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Research

There is a long tradition of chemical education research in the ICE organization. Beginning in 1982, ICE has pioneered development and testing of hands-on science learning materials and computer-based instructional strategies.

Development of computer-based materials dates back to 1982 and the efforts of Project SERAPHIM to develop and disseminate materials to high school teachers. The early work of Project SERAPHIM consisted of information about using technology and computers as well as the development and dissemination of computerized teaching materials, distributed around the world. SERAPHIM's work grew into Journal of Chemical Education: Software (JCE: Software) as the discipline matured and in order to give peer-reviewed publication credit to the individual authors.

Rapid changes in the use and acceptance of technology-based learning materials has led us to be part of NSF's National STEM Distributed Learning (NSDL) project, first as JCE DLib and at present as the ChemEd DL (Chemical Education Digital Library), a major effort to collect, organize, develop, and share chemistry resources online. The work of Justin Shorb exemplifies the research currently happening in this area.

The brief summaries below indicate that our efforts range from the development and evaluation of chemistry outreach projects to the use of new pedagogies for teaching chemistry to college students to the adaptation of the latest science and technology to classroom materials. ICE has pioneered the development of hands-on science kits and how-to activities and guides in materials science and nanoscience. Outcomes from ICE research projects are reflected in the teaching of chemistry in classrooms and informal science education programs around the world.

Past Research Projects:

Mechanism Theater

By incorporating research-based lab experiments into undergraduate courses, we hope to have a positive impact on students' perceptions of and attitudes toward scientific research. This reaction is an example of the synthesis of a cationic gemini surfactant. (J. Phys. Chem. 1996, 100, 11664–11671.) Click the picture to see a larger version. Surfactants have a variety of applications, including wide usage in cleaning products.

From the Bench to the Blackboard

Project Led by Mary Beth Anzovino

What are students' opinions of and attitudes toward research, in general and specifically here at UW–Madison? From the Bench to the Blackboard is exploring this question. We will be incorporating research from the labs of faculty members in chemistry and chemical engineering who are affiliated with the NSEC (Nanoscale Science & Engineering Center) into experiments in the introductory organic chemistry lab course. This course serves students in a wide variety of majors, so we hope to reach a diverse student base. Once the research-based experiments are optimized and integrated into the course, we will use pre- and post-course surveys to assess student's opinions of and attitudes toward research, hoping to see significant positive changes among students in sections that utilize the research-based labs. At present we are developing the experiments, beginning with work from the labs of Professors Sam Gellman and Shannon Stahl. As no survey instrument exists that fits our specific needs, this project also includes validation and reliability testing of our own instrument, a process we have recently begun.


Mechanism Theater

We hope that by presenting reaction mechanisms to their classmates, students will gain a better understanding of how and why reactions take place in organic chemistry.
(Photo modified from original by Andreas Praefcke [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org
/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Mechanism Theater

Project Led by Mary Beth Anzovino

Introductory organic chemistry students often struggle with learning reaction mechanisms, especially with using the curved arrow formalism employed by organic chemists to describe how reactions take place. Because of these struggles, and because reaction mechanisms are related to other broad concepts and problem types in organic chemistry, we wanted to develop new ways to present reaction mechanisms, hoping to increase student learning and understanding. When we examined the ways organic chemistry is traditionally taught, we discovered deficiencies in accessing the aural and kinesthetic modes of learning, which provided us with a starting point for developing the Mechanism Theater project. After seeing some example presentations in class, students work in a small group to develop their own presentation that acts out an organic chemistry mechanism. Presentations are made during their discussion section, where we hope they are able to spark a discussion of how and why each mechanistic step happens the way it does. After one semester of pilot testing, we have not observed a consistent impact on student performance, and student opinion of the assignment is mixed. At present we are using suggestions from students as the basis for improvements that will be incorporated into a second implementation in an upcoming semester.


Teaching Through Debate and Consensus

Project Led by Angela Jones



Nanotechnology has the potential to significantly impact all areas of science and engineering. Consumer products that benefit from advances in nanotechnology are already on the market. We plan to engage adults in the discussion of the beneficial applications and potential risks of nanotechnology in areas of health care, energy, defense, and others. To do so we will use materials originally developed by Jeanne Nye for middle-school students that have been updated and expanded for the adult audience-the result is the Small Science, Big Decisions: A Nanotechnology Outreach Experience. Through deliberation and consensus, participants will have an opportunity to fill the role of the Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Technology. Our materials will introduce the relatively young field of nanotechnology; participants will construct a testimony in support of an area of nanotechnology research and then debate the distribution of funds for all areas of nanotechnology research.