Case-Study General Chemistry Curriculum Supplements

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Instructors/Faculty Information        

Your students arrive in your chemistry class with an enormous diversity of background.  What if the instructional material teaching the concepts of chemistry linked to many of their common experiences?

Wouldn't it become easier to make an impact, to have active learning, showing how chemistry impacts the mainstream of our lives? units are freely available for your use.  They link chemical concepts taught in General Chemistry to responsible decision making in our society. 

The cases provide a ready resource of capsules of knowledge that challenge and entertain your students.  They provide you with a continuing, thematic source of auxiliary material to supplement your instruction.

Cases Available:

Alcohol, Chemistry and You
Nuclear Chemistry and the Community
Cisplatin and Cancer
Refrigerants for the 21st Century
Drug Pathways and Chemical Concepts
Fuels and Society a. Chemistry and History of Automotive Fuels
Fuels and Society b. Sixty Years of Tetraethyllead
Fuels and Society c. How Lead was Finally Removed from Gasoline

What is

What is the Availability of ChemCases?

What is ChemCases Pedagogy?

How do Integrate into the chemistry concepts in the curriculum?



1.  ChemCases are pedagogical concept maps available for internet/web browser dissemination.
2.  Each concept receives separate treatment in its own
case capsule.
3.  As you proceed through the case in class or as an assignment, the concepts show increased
cognitive demand.
4. The
symbolism linking microscopic and macroscopic concepts is emphasized.
5.   Each ChemCase ends with an
evaluative group asignment.
6.  Students use
web links, email, and streaming audio/video in early stages of case, then are required to enter whiteboard/chat functions during evaluative phase.

Classroom Experience:
at Kennesaw State University
1. Dr. Matt Hermes

  • We used a web-based ChemCases curriculum supplements at Kennesaw State University in the spring of 1999 for a second semester general chemistry we called
  • We covered chemistry broadly, including organic, nuclear and descriptive chemistry of the groups.
  • We emphasized five cases in classroom discussion. 
  • We found the time by eliminating quantitative problem solving review in the classroom.
  • Without preparation the students achieved the same average score (23/50) on the standard quantitative ACS exam as students taking standard course at Kennesaw State.
  • Students scored 33/60 on ASC conceptual exam.  This nationl mean score is 33/60.
  • 67% of students rated the course as "excellent", 33% rated the course as "very good", and 0% considered it "good, fair, or poor".

  • Student comments included:

    • "Innovative, more applicable to most general chem students.".

      " ... real-life applications to help you realize the importance of the chemical principles we are learning."

      " The case studies brought insight into the world around me.  I will no longer look at the properties of my surroundings the same."

      "Real-life examples ... more attentive and interested."

      "I really 'got it'. The concepts made me do well in the standard exam. I am going to continue my science major rather than changing it as I had planned."

      "Concept maps and real-life situations led to better understanding of the information."

    Instructor comments included:

    • "Many of the students did 'get it'. They left with the ability to apply and analyze much of the material.  The cases worked well to focus on solution properties, kinetics, intermolecular forces, organic, nuclear and electrochemistry.  The cases as prepared so far were of limited use in equilibrium and acid-base and thermodynamics learning."

      "The most surprising finding for the instructor was that the individual case capsules -- the individual single page discussions within the cases -- provide a ready reference resource for instruction. These capsules function as illustrative examples throughout the instruction."

2. Dr. Robert Morris/Spring 2000

Prof. Robert Morris introduced the Gatorade module in his class of 94 General Chemistry students. He reports the thematic nature of the unit was helpful but that use of the single unit was insufficient to test He surveyed his students, asking them if the Gatorade unit was useful to them. They split exactly evenly; 47 students answering yes, 47 answering no.

3. Dr. Robert Nelson/Dr. Brian Koehler/ Ga. Southern University, Spring 2000

Prof. Jim LoBue organized introduction of the Gatorade case into two General Chemistry classes at Ga. Southern University.

Prof. LoBue writes, "I wish I that I could describe our experience with the Gatorade Chem Case as an unqualified success, but I can't. I think the best I can say is that theChemCase does not get in the way of learning; students do no worse. I think though that the implementation of the Chem Cases was not ideal. The learning style promoted by the Chem Case philosophy is so different from the learning style otherwise employed in these classes that we cannot get a truly good measure of Chem cases as an effective alternateive unless it is used exclusively in a given course. In this way students would get used to a given style that would be consistently used throughout the semester."

