplaying of the problem solving found
in traditional courses. He started with the simplest ideas and then moved
6 This section is based largely on journals kept by two participant-observers, Debbie
Ashcraft and Therese Flaningam, and on a set of observations by P.A. Moore, one of the
program's administrators. Jacqueline Raphael, an assistant to this project, listened to the
twenty-two hours of taped lectures to get a record of the content of Doolittle's minicourse
in chemistry and for illustrations of his teaching.
'Theodore L. Brown, et al., Chemistry, The Central Science, 4th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice Hall, 1988), prologue, chaps. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 20; and Paul G. Hewitt, Conceptual
Physics, 6th ed. (Boston: Little Brown, 1988), chaps. 10, 14, and 16.
on, developing students' knowledge base until they could grasp more
complex concepts."
Doolittle's Approach
Doolittle's approach to the teaching of chemistry, he told his teachers,
would be dualistic. "We're going to dance back and forth," he said,
"between the history of the unraveling and solving of chemical problems
and the modern scientist's understanding of the discipline." Indeed, he
attempted to reconstruct the logic of discovery, for this body of knowledge
called chemistry has taken a long time to assemble. "There was tremen-
dous confusion among chemists most of the time." What made some
better scientists than others was not "genius or great math skills, but
curiosity, persistence, and fanaticisma desperate need to know the
answer to a question," Doolittle said.
In "unveiling" new concepts he traced the inductive reasoning of
scientists like Dalton, Avogadro, and Rutherford, asking teachers how
they would have approached a particular mystery. "How did the first
chemists determine the exact composition of oxygen and hydrogen in
simple compounds, such as water?" he asked one day, and proceeded to
tell them. Or, "Why do some elements want to donate or share electrons,
while others don't want to play the game at all?"
One technique Doolittle employed was to start each day's class with
a review of what had been covered the day before. Another was his
explanation of the importance of new material. "Much of chemistry has
been taught phenomenologically," he would say, "as if simply stating
that the addition of X to Y produces Z would explain what is most
important, namely why."
Many new terms came into play in solution chemistryions, cations,
anionsand Doolittle suggested mnemonic aids and provided as many
general rules as possible to help the teachers remember chemical principles. The basic building blocks of mattercharged particlesand the
"magic" of the periodic table, arranged according to properties of
elements, were revisited to help explain new material. Perhaps the
teachers would find occasion to explain to their students (even elementary pupils) how much of a resource the periodic table is.
Problem solving was downplayed but not ignored. "There is no way,"
" Doolittle's "syllabus," distributed on the first day to the teachers, listed the following
lecture topics: (1) "What is Chemistry?;" (2) "The Periodic Table;" (3) "Atomic Structure;"
(4) "All About Light;" (5) "Chemical Bonds;" (6) "Counting in Chemistry;" (7) "The Gas
Laws Again;" (8) "All About Water;" (9) "Why Do Things Happen?;" (10) "Faraday's
Laws;" and (11) "Oxidation-Reduction."
Doolittle told the teachers "that I can teach you enough about composition of compounds without going over combining ratios and balancing
chemical equations." He spent a good deal of time explaining the ideas
behind Avogadro's number, for example, because it describes "how
everything got counted." He wanted his teachers to write down
Avogadro's number, understand it, "believe it, even." He would talk
them through problems such as one involving the atomic weight of an
unknown element. "Imagine that ten grams of an oxide, X0, is heated and
the oxygen released into the atmosphere. Six grams of X remain. What is
element X?"
Urging teachers to think about their problems qualitatively before
setting out to solve them, and to use intuition as well as formulas,
Doolittle pointed out that students particularly adept at mathematics
often skip thinking steps and go straight for an answer. He wanted
teachers to aim for a deeper understanding of the concepts in chemistry
and to persist.
"Active learning" involves both highs and lows, he told them. "Sometimes you'll say, 'I get it'. Other times, 'I'm completely baffled.' Both are
part of the process."
Pedagogy by Indirection
None of Saltman's "world-class scientists" were supposed to teach
"science methods," but their pedagogy could not go unnoticed by
teachers who were schooled in the subject of teaching. One observer, P.A.
Moore, who holds a doctorate in education and who studied the impact
of the Saltman program, described Doolittle's teaching ,,tyle:
On the first day, he asked participants to think about the
nature of the chemical world from the point of view of an
early Creek or Roman. I low much did they know? Flow did
they know it? And from this point on, he took his students on
a tour of chemistry, building from early insights and moving
to the complexities of atomic energy.
Many of the participants volunteered to P.A. Moore that Russ Doolittle
"modeled good te:;Lbing behavior."
He engagai the participants by asking questions. Recognizing that proximity is a means of encouragement, he would
move up and down the aisles to engage as many of them as
possible. He often paused in reflection and invited the participants to do likewise. When moving from layperson's language to chemical symbolism, he would announce, "We're
going into the symbolic mode now," and he would then go to
the chalkboard and write down the chemical notations.
On occasion, he would pose a question, invite everyone to write an
answer, and then walk up and down the aisles checking responses, giving
praise for right responses (or letting those teachers go to coffee break
before the others), and suggesting improvements for wrong ones.
Moore thinks it was Doolittle's "positive attitude" and his
"nonthreatening manner" that stimulated class discussion. Teachers
asked questions freely and, Moore noticed, actively took notes. The
modest increase in their scores on a pretest/posttest administered
respectively in May and August 1990 affirmed this.9 The teachers told
Moore they particularly enjoyed their "hands-on" experience in the labs
where they did experiments, applying concepts they had learned that
morning. Saltman was determined to send them home with a "four-foot
shelf" of lab materials, so that inadequate laboratory supplies would not
be a problem for them when they tried to do these experiments for their
pupils. In addition, he established a lending library of science supplies,
materials, and resources for participants.
Participani.s' Observations
The daily journals kept by the two participant-observers affirm how
Doolittle's teaching became a model for their own. One participant noted
in her journal, "Saying something again and in a different way can make
a great deal of difference. I need to remember this as I teach my own
students." Equally important was that they began to "feel good" about
chemistry. What they enjoyed was the privilege (their term) of being on
a campus with the reputation of LiCSD; of being "exposed" to professors
of the quality of Doolittle and the others, and of "having the latest
information in each field of science from plate tectonics to the Hubble
space telescope." "I heard it from the horse's mouth," Therese Flaningam
wrote in her final essay for this project, "and I understood it."
Therese Flaningam wanted "to know the history of basic chemistry,"
and to learn "to speak the language." She found Doolittle a "truly gifted
teacher" who made it easier to learn the many new terms she confronted
by explaining the derivations of the Latin names of the elements. After the
first week, Flaningam wrote in her journal:
I was not only learning chemistry, I was learning the methods
and teaching techniques that work with students. I felt confi-
Approxiniately 68 percent of the teachers showed an increase on the posttest scores; 12
percent maintained the same scorc; and 20 percent showed a decrease. The mean increase
was three percentage points.
dent and I was beginning to enjoy chemistry. Even though I
didn't know all the answers, I realized that things would
become clearer later on; that much of science is trial and
error-just what I was doing.
Later she added,
Scientists in the nineteenth century puzzled over how the
elements combine to form different compounds. Dr. Doolittle
had us puzzle over it as well. What doe:: the periodic table
mean? Thinking and predicting seem to be the keys to science.
Flaningam gathered many other insights from playing student ("A
very humbling experience. . . being on the other side of the desk will help
me when I return to the classroom") that she would consider using as a
teacher. She was impressed with Doolittle's use of the discovery method,
for example, though she acknowledged in her notes that it takes time to
have students think through the logic. She felt she could "hang onto" a
concept longer knowing how it was derived, but recognized that in
applying discovery to her own class, she could lose students whose "light
bulbs" don't all go on at the same time.
Flaningam and her fellow teachers were impressed with Doolittle's
metaphors. He used the analogy of a hotel (atom) with floors (orbitals),
rooms (sublevels), and roomers (electrons) to illustrate the quantum
mechanical model of the atom. In explaining the reactivity of sodium, he
invited the class to consider the one lone roomer in a sodium atom on the
third floor. Flaningam thought the notion that inert gases have "no
vacancy" was clever. She was amazed that she "finally got a glimpse of
the meaning of the periodic table" which (for her) was like solving the
mystery of the Rosetta stone.
Debbie Ashcraft, voted "Teacher of the Year" in her San Diego school,
began teaching at age thirty. A Spanish major who later received a
master's degree in education, she had been teaching for twelve years
when she enrolled in the UCSD institute. Though she remembered
having a "keen interest in science, especially laboratory science, in junior
high school," she did "terribly" in a chemistry course in those years
Thereafter she became, by her own admission, a science avoider. Even
after returning to school in her late twenties, a mature and much more
serious student, she continued to avoid science, so much so that in her
words, "My science program [at the school where she taught] was a
I truly dreaded teaching science and hated the preparation."
So why did she enroll in the UCSD program? The money, the thirty
"free" credits toward advancement, and her problems with teaching
Ashcraft was at first skeptical of Doolittle's teaching stylethe textbook assignments and the lectures were not always in step. But in time
Doolittle became for her the "person she could learn chemistry from,"
perhaps the only one. She was confused when Doolittle explained
something differently than the book; or when lectures and reading
assignments didn't match. She needed to talk through her problems and
was uncomfortable struggling alone. Once, after getting much-needed
help from a classmate (on combining ratios), she wished there had been
more peer discussion in class. But the time to spend on chemistry at
hometime she knew she really neededwas simply not available to her.
She claimed to have more confidence in chemistry as a result of Doolittle's
teaching, but she wasn't sure she could continue to learn it on her own.
Ashcraft needed variety in "delivery systems." She appreciated being
led through visual descriptions of experiments, bonding angles, and
chemical relationships. Like many of her own pupils, she noted that she
is the kind of learner who gains most from activity. Labs helped her
understand in greater depth the concepts covered in morning lectures
and gave her a "true life" feeling about science. "We got to do all the
things that I was cheated out of as a child and I felt all the wonderment
and excitement of discovery that I should have experienced years ago."
She also appreciated the fact that Doolittle wrote out formulas on the
chalkboard in words, and was happiest when Doolittle's logic corresponded with her own. Just before a fire alarm sent the teachers out onto
the lawn one morning, Doolittle was telling them about Rutherford's
discovery of the atomic nucleus. This is how the drama unfolded for
Debbie Ashcraft:
He gave us the historical background of X rays and radioactivity, which I found very interesting. I learned the reason for
naming alpha, beta, and gamma particles. He piqued our
curiosity by promising to tell us why Rutherford was surprised by his experiments.
The fire alarm was not enough to kill a lively discussion which
continued on the lawn. The surprise for Rutherford had been that most
of the atomic mass was concentrated in a very small central core of the
atom which he then named the nucleus.
So the nucleus of the atom was far away from the electrons.
. could see where [Doolittle) was heading. . . Having
additional electrons in the nucleus wouldn't work.
She was thinking on her own and trying to anticipate explanations.
And that, for Debbie, was significant. To celebrate, she ends her journal
entry for that day with the words, "Great stuff!" Debbie was getting more
problems right and becoming more articulate in her comments about
Still, when the instructor was forced to "step up the pace," Debbie
Ashcraft got lost. This made her appreciate how carefully he was pacing
his lectures generally. She also noticed his ability to "read our faces"
during the presentation of particularly confusing matter and marveled
at his willingness to employ the "class-involving techniques" she uses
with her elementary children. Doolittle was the first college professor
Ashcraft had ever had who appeared to be aware of teaching techniques.
