Case-Based Studies in Chemical Education - Spring 2011 ConfChem Conference

Spring 2011 ConfChem: Case-Based Studies in Chemical Education

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Paper 1: May 6-12---“What’s Next for Case Study Teaching in Science?” Clyde Freeman Herreid, University at Buffalo

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Abstract: Case study teaching in undergraduate science courses began 20 years ago. Today thousands of K-16 teachers are using the method and there are major websites that post hundreds of case studies and teaching notes in all STEM disciplines, especially the biological sciences. It is a puzzle why more chemists and other physical scientists have not embraced the method, since there is strong evidence that it is superior to the traditional lecture approach. But since there are over a dozen different methods of case teaching, which variation is the best surely depends upon an instructor’s goals. In this paper I pose a possible way to test the relative efficacy of different methods. Also, I examine possible ways that STEM instructors can move from the lecture mode (which arguably has the lowest learning retention) to active learning methods, especially those using cooperative learning. Here in the coming weeks in this online ChemConf. we will hear from converts to the case study method and learn of their approaches and concerns.

Paper 2: May 13-19----“Organic Growth: Putting ‘Real Life’ into Organic Chemistry Courses” Frank J. Dinan, Canisius College

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Abstract: Many students taking a two-semester introductory course in organic chemistry today are not chemistry majors. Often they are taking that course only because it is a requirement for admission to a professional school in one of the health sciences. Without significant help from their instructor, it is difficult for many of these students to appreciate the importance of the seemingly abstract content of organic chemistry to their future careers. The introduction of a few well-chosen case studies into this introductory course helps to deal with this problem. Case studies demonstrate how the seemingly abstract course content can be applied to real-world problems and effectively enhance student understanding and interest. A number of organic chemistry oriented case studies are described here that are designed to accomplish these ends.

Paper 3: May 20-26----“The Use of Case Studies in an Introductory Biochemistry Course” Kathleen Cornely, Providence College

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Abstract: Case study exercises in an introductory biochemistry course can be used to help students master the content of the course while at the same time help students build critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Case studies can be used in a variety of forms: (1) as in-class group activities, to either augment or replace content covered in lecture, (2) as homework assignments, completed either individually or in groups, to assess mastery of content and (3) as exam questions, to assess the students’ ability to apply their biochemistry knowledge to a larger context and to discourage rote memorization. Scientific journals as well as articles in the popular press provide rich sources of case study material. A "directed" case study approach allows the instructor to focus student attention on the key content areas that the instructor wishes to cover, doing so in a manner that is interesting and engaging to the students.

Paper 4: May 27-June 2---“You Call That A (Chemistry) Case?" Christa Colyer, Wake Forest University

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Abstract: One of the many strengths of case study teaching is the variety of techniques and formats available to instructors and students. However, not all cases are created equal, and as such, this paper will attempt to explore biases and pressures (both real and perceived) faced by case study teachers as they attempt to incorporate cases into their chemistry curricula. Using Herreid’s 1997 definition, “Cases are stories with a message. They are not simply narratives for entertainment. They are stories to educate ,” as a baseline for our exploration, we will begin by surveying the wide range of strategies employed for case study-based instruction in modern chemistry programs, with special attention paid to elements of pedagogy, assessment, and classroom management that are shared in common between the surveyed case studies. These elements will be compared to elements deemed essential to effective case study teaching in general. Beyond mastering the technical or practical elements of case study teaching, chemistry instructors may also have to overcome any biases against so-called ‘experimental’ teaching practices held by their institutions or departmental colleagues. Furthermore, instructors may also have to overcome biases within the case study teaching community, where judgments pertaining to accepted case methodologies and instructional norms may inadvertently affect the development of other unique instructional paradigms. This paper will, therefore, explore questions such as: if an instructor stretches the definition of a case to new limits, will his/her efforts be deemed less authentic? Are instructors motivated to ‘sell’ (or conversely, hide) case study teaching efforts to fit in with instructional expectations at their institutions? Can/should active learning strategies be reformatted as case teaching methods to gain credibility (or to improve their efficacy)? Does the nomenclature or classification applied to a particular teaching methodology impact its acceptance by instructors or students? By developing a greater understanding of the expectations, perceptions, and biases related to case study teaching, as held by our instructional peers, we will be poised to experiment with and develop our own case teaching methodologies in chemistry, uninhibited by questions of authenticity.

