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Chemistry Education

Research in this area is aimed at understanding the teaching and learning of college level chemistry. This research is highly interdisciplinary; it requires a strong foundation in chemistry and employs both qualitative and quantitative research methods from education. Focus areas in the department include role of writing in learning chemistry, preparing graduate students to teach, and innovative curricula among others.


Writing-to-learn is an educational approach, which supports deep conceptual learning through writing. This approach is in contrast to traditional uses of writing in science classrooms as either a means to communicate what you know (short answer essay on an exam) or what you have done (lab reports). MWrite is a campus-wide project aimed at bringing writing-to-learn into large introductory courses such as general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, statistics and economics. Teams of researchers and faculty from these departments are working together to investigate the ways in which writing impacts learning of difficult concepts. (Shultz)


Inclusion and Diversity

Issues of inclusion and diversity are an important part of the national and local conversation on higher education. Our research focus includes studies to understand the differential experiences of students in chemistry courses and developing programs that support students from at-risk populations as they matriculate at UM. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods are used to understand the impact of chemistry placement on the experiences of transfer students and students who identify with groups underrepresented in science. (Shultz )


Students as Teachers

Graduate students play a major role in introductory courses and have a significant impact on undergraduate learning. However, traditional graduate teacher training in the sciences is typically brief and overgeneralized. Studies are aimed at understanding how graduate students develop instructional expertise with minimal professional development. (Shultz)


Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences

Many faculty are involved in classroom innovation in our graduate and undergraduate program. Recent efforts include the design, implementation and assessment of Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences in undergraduate laboratory courses to increase student interest and engagement. Innovative curricula, such as inquiry, problem-based learning, or authentic research-based models, engage students in scientific practice and as active producers of new knowledge. Methods are needed that go beyond assessing the learning of scientific facts and include assessment of students understanding of scientific practice. (Shultz )



The Chemistry Department offers diverse options for graduate students who want to engage in chemistry education work. The faculty see these interests as existing openly alongside any other scholarly pursuits, and strongly encourage students who wish to pursue any of these options to talk with their current or prospective advisors, other faculty members, and their peers, about their interests

Path 1: Dissertation in Traditional Lab, Chemistry Education Supplement

Path 1. For graduate students pursuing dissertation research in traditional chemical laboratory and/or computational areas, our chemistry education program is intended to support your development as a future faculty member. (See:CSIE|UM website  for more information about the department’s future faculty and educational development program).Graduate students can engage in chemistry education work by:

• selecting their doctoral program cognate courses in areas of education

• taking additional courses, after candidacy, in areas of education

• applying for FFGSI (future faculty graduate student instructor) positions

• pursuing the MS in Educational Studies (dual degree with the School of Education)

• creating, with approval, blended dissertations that include chemistry and education research

Many faculty members have ongoing or new project ideas for instructional development in the context of the department’s curricular program, or with a variety of outreach or other collaborative activities. See Projects at the CSIE|UM site.  Many of our graduate students join these projects using the various mechanisms of support described above.

Path 2: Dissertation in Chemistry Education

The Chemistry department also includes graduate students interested in pursuing a dissertation in chemistry education research, while otherwise satisfying the existing candidacy and program requirements of research rotations, coursework in an area of chemistry specialization, and so forth, which will provide them with a strong, discipline-centered foundation fotheir careers as educators.

Graduate students who are interested in a dissertation in chemistry education research can pursue projects in the research areas listed above.