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First-Semester General Chemistry Curriculum Comparison of Student Success on ACS Examination Questions Grouped by Topic Following an Atoms First or Traditional Instructional Approach

Description: This study uses the ACS first-term general chemistry exam to determine if one curriculum approach is more effective in increasing student success than the other based on their performance on the ACS exam. Two chemistry curriculum approaches were evaluated in this study; the traditional curriculum (TC) and the Atoms First (AF) approach. The sample population was first-semester general chemistry students at Collin College in Frisco, TX. An independent sample t-test was used to determine if there were differences in overall performance between the two curriculum approaches on two different versions of the ACS exam. The results from this study show that AF approach may be a better alternative to the TC approach as they performed statistically significantly better on the 2005 exam version. Factor analysis was used to determine if there were differences between the two curriculum approaches by topic on the ACS exam. Eight different topics were chosen based on topics listed on the ACS Examinations Institute Website. The AF students performed better at a statistically significant level than the TC students on the topics of descriptive chemistry and periodicity, molecular structure, and stoichiometry. Item response theory was used to determine the chemistry content misconceptions held by the students taught under both curriculum approaches. It was determined that for both curriculum groups the same misconceptions as determined by the Zcrit values persisted.
Date: August 2014
Creator: Molina, Cathy D.