Session S60b (Wednesday, 2pm, Thomas 102)

P792: Qualitative meaning from a quantitative subject: Applied quantum chemistry for the small cohort

Karen Downey (State University of New York – Cortland, USA)

Too often students of physical chemistry gain a stronger impression of calculations than of scientific meaning.  Though mathematical rigor is necessary for meaning to be extracted from a physical description of chemical processes, neither aspect is properly neglected in the chemistry curriculum.  For a small cohort of students with mixed learning styles and varied mathematical aptitude, a tutorial-style approach encourages intellectual investment by allowing conceptual mastery to be evaluated separately from computational prowess.  A presentation-based format, with intermittent summative lectures, grants the instructor the flexibility of assigning individualized presentation topics to encourage student engagement.  Individualized questions clustered around a unified theme make collegial discussions among classmates fruitful, even as each student must work individually to develop his or her ability to discuss chemical, physical, and mathematical concepts.  Rigorous quantitative assignments complement qualitative tutorial topics. The two course components are balanced in an explicit contract structure laying out student evaluative criteria.


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