"What works for kids also works for adults," she noticed with some
surprise. The reverse what works for adults might work for kids was
the whole point of the program.
Pedagogy at its Most Experiential
Although institute instructors each selected and organized the topics
they taught, there were common elements in the way they responded to
the needs of science-deficient teachers. Even though Saltman did not
dictate pedagogy or curriculum, the instructors tried to make teachers
feel comfortable with their respective disciplines and the individual
language used in each. Specific topics were consciously supplemented
with at least some glimpses of the "big picture." This, in turn, says
Kathleen Grove, a non-participant observer who interviewed some of the
teachers during Doolittle's class, made the teachers feel more competent
in science.
One participating teacher told Grove the program had made her
"science literate," by which she meant she came away with a sense of
"where science is going." Although she realized "how much there is to
know," she no longer felt helpless or obliged to know it all. Saltman's
desire that his instructors communicate their passion for science also
contributed to the overwhelmingly positive feeling experienced by many
of the participants. It may have been humbling for some, but in the end
teachers became excited about science, something many of them had
never experienced before.
There is presently much debate about how to remedy elementary
teachers' science deficiencies. One approach is characterized by a "I( s is
more" philosophy: "Teach a few basic principles, in depth and well, and
elementary teachers will learn how to educate themselves in science,"
says one school of thought. Another recommends an overview: "Give
teachers a sense of where they're heading (and where they need to go to
get help)." Neither philosophy was formally adopted by the institute's
instructors. Saltman and his colleagues are not experts in "teaching
methods," nor much interested in that literature. Rather, they appear to
have opted intuitively for the ultimate hands-on approach: don't tell
teachers how to teach. Turn them into students and let them figure it out
for themselves.
Indeed, participants in the institute program wanted to be treated like
intelligent students and their frustrations, as well as their successes,
reflect that fact. Stepping into the learner's shoes may have been the most
useful aspect of the program. Teachers became increasingly self-conscious in their shifting roles. They were alternately students in a "difficult
course," with new material coming at them every class hour, including
homework assignments and tests, and they were also teachers, observing
a master teacher cope with their deficiencies and resistance as they would
eventually have to cope with their students'. Debbie Ashcraft reported
in her journal with surprise that some of her fellow teachers were not
doing their homework or attending lab sessions as conscientiously as she
was. One wonders whether, as they experienced their own recalcitrance,
these teachers did not think about ways of overcoming comparable
resistance in their students. This is pedagogy at its most experiential. As
Therese Flaningam reflects, "Chemistry is hard, but the difficulty is
learning how to learn the subject, rather than the subject itself."
"Cloning" the Project
As early as 1989 the decision was made to try to clone the UCSD
summer institute and to involve other California research universities in
improving science teaching. Saltman was awarded $90,000 from NSF to
support the development of "daughter projects." The first step was to
invite research scientists from prospective schools to observe the UCSD
summer institute. They came away impressed. David Deamer, professor
of zoology at UC-Davis said of his visit, "As soon as you walked in the
room, you saw something real happening to these people."
In 1990 six research universities submitted proposals to NSF for
funding at the same level as Saltman's original program, $1 million per
100 teachers per institution over three years.rn In each instance, the
players included a research university (e.g., UC-Davis), a school distnct
'" Locations and clients of proposed clone projects were: University of California-Davis
(for teachers from the Sacramento School District); University of San Francisco (for
teachers from the San Francisco School District); Stanford University (for teachers from
the Palo Alto and San Jose School Districts); University of Southern California (for
teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District); University of Hawaii (for teachers
from the entire island system); and University of California at Berkeley (for teachers from
the Berkeley and part of the Oakland School Districts).
(e.g., Sacramento), and an accrediting department. If a university department of education was unwilling, another department, such as continu-
ing medical education (as at the University of Hawaii), would do.
Saltman's "conditions" were adopted by the six applicants: "world class"
faculty for the morning lectures and local science teaching specialists for
afternoon laboratory. The education professoriate was not asked to
In Paul Saltman's vision, there were to be six great universities
prepared to metamorphose elementary science education in a new
framework. Two years later, NSF had funded projects at the University
of Hawaii and at the University of San Francisco, and the Davis program
was to be funded as well. Two of the six, Stanford and USC, were
anticipating private funding.
How far can the Saltman model go? Already there are changes in the
structure of the school year in certain parts of California which militate
against summer training for teachers. In order to avoid building more
schools, San Diego County, for example, has gone to year-round plant
utilization which means that one-fourth of all elementary teachers are
teaching in the summer. Enrichment programs of the kind offered by the
UCSD summer institute, Saltman says, will henceforth have to be
scheduled in the "interstices of teachers' time." In the interim, the
leadership (even the name) of NSF's Science and Engineering Education
Directorate has changed. New leadership brings with it new priorities
and different models. Yet, without millions of dollars of continuing
outside funding, institute clonesand the UCSD summer institute itself
are in jeopardy.
Not that the beneficial effects of Saltman's project are in doubt. In the
past eighteen months, summer institute teachers have become valuable
resource teachers in their schools, and there is evidence that they and
their colleagues are spending more time teaching science than they ever
did before. The California State Department of Education wants to use
the Saltman model to promote the state's "new curriculum framework"
in science and mathematics education. The fact that several states are
now requiring all preservice teachers, elementary as well as secondary,
to major in some discipline other than "education"suggests that the idea
of teaching science to elementary teachers instead of merely science
methods is an idea whose time has come.
In a period of declining state revenues and growing competition for
national funding, however, who will foot the bill even for programs that
are successful? And how long will Paul Saltman and his friends be
available to the summer institute? Program initiators experience burnout. Research scientists may not be willing to continue the experiment
year after year. The time may have come for the idea of teaching
elementary teachers real science, but until and unless the program
becomes part of the mainstream, it remains just that: an idea.
There are one million elementary school teachers in the United States,
80 percent or more of whom are inadequately trained in science. The
profession experiences a 15 percent turnover rate, which means every six
or seven years there will be another cohort of one million to retrain. At
100 teachers per $1 million program, the nation would have to fund
10,000 programs (and every six or seven years, 10,000 more). Thus, the
projected cost of doing cm a national scale what Paul Saltman did locally
in San Diego is, at least, $10 billion, or twenty-five times the recently
increased annual NSF budget for education and human resources. No
one doubts that it is worthwhile to bring the nation's elementary school
teachers to the point where they can adequately convey both the facts and
the drama of science. But given the nation's other pressing priorities, how
much is it worth? And at the expense of what else?
Saltman will say these figures do not take into account the "amplifier
effect" of his program. If phase two of the institute accomplishes its aims,
during the next three years 3,000 to 4,000 elementary teachers in San
Diego County will have "directly or indirectly benefited from the
program," as Saltman sees it. That is because the 102 teachers were given
not just content knowledge and teaching strategies, but leadership
training as well. The intention was to send them back to their home
districts equipped to become teacher-trainers in turn. To make this
possible, Saltman and the Deans arrange two-week institutes, and
provide ongoing follow-up. And in fact, in the two years since the
summer program came to an end, some (though not all) of the 102 have
proved themselves capable of teaching elementary science to their
colleagues; others are involved in science lesson-planning in their districts; still others are "peer-coaching" in their home schools. In a video
report of phase two, most say they have gained skills, confidence, and
credibility from their participation in the UCSD program. Best of all, they
have made friends with their professors. Russ Doolittle and several other
UCSD faculty have visited their schools and made themselves otherwise
available to the teachers whose science anxiety they worked hard to
" Taken from a talk Paul Saltman gave about the project at the Research Corporation's
Science Partnerships Conference, Jan. 1991, published in Highlights from Science Partnerships in Action, Research Corporation, 1991, p.12.
What Paul Saltman and his colleagues set out to demonstrate at UCSD
has been demonstrated. Some 102 "scared to death" elementary teachers
can be reeducated in science and affect positively the attitudes of the
children they teach. But how will programs like Saltman's become
mainstreamed? And who will fight for revision of certification requirements in fifty states that allow those not educated in science to teach it?
Who will battle the teachers' unions on the issue of differential pay for
science specialists, without which the assignment of elementary teachers
to the subjects they teach best is not realistic? In his summer institute
Saltman was able to end run professional educators by giving his teachers
continuing education credits and pay. How will it be possible to apply
that model in preservice training? And, in the long run, mustn't we
improve teachers' preservice education and raise certification standards
so that remediation is not nearly so necessary?
In 1985, the National Science Board published a report that called upon
institutions of higher education to shoulder more of the responsibility for
precollege science and mathematics education.' The report urged colleges and universities to raise their admissions standards, increase the
rigor of the curriculum that future teachers study, and put greater
emphasis on disciplinary subjects. It called for fewer but more rigorous
teacher education methods courses and for colleges and universities to
recruit talented students into the teaching profession.
No one disputes these recommendations. The challenge is how to
implement them!
"Educating Americans for the 21st Century," prepared by the Commission on Precollege
Education in Mathematics, Science and Te( hnology, established by the National Science
Board, 1985.
The Implementation Challenge
The primary barrier to reform is not
money, but willwhich must be driven
by a compelling vision of what works.
Daniel F. Sullivan, Project Kaleidoscope'
What can we learn from programs that succeed, and from programs
that don't work as well as was intended? There will be some disagree-
ment as to the meaning of the case studies reported here but some
tentative conclusions can be drawn: first, change is not implemented by
experts, but originates in local commitment and reallocation of resources
at the midlevel of managementin the case of colleges and universities,
the department. In fact the department is the unit of change. Second,
money finds its way directly into instruction. One good use of it appears
to be the support of faculty research which, in turn, supports and engages
undergraduates; another is for improved laboratory equipment and
instrumentation. Yet a third worthy expenditure is for what Luther
Williams, NSF's assistant director for education and human resources,
calls "post-performance rewards" for instructional units that do continuously improve. But most important, the case studies suggest that what we
need to do above all else is collect information on how successful faculty
support and manage improvement.
A hallmark of effective programs is that the process of reform is allengaging. Ideas are solicited from faculty and implemented locally by the
department. Where programs don't work, a creative loner is frequently
found to be proceeding without internal support and commitment.
Lasting change is occurring when everyone wants it, when there is a
nearly universal buy-in. Despite the idiosyncracies of particular programs, when successful faculty speak about what they are accomplishing
' What Works: Building Natural Science Communities, Vol. II, Project Kaleidoscope, Decem-
ber 1991.
in the teaching and training of undergraduates, they speak with one
voice. There is passion.
Why are they passionate? In many cases, the faculty themselves are
first-generation scholars, brought to the professoriate by the GI Bill,
National Defense Education Act fellowships, and Sputnik. They are
grateful to their country for these opportunities, and they feel that their
students, especially their minority students, are not very different from
themselves. In other institutions, where such identification does not arise
naturally, it is deliberately cultivated. In either case, the faculty seeks,
creatively and at every juncture, to meet students' needs. Grading is
personal and not mechanistic (occasional large classes notwithstanding);
and competition between students tends to be de-emphasized. Where
classes are small there is more intimacy between professor and class; less
intimidation, less passivity in the classroom, a better sense of community.
