Science Skills, Practices, and Resources

20 Jun 2009
Description: 

All VIPEr learning objects are supposed to include clear student learning goals and a suggested way to assess the learning. This "five slides about" provides a brief introduction to the "Understanding by Design" or "backward design" approach to curriculum development and will help you develop your VIPEr learning object.

Prerequisites: 
Course Level: 
Corequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

Faculty will

  • understand the "backward design" concept
  • learn to write learning outcomes and assessments using the verbs ("activities") and "products" provided
  • learn how a rubric can be used to discriminate students' levels of achievement
Implementation Notes: 

These slides are a quick and dirty summary of a longer hands-on faculty development workshop I do. They provide an introduction to the Understanding by Design process, help in writing learning goals, suggestions for developing assessments of student learning, and helpful hints for preparing a VIPEr learning object.

Time Required: 
15 minutes to read the slides; a lifetime to practice the skill :)
Evaluation
Evaluation Methods: 

I hope that faculty will use these slides to aid their writing of learning goals and assessments for the VIPEr site.

27 Aug 2018

Interactive Syllabus

Submitted by Amanda Reig, Ursinus College
Description: 

The Interactive Syllabus is a web-based survey delivery of syllabus content to your students prior to the first day of classes.  The web link below explains many of the features and advantages, but in my opinion some of the best benefits are (1) students actually engage with the content on the syllabus in meaningful ways, (2) it saves class time on the first day, and (3) can encourage students to share questions/concerns they may not have been as eager to share in person.

The survey is built on the qualtrics platform, but could be adapted for other programs.  

Prerequisites: 
Corequisites: 
Related activities: 
Implementation Notes: 

I implemented the approach in my General Chemistry I course this fall, and will likely adapt for all future courses.  I based my survey on the one that can be obtained at the website, but did make modifications. I have uploaded a pdf of my version of the survey, and would be happy to share the Qualtric Survey File to anyone interested (it is not an allowed file type so cannot be posted here).

I sent an email to students on Friday before classes began Monday morning containing a PDF of the syllabus and the link to the survey.  I did not assign any points for completion of the survey - just asked them to do so before 8 pm on Sunday (so I would have time to review their answers).  I sent a reminder email mid-day on Sunday.  I had around an 85% response rate.  I estimate it takes around 15 - 20 minutes for a student to work through.  It took around 2 hours for me to adapt the survey to my own preferences based on my syllabus.

22 Jun 2018
Evaluation Methods: 

An answer key is included for faculty.

Evaluation Results: 

This LO was developed for the summer 2018 VIPEr workshop, and has not yet been implemented.  Results will be updated after implementation.

Description: 

This acitivty is a foundation level discussion of the Nicolai Lehnert paper, "Mechanism of N-N Bond Formation by Transition Metal-Nitrosyl Complexes: Modeling Flavodiiron Nitric Oxide Reductases".  Its focus lies in discussing MO theory as it relates to Lewis structures, as well as an analysis of the strucutre of a literature paper.

Prerequisites: 
Corequisites: 
Course Level: 
Learning Goals: 

Upon completion of this activity, students will be able to:

  1. Write a balanced half reaction for the conversion of NO to N2O and analyze a reaction in terms of bonds broken and bonds formed.

  2. Evaluate the structures of metal complexes to identify coordination number, geometry (reasonable suggestion), ligand denticity, and d-electron count in free FeII/FeIII centers.

  3. Recognize spin multiplicity of metal centers and ligand fragments in a complex.

  4. Interpret a reaction pathway and compare the energy requirements for each step in the reaction.

  5. Draw multiple possible Lewis Structures and use formal charges to determine the best structure.

  6. Draw molecular orbital diagrams for diatomic molecules.

  7. Identify the differences in bonding theories (Lewis vs MO), and be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each.

  8. Interpret calculated MO images as σ or π bonds.

  9. Identify bond covalency by interpreting molecular orbital diagrams and data.

  10. Define key technical terms used in an article.

  11. Analyze the structure of a well written abstract.

  12. Identify the overall research goal(s) of the paper.

  13. Discuss the purposes of the different sections of a scientific paper.

Implementation Notes: 

The paper in which this discussion is centered around is very rich in concepts, and will take time for students to digest.  As the technical level is higher than most foundation level course, it is strongly recommended that students focus on the structure of the paper, and not the read the entire paper.  The discussion is modular with focuses on both MO theory drawn form the paper, as well as a general anatomy of how literature papers are organized and what constitutes a good abstract.  Either focus could take a single 50 minute lecture, with two being necessary to complete both aspects.  Instructors can choose either focus, or both depending on their course learning goals.

