School Seminar: Associate Professor Sam Pazicni; University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wednesday, 28 April 11:00am – 12:00pm
This seminar will be delivered via Zoom – Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for zoom link and password.
Speaker: Associate Professor Sam Pazicni; University of Wisconsin-Madison
Host: Dr Reyne Pullen
Title: Towards achieving equity: Exploring factors that decrease the achievement gap between low and high prior knowledge students in General Chemistry
Bio: Sam received B.A. degrees in Chemistry and Music from Washington and Jefferson College, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, and performed post-doctoral research in Biophysics and Chemistry Education at the University of Michigan. Sam is also a member of the American Chemical Society, and currently serves on the Society’s Committee on Education. Outside of the lab, Sam enjoys music and theatre, cooking extravagant things, and exploring the world.
Factors that contribute to success in chemistry courses, or in mastery of chemical concepts, can inform pedagogical strategies in chemistry classrooms. It is important, however, that pedagogical strategies be informed not by solely focusing on students with perceived inadequacies (i.e., a deficit model, “fixing” the student), but by exploring classroom norms/structures that support the equitable learning and assessment of all students (i.e., an achievement model). For example, when the assessment structure of a biology course was changed to minimize high-stakes exams and rewards, the achievement gap between female and male students decreased.1 We are surveying factors that could mitigate another known achievement gap in General Chemistry, that between students of low and high prior chemistry knowledge. Prior knowledge is a key factor in popular learning theories (e.g., meaningful learning and information processing theory) and is known to have a marked effect on course learning outcomes generally2. The effect of prior knowledge on achievement has also been characterized in introductory chemistry courses3. This contribution will explore the potential for cognitive and classroom factors to compensate for low prior knowledge in General Chemistry courses. By compensate4, we mean that there is a level of these factors at which low prior knowledge students achieve similarly to high prior knowledge students. We conjecture that if the chemistry education community had knowledge of what factors decreased the achievement gap between low and high prior knowledge students (i.e., compensate for low prior chemistry knowledge), further targeted work could be done to adjust course norms/structures accordingly to take advantage of (and further test) these factors.
1. Cotner, S.; Ballen, C.J. PLoS One 2017, 12 (12), e0189610.
2. (a) Dochy, F.; Sengers, M.; Buehl, M. M. Rev. Educ. Res. 1999, 69 (2), 145–186; (b) Shapiro, A. M. Am. Educ. Res. J. 2004, 41 (1), 159–189.
3. (a) Seery, M. K. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2009, 10 (3), 227–232; (b) Pyburn, D. T.; Pazicni, S.; Benassi, V. A.; Tappin, E. E. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2013, 14 (4), 524–541.
4. O’Reilly, T.; McNamara, D. Am. Educ. Res. J. 2007, 44 (1), 161–196.