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Award Abstract #1140327

Collaborative Research: Transforming Undergraduate Physical Chemistry Education using a Context Rich Pedagogy to Teach Kinetics, Quantum Mechanics, and Spectroscopy

Division Of Undergraduate Education
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Initial Amendment Date: July 24, 2012
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Latest Amendment Date: July 24, 2012
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Award Number: 1140327
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Nicole Bennett
DUE Division Of Undergraduate Education
EHR Direct For Education and Human Resources
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Start Date: July 15, 2012
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End Date: December 31, 2015 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $99,171.00
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Investigator(s): Elaine Marzluff marzluff@grinnell.edu (Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Grinnell College
1121 Park Street
Grinnell, IA 50112-1690 (641)269-4939
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TUES-Type 1 Project
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Program Reference Code(s): 9150, 9178, SMET
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Program Element Code(s): 1536, 7513


The collaborative project between Knox College and Grinnell College is developing adaptable laboratory and curricular materials for an advanced chemistry course using a context-rich pedagogical approach. The project is (1) introducing modular spectroscopic instrumentation and computational techniques into the physical chemistry curriculum, (2) guiding the students in developing skills that will let them apply their knowledge of physical chemistry concepts to interdisciplinary applications, (3) assessing the impact of contextualized laboratory experiments to student comprehension and attitudes, and (4) disseminating the materials and assessment findings to the community.

The project is building on a prior NSF funded project, the Physical Chemistry with a Purpose module series (DUE 0340873) by developing complementary laboratory exercise that introduce students to selected spectroscopic techniques and computational methods used in modern research. Experiments are being developed featuring some combination of Raman, UV-Vis, fluorescence, and NMR spectroscopy, along with computational chemistry and mathematical modeling. The project is utilizing recent developments in lecture and laboratory pedagogies of active, contextualized learning to assist students in developing a deeper appreciation for, and understanding of, physical chemistry and its relationship to other scientific disciplines. Modular spectrophotometry equipment is adding capabilities in Raman, surfaced-enhanced Raman, time-resolved fluorescence, and chemiluminescence to the Physical Chemistry Laboratories. The Gaussian suite of programs is being used for molecular modeling and Mathematica is being used for the mathematical modeling.

Easily adaptable materials, relying on relatively low cost instrumentation, are being developed and made available to the community at large through both common dissemination pathways and via multiple digital repositories. The materials are being tested utilizing the diverse student populations at the collaborating schools and in both semester and trimester settings. Guided by the intended student learning outcomes for each module, the assessment and evaluation activity is using both empirical and qualitative approaches and is being consistently administered at both intervention sites. These data are being compared to similar data collected prior to the implementation of the intervention in order to establish how well the project is meeting its goals for improving student learning outcomes.


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