Paper 5: June 3-9—“Case Study Teaching in the Community College” Brahmadeo Dewprashad, Borough of Manhattan Community College, The City University of New York

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Abstract: Community colleges play an important role in educating and diversify the STEM workforce as more than 40 percent of recent Science and Engineering graduates have attended community colleges at some point. Students attending community colleges are largely from local communities and of a wide range of age and experiences. However, many of them are academically under prepared. I have found that the majority of these students do not often see the relevance of many of the core concepts covered in chemistry courses to their own lives. I feel that lecturing to these students using PowerPoint presentations based on textbooks (which have been designed largely for instructor centered instruction and students in selective programs and colleges) is not a very effective instruction strategy. I have found that engaging case studies can be used to connect with these students and teach core concepts in chemistry. This essay will share my experiences developing and using case studies to connect with urban community college students and teach core concepts in Organic Chemistry and General Organic and Biological Chemistry. The process of selection of interest-arousing topics relevant to core concepts, and transforming these into stories will detailed. In addition, the design of case studies for specific pedagogical goals, and strategies for using them in the classroom, will be shared. Also, the use of technology and multimedia to engage students and interest them in the cases will be discussed. An assessment of the effectiveness of my efforts and some of the challenges involved in developing and using case studies will also be discussed.

Paper 6: June 10-16—“Chemistry of Pompeii and Herculaneum” Eleonora Del Federico, Pratt Institute
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Abstract: The ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum provide an excellent case study to introduce basic chemical principles to non-majors. These two cities got buried under lava from the eruption of a volcano, Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and were frozen in time. This was almost two thousand years ago and the cities have been preserved underground until their excavation which began in the 18thcentury. Their preservation provides a wealth of information about the ancient people’s lives and the technologies used at that time. Fresco paintings, sculptures, mosaics, as well as pigment and glass manufacturing shops can still be found. The study of these materials can be used to teach basic chemistry such as periodic table, ionic and covalent compounds, crystalline structure, chemical reactions, causes of color of inorganic and organic compounds and reasons for their possible alteration. While this case study course is mainly directed to non-majors it can easily be extended and adapted for a major’s course. With the development of portable analytical instrumentation it is today possible to study the works of art and materials on site using non-invasive non-destructive techniques such as portable NMR, XRD, XRF, UV/Vis and FTIR. Therefore, this case study course can also be used to teach about "Instrumental Analysis" or even "Physical Chemistry". Through the focus on an ancient archeological site, a case study course like this one, has the potential to expose a population of students to chemistry that normally would not find the subject very appealing. This might even lead some students to be inspired to consider future careers in chemistry.

Paper 7: June 17-23--- “One Story, Different Classes: Using the Same Case Study for Different Levels of Chemistry Students” Ann Taylor, Wabash College

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Abstract: Many of the situations, problems, and content discussed in case studies are appropriate for multiple levels of students. In many cases, the same setup “story” can be used for beginning, advanced, and non-major students, while varying the questions and expected sophistication for the answers. Learning outcomes can be used to guide the development of the question section of the case study, allowing the case to be accessible to different levels of students. Examples of the same case being used for majors and non-majors, organic chemistry and biochemistry, and cell biology and biochemistry will be used, and suggestions for tailoring published cases to another course will be presented.

Paper 8: June 24-30--- “Use of Case Study for the Introductory Chemistry Laboratory Environment.” Valerie A. Frerichs and Priscilla B. Clarke, University at Buffalo

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Abstract: Introductory teaching laboratories are an ideal environment for students to experience course concepts and ascribe contextual relevance of these concepts to their world. A laboratory course component is theoretically conducive to implementing a range of highly-regarded active learning techniques. A primary threat to this advantage is increasing enrollment, forcing many programs to more efficiently deliver laboratory curricula in the less engaging, expository (cook-book) style using outdated, but economical techniques. The Department of Chemistry at the University at Buffalo has nearly doubled the General Chemistry laboratory enrollment in the last decade. We recently piloted our first case study based laboratory, which was developed at the summer workshop of the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science . This laboratory, a qualitative analysis of unknown metals, was modified from one of our most concept-rich laboratory experiments, to a model-based student-directed experience consuming two three-hour laboratory periods. The experiments themselves were changed minimally for the decision-style case study, to avoid additional cost and simplify implementation. The object of the revision was to enhance contextual relevance and improve student recognition of confirmatory reactions within the experiment. The original pilot, conducted in the summer of 2010, showed favorable (65% positive) student outcome in an anonymous survey comparing the case study style to the expository style of the same experiment. This paper will discuss our experience, discuss our critical elements for this type of revision, and provide a summary of our assessments to date.

Conference Date: 
May 6, 2011 - June 30, 2011