The places where programs work are very often four-year state and
private institutions which have no graduate students to draw on, and so
are hungry for undergraduates to participate in faculty research. Research-oriented faculty are motivated to identify students as early as
possible who can assist them in their laboratory. This means they pay a
lot of attention to the first-year class. Faculty are competing with each
other for undergraduates, and the undergraduates win. Where there is
long-term outside funding for research, a program can be developed and
sustained. At Cal State LA, as we have seen, there is an eighteen-year NIH
funding record for faculty research involving undergraduates. There is
no inevitable cut off of funds, and the money is being well spent. But at
many institutions with successful programs, funding is entirely internal.
In places where programs work, department members are not waiting
around for the traditional reward system to change, although there are
some interesting moves afoot to redefine scholarship to give teaching
more weight.' Deans and department chairs have discovered the power
of the "little 'r'" the small reward for work well done, the enabling
reward so that things can be done a little better each time. The model, one
faculty member tells me, is "Skinnerian. Find out what works and reward
it." The process, says another, may require new kinds of money, money
that enables: a line of credit, for example, assigned to a large course so that
the professor can buy what he or she needs to make the teaching better;
another resew ch assistant to enable the professor to spend more time on
teaching; additional grading staff (from the community if necessary) so
Ernest L. Boyer, The Condition of the Professoriate: Attitudes and Trends (Lawrenceville,
N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989) See also Karl S. Pister, "Report to the Universitywide Task Force on Faculty Rewards," Office of the President, University of California,
Oakland, Calif., 1991.
that professors can ask the kinds of questions they'd like to ask but don't
have time to grade; or money for extra lab spaces or travel.
Taken together, one can draw a tentative conclusion from all these
examples. The model for science education reform is not an experimental
model, not even a research model, but a process model that focuses
attention continuously on every aspect of the teaching-learning enterprise, locally and in depth. To make cumulative improvement, there have
to be feedback mechanisms in place so that one knows almost immedi-
atelynot just at the end of a coursethat something is going wrong, that
some of the students are losing confidence, that instruction is failing
them. Once a problem is identified, a solution is sought, locally and fast.
The Japanese call this process (as applied to industrial quality control) Kai
Zen, meaning, literally, "change in the direction of the good." In programs that work, faculty members pay continuous attention to "what we
teach, who we teach, and how we teach."'
When, during my several exchanges with Fort Lewis' chemistry
department, I questioned the chairman about the process by which
change was introduced and quality maintained, Jim Mills described his
as a "strategic" department, not inclined to embark on major experimental teaching projects. Instead, he said, the faculty tries hard to judge
which changes will work, given local conditions. "This means we must
know who we are and who our students are." Their goal, you will recall
(see page 49), is "to do a better job with our students each year," and there
is general faculty opinion that they do.
SUNY Potsdam
Twenty years ago, just such a mix of tangibles and intangibles began
to bear fruit in undergraduate mathematics at Potsdam College of the
State University of New York (SUNY). Under the leadership of mathema-
tician Clarence Stephens who had previously taught at Morgan State
University, a historically black institution in the Maryland state system,
a dual-degree program was established in which a student could obtain
both B.A. and M.A. degrees in four years without summer school. But
Stephens' agenda was more ambitious. He wanted to demonstrate to
liberal arts students that anyone could succeed in mathematics. His
strategy focused on excessive faculty concern about coverage of subject
matter and academic standards; and inadequate institutional support for
undergraduate teaching.'
'James Duderstadt, "Keynote Address," The Freshman Year in Science and Engineering, The
Alliance for Uhdergraduate Education, University of Michigan conference, 1990, p. 6.
4 Taken from Gloria F. Gilmer and Scott W. Williams, "An Interview with Clarence
Stephens found a faculty receptive to his ideas and under his steady
stewardship they set about changing each of these conditions. The
results, over more than two decades, have been spectacular. Of the 700
or so students who annually graduate, more than 10 percent graduate
with a mathematics major, and more than half of these are women.
During a run of five years in the 1980s (1984-1988), the percentage of math
majors per graduating class ranged from 17 to 25, compared to a national
average of between 1 and 2 percent. Only UCLA and the University of
Illinois at Urbana produce more mathematics majors than Potsdam. On
the basis of percentage of the graduating class who are math majors,
however, Potsdam has consistently been unsurpassed. Even after stabilizing at 10 percent per class, SUNY Potsdam is sufficiently noteworthy
to have been recognized for its outstanding program by the Mathematical
Association of America.' There is no end in sight. The faculty remains
completely committed under the leadership of Vasily Cateforis, who
succeeded Stephens as chairman in 1987. That students are warmly
welcomed and succeed at mathematics at SUNY Potsdam is so well
known in high schools throughout the state that almost half of all the
freshman classes elect calculus.
What is the secret of success at SUNY Potsdam? Not any particular
curriculum or pedagogy, nor any add-on activities. Cheri Boyd, a
graduate of the program who recently earned a Ph.D. in mathematics
from the University of Rochester, remembers that ". . most of the good
stuff happened in the classroom."6 Like Jim Mills of Fort Lewis, Stephens,
Cateforis, and their colleagues firmly believe that "effective teaching is
not independent of time and place," but must fit the local environment.
At SUNY Potsdam instructors are free to choose their teaching methods;
but along with that freedom comes faculty responsibility for results
achieved.' As Stephens told an interviewer in 1989,
While we recognize the importance of [curriculum and technology] in the improvement of mathematics education, [here]
we focused on . . . changing the (view] of students, faculty,
and academic administrators that mathematics is a subject
which is impossible for most students to learn .. .. Once the
faculty discovered that (they could teach' students how to
reason about mathematical ideas, then the faculty became
(more] interested in teaching [those skills] than in covering a
lot of content . .
Stephens," UME Trends, AMS, MA A, SIAM, Vol. 2, No. 1, March 1990.
Recommendation fora General Mathematical Sciences Program, Mathematical Association of
America, 1981.
Personal communication to the author.
Gilmer and Williams, "An Interview with 'Clarence Stephens."
Sacrifice of coverage turns out not to be a major problem. Observers
note that by the time SUNY Potsdam students are seniors, many can read
and learn on their own from mathematics texts and professional articles.
The secret of the program's success is simply the department's commit-
ment to providing a caring and nurturing environment.'
I offer this example both for its promise and as a caveat. While some
might look to the case studies described herein as models or even
blueprints for change, I would argue, paraphrasing Euclid, that there is
no royal road to mounting a successful undergraduate program in
science. Effective teaching can no more be independent of its environment than of its discipline. Take the laudable research experience offered
students at many undergraduate institutions. While this works well in
chemistry, physics does not lend itself as naturally to that kind of activity.
As one physicist explained, not all physics is experimental, so teachers
don't want to give their undergraduates the sense that it is. They also
want to keep their majors from specializing too early. And, given the
nature of research in the discipline, it is unlikely that undergraduate
physics students can make much of a contribution before their final year.
This does not mean one gives up on the idea of engaging students in some
sort of quasi-professional activity. Rather that physics teachers need to
invent an equivalent experience that will offer students the same thrill of
discovery and sense of belonging that chemistry students at Fort Lewis,
Trinity, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and Cal State LA enjoy.
Similarly, the "less is more" approach of Ege and Laws may not suit
every student or every faculty member or every undergraduate program, any more than all institutions can afford Dickinson's sophisticated
computer-linked laboratory, or Case Western's fiber optics network for
student-faculty communication. Resources have to be made available for
projects that are suited to local conditions and local goals.
Where are these resources to come from? If money cannot "solve" the
problem, surely resourcesfinancial and othercan make some difference.
Resources for Cumulative ImprovementFour Pathways
The Howard Hughes Story
Beginning in 1988, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute suddenly
became an important player in undergraduate science education reform.
After completing negotiations with the IRS, the institute (not a founda"The same appears to be true for doctoral education in mathematics, according to an NRC
report. See "Educating Mathematical Scientists: Doctoral Study and the Postdoctoral
Experience in the United States," National Research Council, April 1992, as reviewed in
Nature 356, 23 April 1992, p. 650.
tion, but rather a manager of medical research laboratories) agreed to
grant $500 million over a ten-year period for any tax-exempt program
consistent with its commitment to biomedical research and education.
The officers and the trustees decided that the grants program would
focus on science education, initially at the undergraduate and graduate
levels. The goals of the undergraduate program were twofold: first, to
increase the number nd quality of biomedical progran s at undergradu-
ate institutions; second, to increase the number and proportion of
undergraduates, including women and minorities underrepresented in
the sciences, selecting biomedical research as a career. To begin, Joseph
Perpich, vice president for grants and special programs, and Stephen
Barkanic, program officer, analyzed data from the National Research
Council and other sources on institutions graduating the highest proportion and number of future medical students and Ph.D.s in biology,
chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
On the basis of this analysis, letters went out in 1987 to 100 private
liberal arts, private comprehensive, and public and private historically
minority institutions already doing a superb job of launching minority
students into the biomedical sciences.' The targeted institutions (not
individuals) were asked to design five-year plans in (1) undergraduate
research; (2) curriculum, equipment, and laboratory facilities; (3) faculty
development; and (4) outreach to elementary and secondary schools and
community colleges. Forty-four awards ranging from $400,000 to $1.8
million were distributed the next year (for a total of $30.4 million). In 1989
and 1990 research and doctorate-granting institutions (public and private) were targeted and, by means of a similar procedure, $60 million was
distributed to fifty-one. In 1991 the institute returned to small liberal arts,
comprehensive, and minority institutions; in 1992 to the research univer-
sities. At Fort Lewis, a third-year recipient (because of Fort Lewis'
American Indian population), Jim Mills recalls the department's delight
both on winning an award and because of the manner in which the money
was bestowed: the department was simply forwarded a check for
$800,000 (which had been sent to Fort Lewis' president) to deposit against
future needs as approved in the institute's grant.1°
What is interesting about the Howard Hughes program is how very
well it meshes with the lesson of the case studies presented here. The
institute's purpose was institutional change and enlargement of opporProgram announcements and annual reports from the Office of Grants and Special
Programs, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Bethesda, Md., 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991,1992.
'" Personal communication to the author. On a more modest level Research Corporation
is employing the same strategy by selecting individual departments, one at a time, for
overall institutional support against an invited five-year plan.
tunities. It targeted colleges and universities which had already demon-
strated a capacity to produce minority graduates in the biomedical
sciences, providing "post-performance rewards." Its grants were not to
individuals for experimentation, but to departments for improvement. The
specific line-items were general enough for each institution to tailor its
spending to its own needs, and the time frame, in every instance, was five
yearstime enough to plan, implement, and assess.
The Pew Science Program in Undergraduate Education
Another model for cumulative improvement targets clusters of liberal
arts colleges and research universities instead of individual programs,
departments, or institutions of a single type. In 1988 the Pew Science
Program in Undergraduate Education, funded by the Pew Charitable
Trusts, began awarding three-year grants to such clusters of institutions,
varying in size from six to sixteen schools over fairly large geographical
areas, to undertake collaborative projects to improve undergraduate
science education. The giants have ranged from $800,000 to $2.2 million,
and have averaged about $50,000 per school per year. A cluster director
(faculty member or academic administrator) and an executive council,
composed of institutional representatives from the participating schools,
do the planning for cluster activities and take primary responsibility for
involving their individual science faculties in collaborative cluster projects.
