Improving performance in first year chemistry
Chambers, Kent A.
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General Chemistry is a degree requirement for over thirty different baccalaureate degrees offered by Texas Tech University. Historical success rates for this course have been low, with overall attrition rates as high as 70% in some years. Students are placed into either General Chemistry or Introductory Chemistry based on their performance on a chemistry placement exam. This dissertation contains in-depth studies on improving student performance and reducing attrition in both Introductory and General Chemistry classes. There is a high statistical correlation between student performance in Introductory Chemistry and student performance in General Chemistry in the following semester. Since 70-80% of the students are placed into Introductory Chemistry, it was postulated that by improving student performance in Introductory Chemistry, the student performance in General Chemistry would be significantly improved. Three different methods of improving student performance in Introductory Chemistry are discussed. The impact of these three methods upon student performance and attrition rates in Introductory Chemistry are evaluated in detail, as are their longitudinal effects on student performance in General Chemistry in the following semester. It was determined that all three methods significantly improved student performance and reduced attrition rates in Introductory Chemistry. It was also found that all three methods significantly increased student performance and decreased attrition rates longitudinally in General Chemistry. The relationship between student participation in classroom activities and student performance in General Chemistry was evaluated. This study showed that a significant percentage of the variance in final course grade was explained by student participation and attendance. Both student participation and attendance were determined to be good predictors of student success in General Chemistry Finally, a study using Just in Time Teaching (JiTT) techniques in General Chemistry was performed. This pedagogical approach and its effect on student performance and attrition is discussed. The class involved in the JiTT program was found to have significantly improved student performance and significantly reduced attrition rates in General Chemistry. In conclusion, this dissertation presents and discusses several studies focused on improving student performance and decreasing attrition rates in the first year chemistry curriculum at Texas Tech University.