Innovations in Science Teaching and Research on Student Learning

The department of Chemistry and Physics is dedicated to providing the best possible learning environment for our students.  In order to stay competitive in scientific research, a faculty member must always be engaged in improving their knowledge and skills in their field.  The same is true for teaching.  Effective teaching involves being aware of different types of instructional materials, being aware of student strengths and weaknesses, and building on and adapting curriculum that has proven to be effective.  Students in the introductory physics explore Newton’s 2nd and 3rd Laws using PASCO probeware.  Students in the introductory physics explore Newton’s 2nd and 3rd Laws using PASCO probeware. 

New Science Teaching and Laboratories

Chicago State University (CSU) is taking action to make the teaching and learning of science both more welcoming and more effective for students underrepresented in the STEM disciplines. CSU has made a substantial commitment to the teaching of science by renovating two classrooms each year in in the sciences. This past year, CSU President Wayne D. Watson called on the department of Chemistry and Physics and College of Arts and Sciences Dean David Kanis to build one of the most advanced physical science classrooms in the country. The department looked at a variety of innovative models in physics instruction at institutions that included North Carolina State University, the University of Oregon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Students collaborate in the new science teaching laboratories Two students explore a ripple tank simulation with the Starboards

The design of the new classrooms was led by faculty in the Chemistry and Physics Department, working closely with architecture firm AECOM and AV contractors Whitlock, one of the largest companies in the country that specialize in this type of technology-rich environment. Each classroom is designed for group collaboration and active learning, with four hexagonal tables in each room that allow students to work in eight groups of three or four groups of six. Whiteboards have been placed on all four walls, with one wall a removable partition that is itself a floor to ceiling whiteboard. Each room is also equipped with eight independent Starboards that each utilize a section of the whiteboards.  These Starboards can work independently, with each having different content. For example students can work on a physics problem, or they can develop a Mathematica workbook, or they can interact with a physics PhET simulation.  An instructor can send any video source to any display destination so that results can be easily shared. For instance, an instructor can say, "I'm interested in what group three came up with for their solution. I would like each group to comment and critique their solution." Group 3's work can then be shared on all the starboards in the room for discussion. In addition, an advanced video codec allows the possibility of combining screens into a seamless image that stretches across up to six starboards. This technology is quite new for the instructional setting but lends itself to very exciting possibilities.

Examples of instrumentation used in the teaching of Chemistry and Physics in our Department

Students at CSU see innovative instructional approaches throughout their academic careers.  In addition to research based instructional materials, the programs regularly use modern pedagogical techniques such as interactive lectures using personal response systems and group problem solving.  The science departments have a number of laboratory areas where students participate in classes and conduct experiments. Many of these laboratories are equipped with modern pedagogical equipment such as PASCO and Vernier Probeware Computer data acquisition systems as well as spectrometers including IR, GC, NMR, and ESM.  Students have opportunities to conduct research with faculty members to learn firsthand about science methods and experimentation.

Students using the NMR Rachel Hawkins works in the labLeft: Students use the NMR.  Above: Student, Rachel Hawkins, in the lab.

Inquiry instruction in science and science education

The Department of Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering studies promotes inquiry in the college classroom as well as preparing pre-service teachers to use inquiry in their future K-12 classroom. CSU science education students discuss the educational opportunities available at CSU.

Membership in organizations dedicated to the learning and teaching of science

Three CSU faculty are active members of the planning committee for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and Science: Research and Practice. Members of the department regularly attend these symposia which are a forum for faculty and graduate students in education, mathematics, and science devoted to improving teaching and learning of mathematics and science.  CSU hosts the May 2008 Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and Science Symposium.  CSU hosts the May 2008 Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and Science Symposium. 

CSU faculty are also active members and attend meetings of the following organizations Project Kaleidoscope, the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST), the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Recent Grant support for Promoting Science Education

"Physics Teacher Education Coalition Pilot Site at Chicago State University" (National Science Foundation/ American Physical Society, 2010-2013. ) This program seeks to recruite more students into physics teaching.  PhysTEC fellows work as Learning Assistants in physics courses and engage in early teaching experiences in PHYS 3500 Teacher Immersion Institute.

Tasha prepares a PhysTEC lesson

PhysTEC logo
Establishing a Supportive Environment for the Recruitment, Preparation, and Retention of the Urban Science Teacher, (National Science Foundation, 2008-2013)  The Chicago State University (CSU) Robert Noyce Teacher Scholars Program will facilitate STEM undergraduates and STEM professionals in becoming effective high school science teachers in the Urban School District through scholarships, mentoring, and induction year support.  Click here for more information on this program. NSF logo
Institutionalization of the Chicago Science Van Programs (Illinois Board of Higher Education, 2007-2009)Project to provide inservice and preservice teachers with educational opportunities that strengthen pedagogical content knowledge and offer courses that lead to endorsements in scientific disciplines as well as a masters program in science teaching or science education. Click here for more information on the Physics Van program.  Click here for the Chemistry Van program. IBHE logo
Creating Innovative Physics Learning Environments in the Urban Classroom (National Science Foundation: CCLI, 0632563, 2007-2009) This project involves implementing new instructional materials in the introductory physics classes and assessing whether these materials are effective in promoting student understanding. Click here for more infomation on this program. NSF logo
Microwave Laboratory Systems to Enhance Research Opportunities and Science Education at Chicago State University (Department of Defense, Infrastructure Support Program for HBCU/MI Institutions, 2007-2008) Microwave enhanced chemistry has become the method of choice for many industrial processes. Funding from the DOD has allowed CSU to establish a Center for Microwave Enhanced Chemistry. DOD logo
Creating Research-Based Single Concept Question Sequences for In-Class Polling Systems (National Science Foundation: CCLI, 0618128, 2006-2009) This project is a collaborative project led by the Ohio State University.  The project involves creating question sequences that will be used in the lecture portion of the introductory physics classes. NSF logo
Compact Modular Spectroscopy Stations to Enhance Education and Research Experiences at Chicago State University. (Department of Defense, Infrastructure Support Program for HBCU/MI Institutions, 2005-2006)  Chemistry has undergone a revolution in the past 10 years.  Chemists, even synthetic chemists, no longer rely primarily on beakers and solutions as they prepare new compounds.  Funding from this grant is used across the curriculum to for a phased introduction to scientific research. DOD logo

Central to the departments innovations teaching are its role in assessment.  Click our assessment page for more information on these efforts.