The goal of the program is to revitalize undergraduate science education at the 72 participating colleges and universities. "The insistence on
collaboration among schools," says Joan Girgus, executive director, is to
guarantee that "for every problem tackled, there will be a critical mass of
interested faculty to encourage one another and to engage in joint
problem solving;" also to leverage resources so that "while each science
department will have to be fully engaged for maximum benefit to occur,
no one department will have to find all the necessary resources for reform
within itself;" and, finally, to allow faculty to choose that aspect of the
program they find most appealing. The hope, says Girgus, quoting a
member of her National Advisory Committee, is not modest. Pew wants
to "change the culture of science" in participating schools."
Much of the work of the clusters has so far centered on curriculum
projects involving faculty (and students) from as few as two and as many
as ten schools. Clusters sponsor workshops and conferences on research
as well as curricular and pedagogical topics. The grants also provide
summer support enabling students to work as members of faculty
" Joan Girgus, executive director of the Pew Science Program in Undergraduate Education, in a personal communication to the author.
research teams at any of the cluster institutions. These culminate in
cluster-wide end-of-summer conferences at which students present their
work. Mindful that some undergraduates headed for science are not yet
able to contribute to faculty research, some clusters have devised special
summer programs for first-year students and for students in mathematics and computer science.
The funding provided by Pew is not intended to create new dependen-
cies- this time at the cluster level; rather, says the director, to help
reformers locate like-minded colleagues on a regional level and get the
local reforms they want under way. To this end, Pew now requires
clusters to contribute 10 percent of the direct costs in the second year of
funding and 20 percent in the third year. The intent is to make clear that
institutions are going to have to pick up the continuing costs of cluster
activities and the ongoing costs of whatever reforms may evolve. Only
time will tell whether Pew's leverage model produces lasting change
where other less imaginative funding has failed.
Designating Indirect Costs for Undergraduate Science
Where else might institutional development monies come from?
During the past forty years the government agencies which support
science research have allot., _d host institutions to claim indirect costs and
overhead to support their research infrastructure. Sometimes they are
returned by the college or university administration to the department
which initiated the fundcd project. More often than not, however, the
monies are applied to general institutional expenses. Iowa State University at Ames is trying to change the way these funds are allocated. The
university already returns 15 percent of indirect costs to the principal
investigator. A proposal to return an additional 25 percent to the
department is currently before the vice president for finance.
While there is no legal prohibition against designating such funds for
undergraduate instruction, pressure from research scientists makes this
unlikely unless there is countep pressure. Federal research dollars could
directly support undergraduate science, says Bernard White, chair of
biochemistry at Iowa State, if it were mandated that a certain share of
indirect costs be applied to improving instruction, much in the way the
Howard Hughes money was allocated to be used as each department sees
fit. At the very least, the funding agency could require that principal
investigators be involved in undergraduate teaching.
Wrenching Resources from Quasi-Instructional Services
In a period of downsizing, and with government and foundation funding
primarily dedicated to innovation and the search for and testing of universal
solutions, it may be necessary to look closer to home for ways of transferring
existing resources into funds for improvement. A first step might be for
instructional units (departments, divisions, colleges) to reclaim some of the
many quasi-instructional budget lines that, over the past several decades,
have been arrogated by institutional administrations. Today such resources
are consumed by student affairs, academic affairs, career placement, and
institutional research (even the registrar), offices that assist with advising, course and program registration, room assignment, instructional
improvement, instructional assessment, academic support activities,
financial aid, and career placement, to note but a few.
One small example of this kind of change indicates how potent such
a strategy might be. Recently the Department of Biology at the University
of Illinois-Chicago created a full-time position out of half a faculty line
and some Howard Hughes money to work exclusively on undergraduate
affairs. The new staff member, who holds an undergraduate minor in
biology and has six years counseling experience at the college level,
occupies an office in biology, open from nine to five, and sees majors,
prospective majors, even students outside of biology who, for one reason
or another, are enrolled in biology courses at this large, urban institution.
The staff member signs program cards, controls drop and add petitions,
sets up appointments with faculty for students who might not do this on
their own, and conducts surveys and investigations of issues that
individual instructors or the department itself want researched. From
such conversations and investigations, this staff member is able to
provide ongoing feedback and advice to faculty about particular courses,
and to the department chair about the biology program as a whole. The
adviser is more than an adviser; she has become a valued participant in
meetings on the department's undergraduate instructional functions.
The position is valuable precisely because the department defines the job
and it is to the department that the staff member reports.
While the biology chairman has been unable (as this was written) to
wrench the position away from university-wide student services, he
firmly believes that it should be rooted in the department and that
funding should come from existing resources. He intends to lobby for
funding to maintain the post in biology when the Hughes grant expires.
Imagine every college or university science department with its own
office of undergraduate affairs. Imagine a staff of academic professionals-its numbers depending on the size of the institution, the number of
students served in lower division courses, and the number of majorswho keep abreast of institutional reform in other institutions and assist
locally with program assessment and improvement. Imagine useful and
usable feedback mechanisms linking students with faculty, faculty with
one another and with the department chair, all under department aegis
and control (in policy language, "site-managed").
So long as quasi-instructional services continue to be centralized the
special needs of science students and departments will be shortchanged.
Student services are rarely science-oriented, if for no other reason than
few of those who provide them are science graduates. The special
requirements of laboratory courses may not be understood by people
who have not taken or taught laboratory courses. The costs of educating
students in science, both financial and in terms of faculty load and
student course credit, may not be properly assessed. When these decisions are returned to the departments of science, it will be possible for
those who wish to do a better job of teaching to do so.
Wrench' resources is an exercise in power, and it's likely that some
scientists , I have neither the skills nor the stomach for it. As others have
noted before me, college faculty in all fields, not just in the sciences, tend
to confuse autonomy with power. They are grateful that, once they shut
their classroom door, they can do more or less what they want. But in fact
many of the constraints on instructional improvement-not to mention
instruction itself-are not within their control: the kind and number of
students who enroll; the course credit allocated for the work they require;
room size; the quality of their TAs; and grading assistance and support.
If instruction is to again become the responsibility of the science department, then the means to do the job must be taken, not just from add -on
resources, but from the very heart of the college or university budget.
If federal stipends were available for students willing to complete a
major in science, engineering, or mathematics; if indirect costs were
returned to departments :or instructional improvement; and if some
resources and personnel lines were taken from quasi-instructional student services, I believe many more students would be attracted to science
and would be better served by the major whatever their ultimate career.
Then faculty members with worthy reforms-faculty like David Layzer,
Dudley Herschbach, and Eric Mazur at Harvard, like Barbara Sawrey
and Paul Saltman at UCSD, like Tony Andreoli and Carlos Gutierrez at
Cal State LA, and like all the other change agents we have encounteredcould make cumulative improvement the rule and not the exception.
One can only applaud Congress' willingness to increase funding for
science education reform, and the growing commitment of a number of
federal agencies-NSF, and the Departments of Education and Energy-to
that same goal.''- But unless and until means are found to mainstream and
manage change, the nation is at risk (to borrow Gerald Holton's phrase)
of having to launch still another campaign a decade from now.
Nat ure,(1991) "U.S. Budget: NSF Wins, Space Science Loses," Vol. 353, 3 October, p. 371.
Measuring Change
In selecting a set of programs to describe in this volume, I imposed my
own intuitive list of "desirable outcomes"recruitment, retention, and
high moraleand my own judgment as to how well certain programs
and /or courses were meeting those outcomes. In so doing, I borrowed
heavily from department and course designers' own local goals and
measures. But my outcomes were no more systematically arrived at than
theirs. Hence "success" remains a matter of judgment and interpretationtheirs and mine, and now the readers'. Is that good enough? I think
not. Researching and writing this book have led me to believe that those
who would reform science teaching at college need to engage in a process
of planning and evaluation, however unfamiliar (and unpalatable) that
process may be.
How else will faculty members, department chairs, deans, and the
public at large know whether change in undergraduate science teaching
is in "the direction of the good," as the Japanese put it; that is, how well
(or poorly) any program is meeting some set of goals?
It is wrong to assume that "evaluation" is nothing more than testing,
followed by statistically simple comparisons between institutions and /
or cohorts. There was a time when some target population would be
identified, measured at two points in time (before and after intervention),
and objectively compared to a similar population that did not have the
benefits of the program. Though superficially "scientific," such findings
did not provide useful feedback (called "formative evaluation" as
against "summative evaluation"the finding of cause and effect). As the
late Marcia Guttentag argued in her critique of classical evaluation
techniques, "Program administrators have goals not hypotheses, and
programs are the inverse of the carefully designed single variables of the
experimental paradigm."
In recent years, professional evaluators have moved away from the
quasi-experimental approach." If the appropriate model of science edu-
cation reform is a process model, the model for evaluation must also
emphasize process. Working scientists have every right to demand that
any system of program planning and evaluation meet their own standards of validity and reliability; provide useful and usable feedback; and
offer specific guidance for future action. Evaluation need not be done by
experts. A more appropriate approach, as the case studies suggest, can
" Marcia Guttentag, "Subjectivity and its Use in Evaluation Research," Evaluation, 1:2,
1973, p. 60.
"See, for example, the writings of Michael Quinn Patton, Practical Evaluation and Creative
Evaluation both published by Sage Publications in 1982 and 1987 respectively.
be initiated by insiders who try to find some agreement among themselves as to what they would like to achieve, given certain extra efforts.
Achievement, in this model, is measured not against raw outcomes, but
in terms of departmental expectations and goals. Such an approach
involves the faculty at every stage of goal-setting, assessment is essentially self-evaluation, and the purpose of the exercise is to give the faculty
feedback as to what works and what doesn't.
Scientists are in an enviable position to invent and apply their own
planning and evaluation techniques. For one, they will be very canny in
employing statistical inference. For another, their own research orientation makes them doggedly empirical. All that's lacking is to decide what
constitutes achievement and when is the appropriate time to measure it.
The faculty responsible for the courses and programs described in this
volume seem to have intuitively subscribed to this philosophy in setting
goals and measuring outcomes. When, for example, the chemistry
faculty at UW-Eau Claire decided to revive their curriculum committee
in the face of general satisfaction with their program, they were asking
for an opportunity to assess what they were doing and to develop
guidelines for future action. The success of the first cohort of structure
and reactivity students at Michigan, who have just completed their third
year, will be measured not by artificial means, but by the most obvious:
success in upper-level courses, graduation rates, and career choices upon
graduation. These may be the only meaningful evaluations that can be
made of Ege's program.
Summing Up
There are many other exemplary courses and programs in physical
science at the nation's colleges and universities that could have been
included here. The intent was not to provide a comprehensive survey, but
rather to look for common features in the way science faculty in certain
institutions are struggling to revitalize instruction. That process, as the
narratives surely demonstrate, is sui generis, each locale having its own
definition of success, its own means of moving toward its goals. Still,
while local initiatives and local control are to be cherished, there is no
point in every science department having to start from scratch. Some
degree of coordination, certainly communication, is desirable. Travel,
teaching postdoctoral fellowships, visiting faculty, and faculty exchanges
need to be supported.' But nothing can replace the vision, the leadership,
Pew's consortium model (see p. 164) is intended to encourage faculty exchange and
rd work that characterize programs that succeed.
and Cal State LA are separated by more than a continent.
