Partner universities to make chemistry more equitable – News

08 June 2022

Carnegie Mellon University and Arizona State University partner to develop more equitable general education curricula in chemistry with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

On average, more black, Hispanic, and Indigenous students fail or drop out of general education courses in their first year of college than their white peers. Similar trends are observed between students from lower-income backgrounds and their more affluent peers. Carnegie Mellon University and Arizona State University aim to change that, starting with a general chemistry curriculum that prioritizes equity through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A study conducted by the Gardner Institute in 2019 found that the percentage of black students in first-year general chemistry classes who failed or dropped out was 47.2%, compared to 26.3% of their white peers. The percentage of Hispanic and Latino students who failed or dropped out was 42%, and American Indian or Alaska Native was 54.5%. When students do not pass gateway courses such as general chemistry, their academic trajectory can be affected for years, even resulting in gaps in equity that follow them throughout their lives.

“Conflicts in early chemistry courses can disrupt students’ journeys in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields,” said Rod Roscoe, assistant professor of human systems engineering at Arizona State University. “These challenges may particularly affect learners who have historically been discouraged from Active participation in chemistry education. “This is one source of disparities that we need to disrupt. In this project, I am passionate about channeling an equity-focused approach into innovative chemistry curricula. Our team believes that all learners will be served by being empowered to see themselves in the field of chemistry, and to form a personal and cultural connection to the ideas of chemistry And you have chemistry.”

Ariel Amber, director of the Center for Education Through Exploration (ETX) at ASU, and Norman Beer, director of the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University, will serve as the principal investigators. The educational programs will be provided by the Inspark Teaching Network, part of the ASU Learning Foundation, and OLI, both of which distribute innovative online educational curricula designed to improve the success of disadvantaged students.

In collaboration with faculty from black colleges and universities, predominantly black institutions, tribal colleges and universities, institutions serving Hispanics and community colleges serving low-income learners, the partners will design, develop, deliver, and expand a chemistry course.

“We believe the unfair results are in large part the result of a chemistry education that does not fit or respond to the diversity of learners. As such, it does not benefit their assets nor help them overcome their obstacles,” said Al Anbar, president of ASU. Professor of Environmental Chemistry in the College of Molecular Sciences. “Technology provides powerful ways to meet learners wherever they are, and helps everyone learn better, while being particularly beneficial for learners who are often marginalized.”

The project builds on decades of successful innovation by ETX and OLI to remove barriers to learning success, particularly in chemistry. The effort will include materials and results from clearly successful chemistry efforts from both projects, including ETX’s Critical Chemistry and OLI’s General Chemistry I and II. The course will be built on CMU’s OLI platform, which offers open and interactive learning approaches to improve learning outcomes and enable research and experimentation.

“This is truly a unique opportunity to combine and build on the success of our ETX and OLI approaches,” said Pierre. “Successfully serving these learners requires that we innovate—both pedagogically and technically—in ways that require rapid, science-informed innovation. These are the areas where our partnership and shared platform shine.”

David Yaron, a professor of chemistry at CMU, has been developing educational curricula for chemistry for decades.

“Our curricula support new types of synchronous learning activities, particularly improving teacher-student interactions and supporting better opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. Ongoing research and partner feedback shows that these types of interactions can be a powerful force for more equitable outcomes,” Yaron said. Excited about the opportunity to accelerate this business.

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