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Modernizing General Chemistry for the Year 2050: Why Are General Chemistry Instructors Hesitant to Teach Quantum Concepts?

Peter Garik*

School of Education

Boston University


Judith Kelley

Department of Chemistry

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Alan Crosby, Dan Dill, Alexander Golger, and Morton Z. Hoffman

Department of Chemistry

Boston University


This is a study of the attitudes towards instruction of quantum theory by instructors of general chemistry. With the working hypothesis that new methods of teaching quantum concepts must be introduced as the general chemistry course evolves over the next decades, the focus of this study is on the barriers to their introduction. Quantum concepts are difficult for instructors to teach and for students to learn. As part of a larger project developing computer software for instruction about computer concepts, based on exchanges at national meetings it is our perception that many chemistry instructors do not believe that quantum theory should be taught in general chemistry. Working with a small cohort of chemistry instructors, we dissect their selection of quantum concepts to teach, and the context in which they place them. We discuss the coherency of understanding of quantum theory that the instructors bring to their instruction and the impact that this has on providing students with a consistent quantum model of chemical behavior.

This research was supported by the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE) of the United States Department of Education through Award P116B020856.

*Correspondence: Peter Garik, School of Education, Two Sherborn Street, Boston, MA 02215; garik@bu.edu

Garik & Kelley (draft)page 1

NARST 2005

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