Michiga as nearly as many students in introductory chemistry as Fort
Lewis will see in six years. Trinity University is sending more and more
chemistry majors on to Ph.D. programs. Paul Saltman wants to eliminate
elementary teachers' dread of science. Yet, reformers in all the places
described in this volume subscribe to a single working premise (in the
and the
terms of Daniel Sullivan of I'roject Kaleidoscope, a "compelling vision"),
namely, that every institution is responsible for advancing the scientific
power of all students who enroll, no matter how well or poorly prepared
they may be, how well or poorly motivated. Since different institutions
enroll very different kinds of students, it is not very likely that any single
national model will be as effective as local strategies for accomplishing
local aims. But what must become universal is, to quote Sullivan again,
the will to make things better.
The University of Michigan
Undergraduate Chemistry Curriculum
< 70111
pen en tile
Placement Exam
[High School
at UM Orientation
Chem 130
General Chemistry
(3 credits)
Al' S, ores
o(3, 4, 5
Chem 210 Structure & Reactivity I (4 credits)
Chem 211 Invest in Chem Lab (1 credit)
Chew, CM It
Client Eng
Chem 302
Inorganic Chem
(3 credits)
Chem 125
Chem Lab
2 credits)/
Eiigii..,ers take
130/125 or
to satisfy 1 term
Mello. premeds.
and en,gineer.
Chem 215 Structure & Reactivity II (3 credits)
Chem 216 Synth & Charact Lab (2 credits)
t". Botany
Chem 340
Chem 230
Phys Chem
Phys Chem
Meas & Sepn
(5 credits)
includes laboratory
Trine & Appl
(3 credits)
no laboratory
r Chem 312
Organic/ Inorg
Lai; (2 credits)
Prereq for 468:
.3 terms Calculus
1 yr Physics
Chem 480
Phys & Instr
(3 credits)}
BS (Chem Conc)
Chem 468 l'hys Chem 1 (4 cr) or 39611
Chem 469 Phys Chem II (4 cr) or 3971-1
Chem 447 Instrument Methods (3 cr)
BS in Chemistry
1 Chem Lect Course
2 Cr Independent
2 Chem Lect Courses
4 Cr Independent
(Chem 485 or
Independent Study)
Prereq for 469:
4th term Calculus
BS in Chem Honors
2 Chem Lect Courses
4 Cr Independent Study
Honors Thesis
(must have taken '96/7
and satisfy Honors CPA)
CMB=Celltilar and Molecular Biology
A combined Chem /Chem Eng Degree option and a Chem Cdue option are ski., wattable
The University of Michigan
Sample Examinations, Structure and Reactivity
Rather than asking them for the recapitulation of some particular set of facts, students are
provided with primary data (such as one would obtain in the laboratory). An appropriate
concept must be identified as well as applied in order to solve the problem at hand. The
particular examples represented in this problem were necessarily not among the examples
used to illustrate the concept in the lecture.
Note that students are required to provide both textual and pictorial representations for
phenomena. Multiple representations allot-, for a cross-check on student understanding
that is not possible when only a recollection and identification are called for.
v. (22 points)
The potency of an anesthetic has been found to be related to the extent to which it disrupts
hydrogen bonding in nerve cell membranes. This capacity to disrupt hydrogen bonding is
related to the acidity of carbon-hydrogen bonds and to the basicity of oxygen atoms in the
compounds used as anesthetics. Three widely used anesthetics were examined. They are
shown below.
1. Halothane has pK,23.8. What is the
approximate pK, that you would expect for ethane?
Explain in a few words and with structural
representations why the acidity of halothane
differs from that of ethane.
2. Methoxyflurane has two possible sites of
deprotonation. The researchers found that
only one site was deprotonated under the
conditions of their reaction. Write a structural
formula for the more stable of the two
possible conjugate bases of methoxyflurane.
3. Methoxyflurane is 10 times more potent than
enflurane as an anesthetic even though both
compounds have approximately the same pK,
-26. According to the criteria listed at the beginning of this question, why should methoxytlurane be more potent than enflurane?
Explain in a few words and with structural
Contemporary applications that illustrate fundamental chemistry phenomena are not hard
to find. Instructors can avail themselves of the wide variety of examples found in recent
journals. Formulating questions from new observations helps the instructor toavoid the traps
of recycling the same old examples in a different form, and perhaps of inventing chemistry
that might not actually be true! Quite to the contrary, this technique allows us to include all
the novel ways that scientists other than ourselves look at chemistry. After all, this is the real
skill that we have developed as professionals: the ability to look at new and unfamiliar science
and make sense of it in the context of our broader conceptual understanding.
I. (17 points)
Generally, the two different enantiomeric forms of a substance show different biological
activity. Recently, a group of chemists from Copenhagen prepared the enantiomer of the
molecule called AZT, which is used in the treatment of AIDS, in order to see whether or not
it might be an even better drug for treatment of the disease (I. Org. Chem. 19.91, 56,
3591 3594).
(+I-AZT used in treatment
tar,. +56'(1.0g/ 100m I.. CH,OH)
a) Draw (-)-AZT, which is enantiomer of (+)-AZT:
b) Use an arrow to clearly point to all stereocenters
in your (-)-AZT structure and provide
configurational assignments.
c) What is the specific rotation of
(-)-AZT expected to be?
d) What total number of stereoisomers are
possible for the AZT connectivity?
e) The following reaction is used to join the two rings together in preparing AZT.
What sort of reaction mechanism is implied by this
experimental result? Give a specific mechanism
classification and a reason for your selection.
H9 \wH
I7 f
Students are consistently exposed to the rich variety of contexts associated with structural
chemistry. In this example from the second term of the course, some important ideas from
biomedical research form the basis of a synthetic chemistry problem. The message is clear:
advancements in this area of science are integrated with an ability to prepare and design
new molecules.
By always seeking out examples from the scientific literature, it is possible to illustrate the
exciting multiculture of modern chemistry. For example, on the page following this question
on-biomedical chemistry there was a problem dealing with transition metal coordination
v. (22 points)
One potential method for tumor treatment being proposed is to covalently attach clusters
of boron atoms (as B,li,) :o antibodies that target the cancer cells. Neutron activation of the
boron atoms would cause a-particleemission that would be lethal to the neighboring cancer
cells (F. Hawthorne, I. Org.Chem. 1990, 55,838-843).
is the same as
Complete the following sequence.
,..._ces -r OH
B ioHio OH
University of Utah
Syllabus for the First Two Years of Chemistry
First Quarter: Chem. 161 E (5hr) In t roduct ion to Chemistry -Topics: matter and
its properties, atomic theory, molecules and ions, the mole concept, chemical formulas, chemical equations, electronic structure including quantum
background, periodic table development, enthalpy and the First Law of
Thermodynamics, gases, liquids and solids, solutions.
Second Quarter: Chem. 162 E (5 hr) Structure and Bonding of Molecules I
(Organic) -Topics: Bonding-ionic and covalent, shapes and polarity, orbitals including bond strengths, acids and bases including pKa and equilib-
rium, reaction pathways including kinetics, transition state, activation
energy concepts, alkenes, stereochemistry, nucleophilic and elimination
reactions, alkenes, electrophilic addition, carbocation concept, alkynes.
Third Quarter: Chem. 163 E (5 hr) Properties and Reaction Mechanisms of
Molecules (Organic) -Topics: infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance,
spectroscopy, alcohols and ethers, oxidation and reduction, aldehydes and
ketones, carboxylic acids, nucleophilic reactions of the carbonyl group,
synthetic transformations, enolate ions and their reactions.
Fourth Quarter: Chem. 261 E (5 hr) Reactions and Synthesis of Molecules
(Organic) -Topics: aromatic chemistry, electrophilic substitution, free radi-
cals, amines, heterocyclic compounds, carbohydrates, amino acids and
Fifth Quarter: Chem. 262 E (4 hr) Chemical Equilibria -Topics: introduction to
quantitative equilibrium concepts, acids, bases, buffers, oxidation, reduction, entropy and free energy, electrochemistry.
Sixth Quarter: Chem. 263 E (5 hr) Structure and Bonding of Molecules II
(Inorganic) -Topics: chemistry of the periodic table, non-metals, metals,
coordination chemistry, inorganic stereochemistry, introduction to crystal
field theory, inorganic spectroscopy, some special topics such as organometallic compounds, catalysis, boron chemistry, atmospheric chemistry,
nuclear chemistry.
Harvard University
Courses of Instruction (1992-1993)
Draft Catalog Entries for Chem 8/9 and Math 28/29
Chemistry 8. Matter, Energy, and Equilibrium. The atomic hypothesis.
Energy and its transformations. Entropy and free energy. Dissociative,
phase, and chemical equilibria. Statistical theory of thermodynamic equilibrium.
Chemistry 8, Chemistry 9, Mathematics 28, and Mathematics 29 offer a
unified introduction to basic principles in classical mechanics, quantum
physics and chemistry, and statistical physics and chemistry, and to the
mathematical language needed to express and apply these principles. The
courses are intended for both concentrators and nonconcentrators in the
physical and biological sciences.
Taken together, Chemistry 8 and Chemistry 9 satisfy the same requirements as, and cannot be counted for crec' it in addition to, Physics 15a and
Chemistry 10. Mathematics 28 and 29 satisfy the same requirements as, and
cannot be counted for credit in addition to, Mathematics 21ab.
Format. Emphasizes active learning in a cooperative. noncompetitive,
and interactive environment. Meets in discussion sections with 15 or fewer
students. The sections have common reading and writing assignments.
Students are encouraged to work together in smaller study groups. Grading
is based on an assessment of the quality of the student's written work and
of his or her contributions to the classroom discussions, considered in the
light of his or her mathematical and scientific background.
Laboratories. Five two-hour laboratories, intended to help students anchor theoretical concepts in experience and to recreate crucial experiments.
Prerequisites. An understanding of basic concepts of the calculus and a
strong background in physics and chemistry at the high-school level.
Simultaneous enrollment in Mathematics 28 is required except for students
who can demonstrate a mastery of the subject matter of that course.
Enrollment. Limited to 30. M, W, 7 9; lab meetings to be arranged.
Chemistry 9. Atomic and Molecular Structure and Processes. A continuation
of Chemistry 8. Rate processes (chemical kinetics, masers and lasers,
approach to equilibrium). Classical underpinnings of quantum physics.
Schroedinger's equation. Electron spin and the Pauli principle. The minimum energy principle. Applications to atomic and molecular structure.
Laboratories. Five two-hour laboratories, intended to help students anchor theoretical concepts in experience and to recreate crucial experiments.
Prerequisites. Chemistry 8. Simultaneous enrollment in Mathematics 29 is
required except for students who can demonstrate a mastery of the subject
matter of that course.
M, W, F 9; lab meetings to be arranged.
Mathematics 28. Practicum in Advanced Calculus. Mathematical founda-
tions of classical particle physics and thermodynamics: Taylor series,
vectors and their rates of change, scalar and vector fields, line integrals,
partial derivatives, probability theory, Lagrange multipliers.
