Submitted by Betsy Jamieson / Smith College on Thu, 05/22/2014 - 12:37

I just finished teaching our 2nd semester general chemistry course.  For most Smith students, this is their last course in our introductory sequence; they are taking the class as 2nd semester sophomores (our sequence goes gen chem 1, organic 1, organic 2, and gen chem 2).  Officially this class is called "Introduction to Inorganic and Physical Chemistry," but since we've moved coordination compounds to gen chem 1, it's been very light in the inorganic part for the past couple of years.  So, I decided to bring a bit of solid state chemistry into the class this year using materials from our 2013 TUES workshop on "Solid State Materials for Alternative Energy Needs." (

My ultimate goal was to get students to the point where they could read and understand a current paper in solid state chemistry.  Normally, as a bioinorganic chemist, it would have been very daunting for me to choose a suitable solid state paper, however, thanks to the 2013 workshop, I had 3 papers (with corresponding Learning Objects (LOs)) to choose from.  Ultimately, I chose the paper discussed by Amy Prieto at the workshop and thought about what topics the students would need to understand to be able to follow the paper.

In the classes leading up to our lit discussion, I covered topics like unit cells, solid solutions, techniques (EDS, powder X-ray diffraction), and band theory - using LOs from VIPEr and the workshop.  My class had 70 students. Since I wanted to do smaller group lit discussions, I broke up two of my 80-min class periods into six 25-min time blocks.  I used a Doodle poll to have my students sign up for one of those 6 time blocks.  This worked very well - and I was able to meet with the students in groups of no more than 15 students. 

Students were asked to read Amy's paper and to bring in responses to the lit discussion questions from the LO generated at the workshop (  During our 25-min meetings, we went over the answers to the questions.  In the end, I think the students were able to understand most of the material in the paper.  One question on the final exam was based on ideas presented in the paper, and the average score on that question was 73%. 

I asked the class to fill out a short survey on reading the paper and the lit discussion in exchange for 4 bonus points on the final exam.  Of the 58 students that responded, 45 said that it was very important or important to see a "real life" literature example of solid state chemistry.  Thus, while there are definitely some things that I can improve upon (for example some students wanted to spend even more talking about the paper), the students' response serves to further solidfy for me how important it is for us to find ways to bring current research into the classroom.