Have you ever wondered why so many undergraduate students struggle with their general chemistry courses in college? Various research studies report that a third of college students taking a STEM related course will either fail, with a D or F, or withdraw from the course with the rate increasing if one focuses on general chemistry specific courses. For educators this percentage is alarming considering most students have taken a college preparatory course in high school thus there must be a component in the curriculum that is missing.
"Preparation for College General Chemistry: More than Just a Matter of Content Knowledge Acquisition" is an article that identifies five factors that will possibly predict success in a general chemistry course; prior knowledge of common alterative conceptions, intelligence, scientific reasoning ability, proportional reasoning ability, and attitude towards chemistry. Although all five factors contribute to a student’s success, Cracolice and Busby have found that scientific reasoning ability and prior knowledge of common alternate conceptions significantly correlate with final exam performance. The article suggests that while in high school students develop their declarative knowledge however their procedural knowledge is lacking and rarely assessed. The authors then state that in order to improve on procedural knowledge educators need to create an environment that facilitates this development using a data to concept curriculum cycle. Even though it is suggested that procedural knowledge should be incorporated into the chemistry curriculum, Cracolice and Busby state that it is still critical to continue to push higher vocabulary, concepts, and problem solving skills throughout the course.
After reading this article one cannot help but reflect on their instructional approach. Consider using this article as evidence with department colleagues as well as with professional development communities in order to revise curriculum to incorporate both declarative knowledge and scientific reasoning.