Explores in depth the mathematical concepts and theories that figure
most prominently in Chemistry 8. Open to students not enrolled in Chemistry 8 as space permits.
Format. The courses emphasize active learning in a cooperative, noncompetitive, and interactive environment. Each of the courses is given entirely
in discussion sections with 15 or fewer students. The sections have common
reading and writing assignments. Students are encouraged to work together in smaller study groups. Grading is based on an assessment of the
quality of the student's written work and of his or her contributions to the
classroom discussions, considered in the light of his or her mathematical and
scientific background.
Prerequisites. An understanding of basic concepts of the calculus and a
strong background in physics and chemistry at the high school level.
Enrollment. Limited to 30. Tu, Th 9-10:30
Mathematics 29. Practicum in Advanced Calculus. Mathematical aspects of
rate processes, classical dynamics, waves, and quantum mechanics: Ordinary differential equations (dynamical systems) and their integrals; eigen-
value problems in one, two, and three dimensions; Fourier series and
integrals; introduction to Hilbert spaces.
Explores in depth the mathematical concepts and theories that iigure
most prominently in Chemistry 9. Open to students not enrolled in Chemistry 9 as space permits.
Format. The courses emphasize active learning in a cooperative, noncompetitive, and interactive environment. Each of the courses is given entirely
in discussion sections with 15 or fewer students. The sections have common
reading and writing assignments. Students are encouraged to work together in smaller study groups. Grading is based on an assessment of the
quality of the student's written work and of his or her contributions to the
classroom discussions, considered in the light of his or her mathematical and
scientific background.
Prerequisites. Mathematics 28 or equivalent.
Enrollment. Limited to 30.
Tu, Th 9-10:30
About the Author
Sheila Tobias has made a science and an art of being a curriculum
outsider. Neither a mathematician nor a scientist, she has tackled the
question of why intelligent and motivated college students have taskspecific disabilities in certain disciplines, particularly mathematics and
science. From her work have come four books prior to this one on
science and mathematics: Overcoming Math Anxiety (1978), Succeed with
Math (1987), They're Not Dumb, They're Different: Stalking the Second Tier
(1990), and (with physicist Carl T. Tomizuka) Breaking Hu' Science Barrier
(1992). She is the creator of the technique, "Peer Perspectives on Teaching," in which faculty from fields other than science and mathematics
"stand in" for students in artificially constructed science and mathematics lessons at the college level. From their responses to the instruction
have come important insights into what makes science and mathematics "hard" and even "distasteful" for outsiders.
Educated in history and literature at Harvard-Radcliffe and Columbia Universities, Ms. Tobias has betn a lecturer in history and political
science at the Universities of Arizona and of California, San Diego, a
college administrator at Cornell and Wesleyan Universities, and a
trustee of Stephens College, a woman's coilege. in Columbia, Mo. Her
work in science and mathematics avoidance and anxiety has been
funded by the Lilly Endowment, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations,
and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in the
Department of Education, as well as by Research Corporation.
Selected Bibliography
Ormolu* Math Anxiety (W.W. Norton, 1978, Houghton Mifflin paperback,
198(1; new edition in press). Succeed with Math: Every Student's Guide to Conquering Math Anxiety (The College Board, 1987). They're Not Dumb, They're Different:
Stalking the Second Tier (Research Corporation, 199(1). Breaking the Science Bar-
rier. with Carl T. Tomizuka (The College Board, 1992).
Articles on math anxiety: MS magazine, September, 1976; The Atlantic, September 1978; Harvard rillICati011al ReViCW, Vol. 50, No. 1, Spring 1980; Psychology
Today, January 1982; Physics Today, Vol. 38, No. 6, June 1985. Articles on
teaching science: Change magazine, Spring 1986; The Physics Teacher, Vol. 26,
No. 2, February 1988; American Johrnal of Physics, 56 (9), September 1988;
American journal of Phwics, Septemb,..n. 1990; Physics Today, November 1990. On
eduraticnal reform: Distinguished Lecture in the Social Science., Northern
Illinois University, November 15, 1990; The American Journal of rharmareutical
Ed:ration, 55, Winter 1991; The Sciences, January/February 1991; The Chronicle of
ligher Education, Januar.: 1991; The Scientist, February 1991. Also articles on the
May/June 1992; Journal of Science Education and
same subject in Change magazi
Technology, lune 1992.
I Vag r
The Rapporteurs for This Study
Sylvia Teich Horowitz, California State University, Los Angeles
Sylvia Teich Horowitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and received her
Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia University. She has taught organic
and biological chemistry at California State University, Los Angeles for
more than twenty years. Her research interests include steroid biochem-
istry, the metabolism of glucosamine and its po'ymers and, more recently, nutritional aspects of biochemistry. With coauthors Robert M.
McAllister, M.D. and Raymond V. Bilden, Ph.D., she is working on a book
dealing with the molecular biology of cancer. She has loag been
interested in the history of women in science and in ways of recruiting
more women and other underrepresented groups into the field.
Abigail Lipson, Harvard University
Abigail Lipson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and senior member of
Harvard University's Bureau of Study Counsel. She is the author, with
Harvard colleague David N. Perkins, of BlocK: The Psychology of
Counterintentional Behavior in Everyday Life (Lyle Stuart, 1990), contributed a chapter to They're Not Dumb, They're Different: Stalking the Second
Tier, and writes widely on motivation, achievement, cognitive development, and education. She also maintains a private practice in Cambridge,
Patricia A. Moore, University of California, San Diego
Patricia A. Moore hods a doctorate in education administration and for
ten years has been working in education at the University of California,
San Diego, where she now directs grant-funded teacher enhancement
programs. In addition, she is adjunct faculty at the University of
Redla. ids and the University of LaVerne, a grant writer for nonprofit
organizations, and a career consultant. She spent ten years teaching
overseas in a variety of countries to diverse cultural groups.
Stella Pagonis, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Stella Pagonis holds bachelor's and master's degrees in Information
Science from the University of Pittsburgh. For eighteen years she worked
in strategic planning, corporate development, and marketing management in large corporate environments including Gulf Oil, Control Data,
and Northern Telecom. She currently consults in marketing, market
planning, and marketing research for small and medium-sized companies in Wisconsin, specializing in strategic planning, corporate develop-
ment, marketing research, product management, marketing management, and sales. She is married to Warren Gallagher, and a member of the
chemistry departrr ent at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Suzan Potuznik, University of California, San Diego
Suzan Potuznik began her science training with the aim of becoming an
oceanographer. After studying geology, physics, and chemistry, she
completed her Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry at the University of
California, San Diego, abandoning oceanography for chemistry. She is
currently a visiting assistant professor in chemistry at the University of
San Diego.
Brian P. Coppola, University of Michigan
Brian P. Coppola is lecturer in chemistry at the University of Michigan
and the coordinator for the undergraduate organic curriculum. He
received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of New Hampshire,
and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of WisconsinMadison. From 1982-1986, he was an assistant professor of chemistry at
the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and in 1986 joined the faculty
at Michigan where he has worked with Seyhan Ege on the design and
implementation of the new undergraduate chemistry curriculum. Dr.
Coppola also collaborates with the Center for Research on Learning and
Teaching and the Center for the Education of Women at Michigan, where
he is designing the evaluation component of the new program. In
addition, he is involved in preservice teacher training and precollege
curriculum developmentall in science.
Margaret Bartlett, Fort Lewis College
Margaret Bartlett has been working and associating with scientists for
some twenty-seven years. Her BA in sociology from Luther College
prepared her for a career in social work and preschool teaching. She has
more than a decade of activism in measuring and promoting the effectiveness of public K-12 education. Some of her knowledge of the chem-
istry program at Fort Lewis comes through her student and alumni
friends and through her spouse, Fred Bartlett.
Katya Fels, Harvard University
Katya Fels, now a senior biochemistry major at 1 iarvard, was a freshman
when she took them -phvs and a sophomore when she served as under-
graduate discussion leader for the course. With physicists for parents,
Katya already knew science could be an exciting and creative pursuit
when she came to college. She claims this knowledge helped her maintain
her commitment to science during some dry, extremely difficult introductory science courses.
Steve Brenner, Harvard University
Steve Brenner, a senior biochemistry major at Harvard, took chem-phys
as a freshman, and served as participant-observer in the course the
following year. Before college it was his father, a physicist, and a few
inspiring grade school science teachers who encouraged his early, wideranging interest in science.
David Hall, Harvard University
David Hall is a graduate student in physics at Harvard, where he teaches
physics 11 and works in a laboratory in addition to taking classes. He
began his education at Amherst College thinking he would study a
humanities discipline, but an introductory physics class his freshman
year was so good he changed his mind. He received a B.S. in physics from
Amherst in 1991. He hopes to combine teaching, equipment work, and
physical research as a professor of physics at a small undergraduate
K. Wayne Yang , Harvard University
K. Wayne Yang is a graduating senior in physics at Harvard and one of
Harvard's few undergraduate teaching assistants. He plans to teach
physics in an inner-city high school in either Los Angeles or Oakland,
California after graduation.
About Research Corporation
A Foundation for the Advancement of Science
One of the first U.S. foundations and the only one wholly devoted to the
advancement of science, Research Corporation was established in 1912
by scientist, inventor and philanthropist Frederick Gardner Cottrell
with the assistance of Charles Doolittle Walcott, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Its objectives: to make inventions "more available
and effective in the useful arts and manufactures," and "to provide
means for the advancement and extension of technical and scientific
investigation, research and experimentation.. . ."
Cottrell's inspiration -he was a physical chemist at the University of
Californiawas to create Research Corporation to develop his invention, the electrostatic precipitator for controlling air pollution, and
other discoveries from universities, and devote any monies realized to
awards for scholarly research.
Research Corporation awards support scientific inquiry in physics,
chemistry and astronomy at public and private undergraduate institutions (Cottrell College Science Awards); assist midcareer chemists,
astronomer and physicists in Ph.D.-granting university science depart-
ments (Research Opportunity Awards); and support premising research, programs and prizes not falling under other programs (General
Foundation Awards). A fourth program, Partners In Science, aims to
improve high school science education by giving secondary teachers
opportunities to do summer research at local colleges and universities.
Grants applications from college and university scientists are reviewed by referees suggested by applicants and supplemented, as
appropriate, by the foundation. A final reading of applications and
recommendations for approval or denial is given by an advisory committee of academic scientists. Research Corporation cards are supported by an endowment created by the sale of the electrostatic precipitation business, and by donations from other foundations, industrial
companies and individuals wishing to advance academic science.
The research which led to Revitalizing Undergraduate Science: Why
Some Things Work and Most Don't, is responsive to a Research Corporation goal, formulated in 1987, "to increase the flow of young people into
the sciences with programs appropriate to the foundation's interest and
expertise." A previous study, They're Not Dumb, They're (Wren!: Stalking the Second Tier, was published in 1990. Research Co. poration will
consider for publication other papers that are especially relevant to the
advancement of science and science education.
Research Corporation's office is located at 684(1 Fast Broadway Boulevard, Tucson, Arizona 8571(1-2815.
