Two of six of the respondents effectively replied “I cover all the concepts that I feel are appropriate for first year chemistry” to quote R1. R2 said “The quantum concepts I do teach (mentioned above) are presented in a very basic fashion.” In effect, these instructors are finessing this question by saying they have found a sufficiently simple level at which the topics can be taught.
The other four of our respondents expressed concern as to the ability of their students to handle quantum concepts. R4 wrote “Frankly, I think the above concepts are largely inaccessible to most of my students though I cover them anyway. I find that most of my students are extremely concrete thinkers.” Two other respondents felt that the mathematics was beyond their students.
As indicated in the last section, only R5 makes it a practice of working with quantum concepts and expecting his students to grasp them. But even he wrote that he believes that many of them are not ready for this.
6. Instructors’ Command of and Comfort with Quantum Concepts
We addressed a sequence of questions to the instructors to gauge their self-perception of their command of quantum concepts, and their comfort with these concepts. On the questionnaire, these questions sequentially were:
Explain whether there are quantum concepts you would like to teach but do not because you do not feel comfortable with them yourself. Please list all such concepts, if any.
Explain whether you are reluctant to teach quantum concepts in your courses. If so, please provide the reasons for your reluctance.
Did you feel well-prepared for teaching quantum concepts prior to last June’s workshop?
Do you feel well-prepared now?
Are there particular areas that are troublesome for you?
Are there frankly puzzling aspects of quantum mechanics? Please identify them, if any. If so, do you find it useful to emphasize them to your students?
Uniformly the instructors are confident about their command of quantum concepts at a level necessary to teach their general chemistry courses. However, most are equally blunt that their comfort with quantum concepts ends at this level. What follows is a concatenation of each instructor’s response to the above questions.
R1: “I’m comfortable with what I teach. …Bonding theory is the most troublesome for me. Like orbitals, it’s all a little fuzzy on the edges! Probability and particle-wave duality are most puzzling. I do emphasize them to my students.”
R2: “As an inorganic chemist, I am pretty comfortable with many of the basic mathematical treatments of quantum concepts. …I was prepared, but I gained many new insights based on the stimulating discussions I had with the BU faculty and the other workshop participants. These discussions forced me to think critically about the way I approach these ideas. I am always gaining new insights. …I am not formally trained as a quantum chemist, so I would not feel completely at ease with teaching a course that was specifically focused on quantum chemistry.”
R3: “I am still uncomfortable with quantum concepts myself. I would be scared to death to have to teach a junior level p-chem course. Since I teach at the freshman and sophomore level I feel
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