This presentation demonstrates the use of discipline-based education research to inform curriculum development and enhance student learning in chemistry, with discussion of general implications for instructional teams engaged in evidence-based course transformation. Despite multiple calls for reform, introductory science curricula at many universities tends to be fact-based and encyclopedic, built upon a collection of isolated topics, oriented too much towards the perceived needs of specific majors, and focused too much on abstract concepts and algorithmic problem solving. Research in science education has shown that these types of curricula do not help many students to develop meaningful understandings and connections between core concepts and ideas. Our own educational research in chemistry has revealed that many college students finishing a major in the discipline still rely on intuitive assumptions and fast and frugal heuristics to build explanations and make decisions. This presentation will summarize core findings of our research on student thinking and learning, and show how we have used these results to develop an alternative way of conceptualizing the introductory chemistry curriculum by shifting the focus from learning chemistry as a body of knowledge to understanding chemistry as a way of thinking. This presentation will describe how the new curriculum has been implemented and evaluated, as well as the major challenges that have been faced during its implementation.
Department of Chemistry