-AA Nation at Risk 21
"A Nation At Risk,
Revisited" 21
abstract studies of the
nature of knowledge and
cognition 16
Academic Bends 87; 91
academic skills center 36
advanced placement exam
affirmative education
123-124, 140-141
AIDS 24, 76-78
Allen, Patricia 120
Alliances for Minority Participation program 124
alternate introduction to
chemistry 94
alternate pedagogy 86, 92
American Association for
the Advancement of
Science (AAAS) 131
American Association of
Physics Teachers (AAPT)
96, 1(X), 120
American Chemical Society
(ACS) 46, 49, 60, 64, 68-69,
130, 137, 139
American Indians 39-10
American Physical Society
(APS) 97, 100
American society and
higher education 14
Amoco 67
Analysis 31, 92, I 1 I
analytical and organic
chemistry 48. 53-54
Andreoli, Anthony J.
1:6-121, 131, 167
Ariiilker Model: Cumulatwe
Imp, orement 21
anthropologists 15
Appalachian State
University 120
appending the average
grade 12
Aristotelian 98, 114
Arizona State University
Arons, Arnold 17, 86, 98
Ashcra ft, Debbie 151-154
Asian 123, 125, 128, 130133, 135-136
astronomy 104, 110, 119,
143, 147
"Atomic Hypothesis" 82
atomic structure 28, 81, 147
average publication rate
Avogadro 148-149
-Bbackground in science
sacrificed to "science
methods" course 142
Barkanic, Stephen 163
barrio 125, 132-134, 136
Bartlett, Margaret 183
Bartlett, Ted 40-41
BASF-Wyandotte 67
biochemists 60
biologists 58, 60, 66, 112
biology of nutrition I 12
biomedical 42, 54, 124, 134,
137, 163-164
Biophysical Society
Meeting 24
black faculty mr inbers 129
Boise State University 112
Bok, Derek 82
Boyd, Cheri 161
[lover, Ernest 35
Brenner, Steven 87, 184
Brown, Costello 132, 134
Brown, Robert 107
Burden of Intermittent
Funding 20
Bureau of Harvard Study
Counsel 86
buying-in 19
Ccalculus 75-76, 83-84, 88,
101, 105, 114, 120-122, 161
Calgaard, Ronald 50-51
California Professor of the
Year 132
California State Department of Education 155
California State University,
Hayward 139
California State University,
Los Angeles (Cal State
LA) 38-39, 123-124, 126141, 159, 162, 167, 170
California State University
system 124, 126, 130, 132,
California, University of
125-126, 128, 135, 140
California, University of,
Berkeley 130
California, University of,
Davis 133, 135, 154
California, University of,
Los Angeles 132, 137, 161
California, University ot,
San Diego (UCSD) 72-73,
79-81, 142-144, 146, 150151, 154-157, 167
Caltech 52, 132
Camille and Henry Dreyfus
Foundation 51
career placement 37, 166
Case St tidies 14; 12-13, 15,
101-102, 158, 162-161, 168
Case Western Reserve liaiveraty 100, 107, 112, 162
Castro, George 123
Cateforis, Vasily 161
Challengm Authority 'Al
change in institutional
climate 19
"Council on Undergraduate Research Newsletter"
Chaos 108
(CUR) 51
Course in General: What's in a
Name? 74
"Chem 8-9: A New
Approach" 87
them -biz 23, 26-27, 29-31
chem-phys 81-82, 84-95,
112, 120
chemical engineers 30, 66
Chemical & Engineering
News 123
chemistry study room 46
chemistry teaching
program, UW -Eau Claire
course-specific bulletin
board system 107
creative loner 21, 158
creative marketing 20
credit-hour formulas 12, 35
criteria for what works 12
Culture of Science Education
Reform 15
cumulative improvement
21, 50, 160, 162, 164, 167
Chenier, Phil 30
Chicanos 123, 133, 139
Curray, Joseph 147
curriculum or pedagogy 16,
Classroom Climate 63
Cloning the Project 1=4
Curtis M. David 65
cognitive issues 96-100
Collaborative Research 24; 25,
33-35, 52
Colorado State University
Colorado, University of 40,
common factors at successfu' institutions 39
common sense misconceptions (of physics) 119
Conceptest 117, 119-122
Conc7itions and Mrs-op/cepturns 97
Concepts and Conversation on
E-Mail 109
conceptual multiple choice
question 117
conceptual narrative 14;
conceptual understanding
Conclusion 48, 55, 68. 79,
122, 140, 155
Conclusion: I ligh Morale in a
Stable Ennironment 35
Connelly, Walter 121)
consumer product chemistry for nonscience students 41
cooperation a'nong
students 8;
Coppola, Brian 57-54, 61-61,
68. 183
38, 161
-43 Dalton 148
Danek, Joseph 123
Davis, James 119
Dea, l'hoebe 129, 131-132,
136-137, 139
Deamer, David 154
Dean, Bob and Melanie 143
Dedication to Teaching 28
delivery systems 17, 152
democr.i 0c process 39
Demographics 124
Demo, Al 25
department development
proposal 26
Department of Chemistry
31, 40, 47, 50, 52, 56, 124
Department of ChemistryBiochemistry at Cal State
LA 124
Department of Mathematics at Harvard 88
departmental expectations
and goals 169
departmental initiatives
and ,upport 72
departmental visitor 44
Departments of Education
and Energy 167
Derek Bok Center for
scathing and I earning
88, 114
Designating Indirect Costs for
Undergraduate Science 165
Designing Structure and Reactivity 58
De weyan philosophy 142
Dickinson College 100, 103104, 106, 112-113, 162
differential pay for science
specialists 157
Directorate for Education
and Human Resources
(NSF) 123, 144, 155
Don't tell teachers how to
teach 154
Doolittle, Russell 147-153,
Doolittle's Approach 148
Dowling, John 81
downplaying of problem
solving 147
Doyle, Mike 51-53
Durango, Colorado 38
E-mail 97, 107-112
Earlham College 40
Early, Terry 146
East Los Angeles Commu
pity College 135
educational innovation 49
educators 16-17, 19, 31, 52,
46, 10(1, 143, 146, 157
effective teaching 161-162
Ege, Seyhan 56-61, 63-70,
162, 169
F.ierman, Bob 29
Einstein 82
Elementary Fx".ence Study
(ESS) 18
Epstein, William 69
Fstler, Ron 40-41, 46-47, 49
evaluation 20-21, 62-63, 70,
88, 90, 94, 1(17, 130, 134,
hverse, Stephen 76-79
Livrubodu Cminb 13
excellence in teaching 34,
38, 47, 130
fxciuswe I mphai, on Mat,
aril Pt (went Su.tem.
fiperimem in ()Magi rgit
experimental model 22, 49,
exportable 48, 143
external funding 38, 55, 69
Ffaculty-student research 55.
See also undergraduate research; collaborative research
faculty burnout 37
Fund for the Improvement
of Post Secondary Education (F1PSE) 102, 104, 112
Funding 127; 11-13, 20-21,
27, 35, 38, 46-47, 53, 55, 69,
96, 112-113, 126-127, 141,
154-155, 159, 165-167
Furman University 40
future physicians 81,84, 94
Faculty Commitment 129
G-C 3, 28-29
faculty productivity 141
Farmer, Arthur 101
federal research dollars 165
feedback mechanisms 160
Fels, Katva 87, 183
Gallagher, Warren 27, 29,
female 28-30, 34, 45, 108,
121, 125, 130-132, 135-136,
female faculty 29, 34
Ferguson, Lloyd 127, 130,
132, 134
Georgi, Howard 95
getting key individuals involved 19
Fevnman, Richard 108
fiber optics computer network 107, 109, 162
"Find out what works and
reward it" 159
first-generation college faculty 33
first-generation collegegoers 23, 33
"First in the world in
science and mathematics
by the year 20(X1" 13
Fischer, Pam 49
Flaningam, Therese 150-
Garcia, Ray 131-132, 137,
Geertz, Clifford 15
GI bill 59
Girgus, Joan 164
Gleiter, Mel 28
Goldberg, Fred 98
Goroff, Daniel 82, 88
grade inflation 12
Graduates of the Department
grants writing 20
grass-roots reform 69, 71
Grissom, Janet 45-46
Grove, Kathleen 153
Grover, Scott 139
Gunn High School 11)1
Gutierrez, Carlos 131, 133,
137-139, 167
Guttentag, Marcia 168
151, 154
force and motion diagnostic
test 1(17
Force Concept Inventory
114, 118
Furl I ricis College 39; 33, 3849, 55, 160-163, 170
Fort Collins, Colorado 40
"Forum on Education' 97
Fratiello, Tony 131, 136, 139
freshman-sophomorescience writing course 11
Friday seminars 40
From our,c Intiocittion fee
Curriculum Reform 6-1
habits of doing science 16
Flake, Richard 98
Ball, David 119, 184
iallada, Marian 66
Halloun, Ibrahim Abou 98,
Hamilton, Rod 10-1
hands-on experience 80,
larpur College 40
liarrron, Merle 41
I lartsel, Scott 24, 27
Harvard University 52, 8182, 84-86, 93-95, 112, 114,
118-120, 122, 139, 167, 170
Hawaii, University of 155
Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) 140
Health and Human Services (HHS) 140
Herschbach, Dudley 81, 83,
86-88, 90, 94- 95,120, 135,
Hestenes and Hallouns'
Force Concept Inventory
101, 104, 114
Hestenes, David 98, 100101
Hewlett-Packard 51, 67
high schools 29, 39, 57, 140,
hiring policy 39
Hispanic 124-125, 130-131,
135-136, 138-139
history of science education
reform 22
Hmong community 32
Holton, Gerald 21, 167
Hope College 51
Horowitz, Sylvia 141, 182
how successful faculty support and manage improvement 158
how to teach 28, 42, 95, 143144, 154
Howard Hughes Medical
Institute 42, 162-163, 165166
!Iowan/ I bight's Story 162
Howard University 130
Hubble space telescope 15(1
113M 51, 108
Illinois, University of 161,
imaginary restrictions 60
immersion experience 59
implementation challenge
157, 158
importance of morale 39
improvement of math
education 161
independent laboratory
stud', 41, '51
Indiana University 45, 98
indirect costs and overhead
individual attention 85,
133, 136
industry 41, 43-45, 50, 73,
inertia and change in science education 15
infrastructure 21, 50, 56,
127, 165
infusion of money and personnel 55
innovation 11, 17-22, 27, 40,
49, 56, 64, 69, 109, 115, 165
Innovation versus Managing
Change 18
inorgani.: chemistry 32, 44,
54, 66, 74
Installing Structure and Reactivity 60
institutional limitations 16
instructional and institutional change 72
instructional formats 17
instructional materials 18,
instructional troubleshooter
instrumentation grants 49
Inteflex premed program
60, 64
interaction via E-mail 109
interdisciplinary major 3233
Interdisciplinary Programs in
Chemistry 30
internal support 69, :58
intimacy between professor
and class 159
introductory physics 81, 97-
Kai Zen 160
Kaleidoscope 103, 158, 170
Kanter, Rosabeth Moss 19
Keck Foundation 51
King, Fred 25
Kline, Morris 17
Klink, Joel 32, 35
Krahling, Mark 29
Kurtin, William 53
Jackson Biological Latvratory 138
Japanese 135, 160, 168
jefterson, Margaret 140
Jencks, Christopher 14
70, 88-89, 95, 98, 102-104,
112, 124,140 -141, 143,