This was developed during the 2018 VIPEr workshop and has not yet been implemented.  The above instructions are a guide and any feedback is welcome and appreciated!

Time Required: 
One or two 50 minute lectures depending on instructor's desired focus
8 May 2018

Developing Effective Lab Report Abstracts based on Literature Examples

Submitted by Katherine Nicole Crowder, University of Mary Washington
Evaluation Methods: 

I use a rubric that I have developed (see attached).

They are graded out of 50 points: 5 points per category on the rubric.

Evaluation Results: 

Most students score between 40-49 on this assignment. They mostly lose points for grammar, including things that they shouldn't (which hits them in two categories - conciseness and only relevant information included), and forgetting to write a title.

Description: 

For inorganic lab, I have my students write their lab reports in the style of the journal Inorganic Chemistry. The first week of lab, we spend time in small groups looking at several examples of recent articles from Inorganic Chemistry, focusing mainly on the experimental section and the abstract (as these are included in every lab report). We then come back together as a class to have a discussion of each of the sections in the articles. We discuss what was included in each section, what wasn’t included, and the style, tone, tense, and voice of each section. I keep a running list of what we discuss to post on our CMS. It is a great opportunity to discuss the expectations for lab reports for this course (and they feel like they have a say in what they will be expected to include), and it is also a time to highlight what may be done slightly differently in inorganic versus some of the other sub-disciplines.

Following this discussion, I provide them with another current article from Inorganic Chemistry, except this time I have removed the abstract and all identifying information (authors, title, volume, page numbers, etc.) using editing (white boxes over the information) in pdf. Their assignment is to read through the article and then write their own title and abstract, keeping in mind the elements of our discussion as they write.

Since this is very early in the semester, I try to choose an interesting article that won’t be completely over their head. I also stress that they don’t have to completely understand the results to write about them, as they are usually summarized nicely in the conclusions section. Since I expect them to focus mainly on their results in their lab report abstracts, I try to choose articles that have a lot of numerical and spectral data to incorporate.

This year I chose

Systematic Doping of Cobalt into Layered Manganese Oxide Sheets Substantially Enhances Water Oxidation Catalysis

Ian G. McKendry, Akila C. Thenuwara, Samantha L. Shumlas, Haowei Peng, Yaroslav V. Aulin, Parameswara Rao Chinnam, Eric Borguet, Daniel R. Strongin, and Michael J. Zdilla

Inorganic Chemistry 2018 57 (2), 557-564

DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.7b01592

The students are evaluated based on their inclusion of the aspects of abstracts that we discussed, their summarization of the main findings of the article, and their grammar.

Corequisites: 
Prerequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

A student should be able to:

  • Identify common aspects of sections of literature article examples, namely the abstract and experimental section
  • Read a current literature article from Inorganic Chemistry and identify the main findings in order to write their own abstract for the article
  • Use these experiences to guide their writing for lab reports for the inorganic lab course
Equipment needs: 

None.

Implementation Notes: 

I bring 3-4 examples of articles that have abstracts that incorporate elements that I want them to include in their lab report abstracts. I bring 3-4 examples of articles that are mainly synthetic for their experimental sections, as that is what their labs will be mostly. I post these examples to our CMS after lab.

I split students into groups of 3-4 to look over the articles, then we come back together as whole class for the discussion. It is interesting to see what the different groups pick up on.

I bring my tablet to take notes on during the discussion, then post that on the CMS as well.

I have posted the discussion summary from this spring.

Links to the article I used for the abstract writing assignment and the articles I used for the in-class discussion are below.

Time Required: 
30-45 minutes
22 Jan 2018

Streamlining Lab Report Grading: Errors Checklists

Submitted by Sabrina G. Sobel, Hofstra University
Evaluation Methods: 

Errors Checklists are most effective when you list the most common errors with explanations. You will see if you are successful if you use the items on the checklist repeatedly in your grading. Students will better understand their grades because of the clear communication of their errors. You should see a reduction of student inquiries as to why a certain grade was assigned on lab work.

