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R5: “Mostly. I teach the organic chemistry class from an orbital-based approach, and having a good understanding of the orbitals from the previous course/year really helps.”

R6: “For the more serious, dedicated student, YES. It’s critical that students understand the shapes of molecules, ionic and covalent bonds, (what, how and why), for organic chemistry and cell biology.”

The response of R4 was a refrain that we had personally encountered in our workshops with these consultants. The development team members would be told that we saw everything from a quantum perspective, but the participants did not have such a global perspective.

4. Unifying Model for the Students

We further inquired “Explain whether your students find that these quantum concepts provide a unifying model? If so, how does this manifest itself?”

Three respondents indicated that they felt that the students were more focused on their grades than seeking an underlying model for chemical behavior. They wrote:

R1: “I hope that they do but I am not sure. Some are mystified by quantum concepts and learn only the algorithms needed to solve problems.”

R3: “No. I think students look at these courses in a completely compartmentalized form. They learn what they need to repeat on the exams. The connections that a trained chemist makes based on this is pretty far from where they reside even at the end of the course. They can make the connection between electronic configuration and chemical reactivity though.”

R4: “I suspect that most if not all of my students think of these concepts as merely disconnected facts and definitions to be memorized for the next exam.”

Only one of our respondents felt that his approach might lead students to concentrate on quantum concepts. This respondent wrote:

R5: “They know I like orbitals, so my reputation sort of precedes me. Often, also, they do not seem ready or willing to give themselves the time needed fully to understand the concepts that quantum and orbitals require. I do have students who come back to me after they’ve seen a bit more quantum (either in my advanced classes, or in physics) and say that it all makes more sense now.”

Given the instructors’ response in section 3 that they do not stress quantum concepts as unifying chemistry, that their students do not view quantum theory as a unifying model is not surprising. This is reflected in the comment:

R2: I cannot really say, since I do not stress them (quantum concepts) as such.  It is doubtful that my particular emphasis would lead them to this conclusion. (This does not mean that other approaches could not lead students to see these ideas as unifying.)

5. Perception of Student Readiness

A reason that an instructor will not teach a topic is because of a belief that the students are not prepared to learn it. For this reason, to better understand the instructors’ attitudes towards instruction in quantum concepts, we asked the following question:

“Explain whether there are quantum concepts you would like to teach but do not because you feel that they are inaccessible to your students. Please list all such concepts, if any. Please explain in what sense are the concepts inaccessible to your students?”

Garik & Kelley (draft)page 6

NARST 2005

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