Both Prof. Nelson and Koehler liked the concept; Prof Koehler suggests a more rigorous apporach to the quantitative aspects in the work.

Standard ACS and Conceptual Exam rsults in the Koehler and Nelson classes at Ga. Southern along with a control class taught by Prof. Nelson are:

Class Koehler
ACS "Brief"
21.3 22.9 21.3
22.3 22.6 22.6

These results indicate no impact of the single case on measured student performance.

Please note the conceptual score of the students at Kennesaw State who had five units introduced (33/60) appears to be significantly higher.

  ChemCases in the Classroom
  • 1. Gatorade:  Used while teaching solution properties.  (Or introduce briefly at thermochemistry and do exercises at solution properties).  Should take about 35 minutes to cover specific concepts.  Teaches practical colligative property uses, teaches intellectual property rights. 


  • Composition of Gatorade from label funtioned as basis for testing on solution properties, thermochemistry.
  • When asked "Who Owns Gatorade" the class divided evenly among inventors, university administration and government.
  • Students in roles of coaches, inventors and players decided that full disclosure, knowledge of side effects and the establishment of control experiments were  necessary when asked "Did the Docs Have a Right to Test?".
  • 2. NutraSweet:  In two hours, the unit teaches entire organic requirement in General Chemistry by focusing solely on the aspartame molecule.  Teaches funtional groups, structure,  isomers.  Reinforces kinetics. 


  • By asking the student to evaluate the claims that NutraSweet is really quite toxic, the unit forced the student to evaluate the role of regulation and the proliferation of false science. 
  • Group exercise offers the opportunity for student-student, student-faculty and student-public interaction via chat groups.
  • Students evaluated claims of toxicity and found no science that substantiated claims.  Found instead that a single source claiming toxicity was in fact promoting a competing artificial sweetener.
  • 3. Fluorocarbon Alternatives:   The equations for catalyzed decompositon of stratospheric ozone were used to illustrate the major concepts of chemical kinetics -- activation energy, catalysis, reaction mechanisms, chain reactions and intermediates.  Coupling this chemistry with the smog-producing chemistry and the bulk of the kinetics chapter is covered.


  • We were fortunate to have Dr. Bill Gumprecht, author of the unit available to discuss fluorocarbon alternatives.  We needed to establish a case for discussion -- probably the question of how we would test Sherwood and Molina's hypothesis in the absence of existing data.
  • 4. Silicones:   One hour devoted to the development of silicones after sections on Group 1-4 elements introduces observation, practical experimentation. 


  • By offering a current review of implant situations - both scientific and the legal issues of the bankruptcy of Dow-Corning, this unit tackles the heart of science and decision making.
  • Case became culminating capstone written assignment for students.  Assignment  required collaborative effort at developing individual concepts of the role of government, commercial organizations and individuals in scientific decision making.
  • Results dealt in mature way with gender issues in the approach to science and with rights of individuals to make life decisions.
  • 5. Nuclear Chemistry:  Brief discussion of nuclear chemistry centered on the basic nuclear equations.  Then followed a class reading of Chadwick's 1932 paper on the discovery of the neutron.


  • Chadwick's paper showed the students that Nobel-stature science was within realm of their understanding.  It showed that Chadwick relied on the principles the students had learned in his discovery.   And it revealed how science is rich with personality and contention.   (Chadwick took an unconcealed swipe at the Joliet-Curies in his brief text.   He suggested that their recent paper would be correct only if the law of conservation of matter had not been operating.)

About is a series of curriculum units that link responsible decision making in product development with chemical principles taught in General Chemistry. 

We expect curriculum supplements will lead interested students toward the sciences, medicine, pharmacy and engineering by:

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Developing Knowledge of how the tools of chemistry are used in the service of society

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Comprehension of the conflicting information necessary to move an idea  to the marketplace

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Application of this information to show how chemical principles are used to make decisions

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Evaluation of the data to synthesize solutions to technical and non technical challenges

t_logo.gif (12525 bytes) is a National Science Foundation supported curriculum development project. 

© 2001 Kennesaw State University.
Principal Investigator
Laurence Peterson; Project Director Matthew Hermes.

NSF Grant DUE-9652889