Evaluation Results: 

My students really appreciate the errors checklists because my expectations and my grading choices are made clear. I have found that the formulation of Errors Checklists cause me to focus on and articulate the most common students errors; I subsequently pay more attention to the items in my pre-lab lectures, and student misunderstanding has decreased.

Description: 

I present a format for more effective communiction of errors in lab reports to students that I term Errors Checklists. Grading lab reports are one of the banes of our existence as professors. They are endless, unremitting papers that need to be scrutinized for accuracy, precision and understanding. Instead of tearing your hair out at the fifteenth report in which the student failed to use to proper number of significant figures, or failed to produce a readable graph, why not just breezily check a box on your Errors Checklist (in which you have provided a complete and thoughtful explanation), and staple to the student report?

I have created and used Errors Checklists for General Chemistry and Foundations of Inorganic Chemistry lab classes for almost two decades. I have passed them on to junior colleagues in my department, which they have modified to suit their needs. Errors Checklists lower my anxiety and anger when grading multiple lab reports, and provide clearer communication with students.

Corequisites: 
Prerequisites: 
Topics Covered: 
Learning Goals: 

1. More effective communication of student errors on lab reports.

2. Streamline lab report grading to enable quick turnaround to students.

3. Better communicate expectations on lab reports to enable students to improve performance during the semester.

Equipment needs: 

None.

Implementation Notes: 

You need to develop your own Errors Checklists customized for the experiments in your curriculum. A template is provided. I have included two example checklists; the first is for a Chemical Kinetics lab in which students determine the orders WRT iodide and peroxide for the iodine clock reaction. The second is for the synthesis of potassium alum from aluminum foil, with supplemental analysis of the unit cell (available online).

Time Required: 
not applicable
31 Jul 2017

Inorganic Nomenclature: Naming Coordination Compounds

Submitted by Gary L. Guillet, Armstrong State University
Evaluation Methods: 

For my course I grade this assignment as a problem set.  Upon collecting the assignment I do not exhaustively grade them.  I check them over for completness.  I tell the students when I hand it out that it is designed for them to learn and then test their own comprehension and if they are stuck they should bring issues to office hours. 

On the following exam I put two or three inorganic complex names and have the students draw the structures.  The test questions always incorporate isomerism in addition to combinations of common ligands and transition metals.

Evaluation Results: 

After completion of this assignment most students are able to draw straigthforward structures including some isomers on an exam.  They can identify common ligands from their names like water, ammonia, carbon monoxide.  They also understand the common conventions in naming including handling cis and trans isomers as well as fac and mer isomers.

In the most recent sample of ACS examinations (IN16D) 87% of my students answerd correctly on the question most directly related to this assignment, selecting the correct name of a given complex using a picture of the complex.  I do not have any comparative data from another teaching approach.

Description: 

I do not like to take a large amount of time in class to cover nomenclature of any kind though I want students to know the names of common ligands and the basic ideas of how coordination complexes are named.  Since it is a systematic topic I assign this guided inquiry worksheet.   The students complete it outside of class and can work at whatever pace they want.  If they are more familiar with the topics the can quickly complete it but if they are rusty or have not seen some of the material it gives them an easy entry point to ask questions to fill in any gaps in their knowledge.  This assignment covers determing charge on a metal in a complex with simple ligands, how to identify and name common isomers, and it is structured in a guided inquiry form. 

Learning Goals: 

Students will be able to identify and correctly name common ligands in a chemical structure or chemical name.

Students will be able to identify the charge on a metal or a ligand in a chemical structure.

Students will be able to identify common isomeric differences in a chemical structure or a chemical formula (cis, trans, fac, mer). 

Students will be able to use a chemical name to draw a chemical structure.

Equipment needs: 

None

Topics Covered: 
Corequisites: 
Prerequisites: 
Implementation Notes: 

I use this assignment to replace a lengthy lecture on the topic of nomenclature when covering coordination chemistry.  I have students complete this assignment outside of class.  I encourage them to work in pairs so students can jointly interpret the instructions and determine the patterns in naming complexes.  The assignment is constructed in a very straightforward manner and covers the basics of inorganic nomenclature.

