What should the role of General Chemistry in the higher education curriculum be? It turns out that, despite numerous studies and substantial money spent on reform by organizations such as the NSF, the first semester or two of college chemistry shows some disturbing trends. Progress has been limited in the use of interactive pedagogies. Research shows that after students take general chemistry they view chemistry differently than chemists do. Students are less interested in pursuing chemistry education after taking general chemistry than before they took the classes. Misconceptions learned in general chemistry are sometimes passed on by the high school teachers who learned much of their basic chemistry in the college course.
The Society Committee on Education (SOCED) had a vigorous discussion of these issues at the 237th ACS National Meeting last Spring, and SOCED member Melanie Cooper is leading a newly-formed task force to look into ways that the ACS, perhaps in conjunction with other organizations, might address the issues with general chemistry noted above. Possible courses of action include developing a white paper on general chemistry, establishing relationships with organizations that have common ground, and developing a set of guidelines and performance standards for what students should be able to do after one or two semesters of chemistry.
We welcome your thoughts on this issue as the task force begins its discussions. Thanks! - Bryan Balazs, SOCED Chair