This project aims to serve the national interest by improving undergraduate organic chemistry education. Specifically, it will engage organic chemistry students in learning about green and sustainable chemistry. The goal of green and sustainable chemistry is to produce chemical products in ways that reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals at all stages, from product production to product disposal. Chemical industries, as well as governmental and other organizations, are increasingly emphasizing the need for green and sustainable chemistry approaches. As a result, learning about green and sustainable chemistry is critical for undergraduate chemistry education. Funded as an Engaged Student Learning Level 1 project, this project will design and test case studies and project-based laboratory activities that build students? knowledge and skills in green and sustainable chemistry. In the case studies, the students will be asked to explain the underlying chemistry of a real-world issue, such as the development of plastic materials that degrade more easily in the environment. They will use the chemistry to guide explorations of related sustainability issues and design potential solutions. In the laboratory activities, students will work as teams to plan and carry out investigations, such as designing the synthesis of a product using environmentally safe or sustainable source materials. Each team member will investigate a different synthetic route, and the team will then evaluate their pooled findings to identify the approach that best meets green and sustainable chemistry criteria. The project is expected to produce a set of case studies and project-based laboratories that incorporate green and sustainable chemistry principles and that have verified positive effects on student learning in organic chemistry.
Using a design-based research approach, the project will design, refine, and evaluate curricular materials, including laboratory projects and case studies, that incorporate green and sustainable chemistry. Throughout the iterative cycles of the design-based process, the alignment, effectiveness, and revision of the materials will be evaluated through pilot testing and interviews with students. Rubrics will be developed to characterize the levels of sophistication achieved by students in response to assessment prompts developed concurrently with the laboratory projects and case studies. These curricular materials, assessments, rubrics, the associated findings, and a set of theory-based design principles will be provided to the chemistry community. It is expected that these resources will be used or adapted by educators and curriculum designers, or as guides to produce new ones, thus potentially impacting a variety of institutional contexts and student populations. In this way, this project aims to promote further research on students? understanding of green chemistry. The NSF IUSE: EHR Program supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.