Upon completion of the assignment I take about 15-20 minutes in class to quickly cover the main ideas of the assignment.  I field any questions that arose during the assignment and I do a few comprehension check type questions on the board. 

Time Required: 
1-2 hours
3 Mar 2017

In-class peer review

Submitted by S. Chantal E. Stieber, Cal Poly Pomona
Evaluation Methods: 

Student participation was evaluated during the in-class portion based on the questions students asked. 

The formal peer review homework was evaluated based on completion, level of thought and thoroughness.

Evaluation Results: 

Overall, students were very interested in this topic and had not formally learned about the process before. There was a very lively discussion and a lot of questions were asked. All students received full credit for participation. 

Similarly, once students received their classmate's paper for peer review, they took the process very seriously and carefully went through the paper and answered the worksheet questions. 

I was very impressed by the high quality of the formal peer reviews that were turned in as homework. Students clearly spent a lot of time to carefully think about the paper and craft a reasonable response. Most students received full-credit. 

Description: 

This activity includes questions for students to answer to help guide them through the process of peer review. It was designed to assist students in writing peer reviews for research reports written by their classmates, but could be applied to literature articles as well.

Corequisites: 
Prerequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

A student will be able to:

-Explain how the peer-review process works

-Critically read through a research article

-Carefully review a research article

-Write a professional peer review

Implementation Notes: 

An overview of peer review was given with three powerpoint slides. Students then worked through a modified Q&A of the peer review module "Peer Review - How does it work?" posted by Michael Norris on VIPEr. This provided students with an example of real reviews, along with the resulting article revisions. 

The current worksheet was then passed out to students along with a research report written by one of their classmates (I assigned these and removed names). In class, students answered the questions on the worksheet and were able to ask questions of the editor (the instructor in this case). Following the in-class peer review, students had to write a formal peer review, which was turned in as homework. 

The peer review was a final component of a research report that students had been working on throughout the course. The final report was turned in after students had received the review comments back from their peers. The grade of the final report took into consideration whether or not students had made modifications based on comments by their peer reviewer.

 
Time Required: 
60 min
2 Mar 2017

Experimenting with Danger- CSB safety Video

Submitted by Sheila Smith, University of Michigan- Dearborn
Description: 

This 2011 video by the Chemical Safety Board is a very serious and moving motivation for adopting safe practices in the chemical laboratory.  It focuses on two recent and very real safety issues in University labs (UCLA, 2008 and TTU, 2010 ), both of which have shaken the educational research community to result in positive change. 

I have shared a "SafeShare" link so that you will not have to listen to ads, and if you choose to play the link in your classroom, you will not see all the Youtube ads on the screen.  

Prerequisites: 
Corequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

Students will gain a real sense of the importance of chemical safety in the laboratory that is related to real people who have suffered real losses.  

Implementation Notes: 

I will be using this video as part of my standard safety training during intake of new undergraduate researchers in my research lab and in the first week of Advanced lab.

I will also be working to get our general chemistry coordinator to adopt some or all of it as part of the lab safety training for freshmen.

Time Required: 
24 minutes
18 Jan 2017

calistry calculators

Submitted by Adam R. Johnson, Harvey Mudd College
Description: 

I just stumbled on this site while refreshing myself on the use of Slater's rules for calculating Zeff for electrons. There are a variety of calculators on there including some for visualizing lattice planes and diffraction, equilibrium, pH and pKa, equation balancing, Born-Landé, radioactive decay, wavelengths, electronegativities, Curie Law, solution preparation crystal field stabilization energy, and more.

I checked and it calculated Zeff correctly but I can't vouch for the accuracy of any of the other calculators. 

Prerequisites: 
Corequisites: 
Learning Goals: 

This is not a good teaching website but would be good for double checking math

 

Implementation Notes: 

I used this to double check my Slater's rules calculations (and found a mistake in my answer key!)

3 Jan 2017

Strategies for Effective Science Writing

Submitted by Anne LaPointe, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University
Description: 

This presentation is designed for senior undergraduates or beginning graduate students who need to write a research report or paper.  It was originally developed for the summer undergraduate students in the NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers.

Topics Covered: 
Prerequisites: 
Corequisites: 
Course Level: 

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