149, 155, 157, 160-163,
165, 167
Mathematics Component 88;
Matyas, Marsha Lakes 1819, 22
Laboratory 61; 45, 58-59, 6162, 73, 134
Mazur, Eric 114-122, 167
MBRS Program at Cal State
LA 133
laboratory-rich program 54
MBRS Students 135
Larkin, Jill 99
Lavoisier on conversion of
mass 82
Laws, Priscilla 104, 107,
112, 162
Layzer, David 81-84, 86-90,
93-95, 120, 167
Lecture Method 75
lending library of science
McDermott, Lillian 97
Measuring Change 168
medical school 50, 60, 82,
supplies 150
84, 132, 140
Mehs, Doreen 4041, 47-48
mentor 30, 38, 55, 131-134,
merit-based scholarships 50
Mestre, Jose 97, 99
methodology (this study)
less is more 58, 97, 162
liberal arts college 40, 103,
112, 136, 164
Lipson, Abigail 86-87, 9394, 182
Livermore Hospital 139
local conditio.s and local
goals 162
long-term outside funding
for research 159
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) 45, 47
Louisiana State University
Lund, Judy 28-29
101, 104, 107, 109, 112117, 122
Iowa State University at
Ames 165
lhS 162
math anxiety 181
Mathematical Association
of America 161
mathematics 11-14, 16-17,
Malcom, Shirley 18-19, 22
managing change 18-19,
Michigan 51, 56, 58, 60, 6264, 68-70, 96,169-170
Michigan, University of 56,
68, 96
microcomputer-based laboratory tools 112
microscale equipment 65
Mills, Jim 40-42, 44, 47, 49,
160-161, 163
Mills, Nancy 51, 53
minorities in science 123,
126, 132
Minority Access to Re::earclz
Careers (MARC) 137; 128129, 131, 133, 135, 137-141
Minority Biomedical Research Support program
(MBRS) 124,127 -129, 131141
Marking, Ralph 36
Martin, Paul 118
Massachusetts, University
of 97, 99
materials development 18
materials for the OCS approach 101
Minority Science Program
(MSP) 129, 132, 140
misconceptions in physics
98, 116
MIT 53
mobile chemistry demonstration unit 29
molecular and cellular
biology 58, 66, 81
Montana State University
Ohio State University 52,
Moore, P.A. 149-150, 182
Olguin, George 146
Onak, Tom 130, 136
operation capture 43
Morgan State University
optics 82, 97-98, 107, 109,
Morrison, Philip 53
Munk, Walter 147
Ordering New Knowledge
Oregon, University of 49,
107, 112
naive conceptions 98
National Cancer Institute
National Defense Education Act (NDEA) 159
National Instihite of General Medical Sciences 138
National Institutes of
Health (NIH) 124, 129,
133-134, 138-139, 141, 159
organic chemistry 46, 52-54,
56-58, 61, 64-65, 70, 74, 87,
90-92, 133, 136
134, 140, 144, 146, 154156, 158, 167
National Science Foundation graduate fellowships
Neff, Ray 109
Nevada, University of 38
New Math 16
New Mexico State University 100, 103
Newtonian mechanics 81,
NMR 42, 52, 128, 137
Nordman, Christer 66
Novice to Expert ProblentSelving Strategies 99
NSF Research Experiences
for Undergraduates Sites
158, 164
post-Sputnik era 17
Potsdam College of the
State University of New
York (SUNY) 160
Potuznik, Suzan 75-77, 79,
precollege preparation 12
outside fuilding 13, 20
Outstanding Professor
Award 129, 132
premed 23, 51-52, 60, 93,
Overview Case Study
Method-New Mexico State
100; (OCS) 100-103
PPagonis, Stella 33, 36, 182
National Science Board 157
National Science Foundation (NSF) 47, 50-52, 55,
67-68, 101, 123-124, 131,
Platz, Matthew 52
Plummer, Benjamin 52-53
policies inappropriate to
science teaching 12
post-performance rewards
Other Programs 140
National Merit finalists 50
National Research Council
planning and evaluation
Participants' Observations
Paulson, Don 141
Pecoraro, Vincent 66
Pedagogy at its Most
Experiential 153; 154
Pedagogy by Indirection 149
peer instruction cycles 116
peer support 19
Peitz, Betsy 138
periodic table 53, 74, 78,
108, 114
Problem Hunting and
Solution Finding 16
problem solving 16, 29, 5859, 75, 84, 89-90, 97, 99,
103-104, 106, 116, 119,
122, 147-148, 164
process of change 56
programs for K-12
minorities 124
Project Kaleidoscope 103,
158, 170
Promise of Chem-Plats 85
Propagation 69, 120; 112-113
prospective majors 39, 76,
Puentedura, Ruben 83, 85,
87, 94-95
Pytte, Agnar 109
147-1JS, 151
Perpich, Joseph 163
Pew Charitable Trust 118,
Pew Science Program in Undergraduate Education 164
Phase One: Retraining CrossOver Teachers 143
Phase Two: Educating Elementary Teachers 144
QED 108
qualitative understanding
58, 98, 100, 102, 114
quantitative aspects of
chemistry 53
quantum theory 28, 82
quasi-instructional budget
lines 166
physical chemistry
(p-chem) 25, 30- 31.54, 60
nutrition 73, 76-78, 142, 144
Ochrymowy(z, Leo 24, 30
Of.-5 in Action 101
The Physics Teacher 101
Pilbeam, David 82
Placement 30; 11, 37, 57, 61,
84, 166
Pladziewicz, Jack 26-27, 37
R&D 73
rapporteur 15, 33, 73, 75-77,
86-87, 90
rate of retention 12
Rau, John 44
Real Problem Solving 89; 59,
San Diego County 143, 145,
reconfiguration of reward/
incentive structure 19
San Diego State University
Recruiting Faculty and
Students 29; 12, 14, 19, 23,
26-30, 32-34, 38-40, 42-43,
50-51, 73, 75-76, 79, 95-96,
120, 125-127, 131-132, 134,
136, 140-141, 143, 157, 168
Reif, Fred 99
release time 53, 129-130,
133-134, 141
San Francisco, University of
Research Corporation 51,
140, 185
research experience 51-52,
68, 126, 140, 162
Research Experiences for
Undergraduates (REU)
research group 51,54, 67,
128, 130, 134, 136-138
Research Improvement for
Minority Institutions
(RIMI) 131, 140
Resources for Cumulative Im-
provement-Four Pathways
SAT scores 43, 51, 126
Sawrey, Barbara 72-73, 7981, 167
Schmid, Wilfried 88
Schneider, David 1
School of Arts and Sciences
School of Education 32-33
Schultz, Sheldon 147
science illiteracy 14
science requirement 26, 72,
Science, A Process Approach (SAPA) 18
Science and Engineering
Education Directorate
(NSF) 144, 155. See also
Directorate for Education
and Human Resources
Science Curriculum Improvement Study (SCIS)
standardized tests 54
standards of validity and
reliability 168
Stanford University 155
Stang, Peter 69
start-up funds 36, 69
State University of New
York (SUN?) 160-162
State University System 125
steady improvement 11
Steiner, Richard 69-70
Stephens, Clarence 160
Stone, William 52
Stransky, Carl 47
strategic department 49,
Strategies Versus Solutions 21
structural reform 19
structure and reactivity 56,
58-64, 66-69, 169
student and facult) morale
student-faculty wo:kshops
student preparation 44
Student Response 121
student stipends 42
Results 62
Scope of the Overhaul 56
Students 75
Studies of Cognition 97
Revising the Standard Curriculum 52
Revitanza:ion of Physics 125:
Case Western Reserve 107
rewards 19, 52, 118, 125,
129, 139, 158-159, 164
Scripps Institute of Oceanography 147
self-paced instruction 13
study skills course 36
Sullivan, Daniel 158, 170
summer programs 39, 67-
Selling the Idea 59
68, 140
Summing Up 169
SUNY Potsdam 160
Riesman, David 14
Ritchey, John 38, 40, 43, 47
Rochester, University of
role model 34, 131-132, 134135
Rosser, James 129
Rostow, Walt 50
Rutgers 112
Rutherford 148, 152
-SSadler, Philip 119
Salt Lake City 46
Saltman, Paul 142-147, 149150, 153-157, 167, 170
San Antonio, Texas 38, 50
Semmes Foundation 51
sense of community 42,159
shortfall 14, 57
Skinnerian 159
small class size 44, 85
Smelstor, Marjorie 34
Smith, Harding 147
Society for Advancement of
Chicanos and Native
Americans in Science
(SACNAS) 123, 139
Socratic dialog 85
Sokoloff, David 11 7
Somerville, Richard 147
Sommerville, 40, 46
Southern California, University of 155
Special Section 77
Sputnik 13, 159
sustainable reform %
-Tteacher-education course in
physics 20
Teacher Preparation 31
teacher retraining 16
teacher-student interactions
teaching assistants 56, 105
Teaching Chemistry 147
teaching does not compete
with, but complements
research 130
Tecching Elementary Teachers
(Not So) Elementary Science
teaching enhancements 17,
Tetrahedron Letters 52
textbook authors 52
textbook publishers 96
The Academic Revolution 14
The Change Masters 19
They're Not Dumb, They're
Different 7, 181
they shake, but nothing
moves 16
Thornton, Ronald 104
Tobias, Sheila 181
transforming innovation
into change 19
Trinity University 50; 33, 3839, 50-55, 96, 162, 170
Trotsky 92
Two Interdisciplinary Majors
Compared 32
two-year community colleges 126
-UU.S. News and World Report
UCSD institute 151
Undergraduate Education
Committee 69
Undergraduate Research 51,
128; 24, 51-52, 68, 126-127,
140, 159, 163
unenforced (or unenforceable) admissions requirements 12
universal buy-in 158
"Uses of the Past" 17
Utah, University of 12, 45,
Wisconsin 23, 25, 29, 31, 37,
Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction
Van Heuvelen, Alan 10°103, 111, 113
-wWalshok, Mary 143
Warner Lambert-Parke
Davis 67
Washington, University of
Watts 125
Waxahachie, Texas 50
Weltanschauung 16
Westinghouse Talent
Search 132
What Chem-Phys
Accomplished 89
what hinders students 18
What's Ahead for ChemPhys? 94
Whimbey, Art 29
Whimbey pairs 29
White, Bernard 165
Why Eau Claire is Different
Will the New Curriculum
Survive? 68
Williams, Luther 123, 158
I ,;
Wisconsin, University of
23-35, 37-39, 42, 55, 162,
women and minority students 59, 67
Women in Science program
workshop mathematics 112
workshop physics 103-107,
Workshop PhysicsDickinson College 103
Wrenching Resources from
Quasi-Instructional Services
Wright, David 100
writing across the curriculum 13, 41
writing program at Fort
Lewis 39
Yang, Thao 33
Yang, Wayne 121, 184
"[Reform] is not a fix, but an ongoing negotiation of small
changes.. It requires someone who talks a lot, persuades
a little. sets an example, lets others be creative, and
keeps on prodding and pulling."
Professor Seyhan Ege
Successful Reformer
Revitahmg Undergraduate Science reveals why,
even after a decade of study and innovation aimed at
correcting serious flaws, most reforms of college science
are incomplete and short-lived.

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