Discipline-Based Education Research Group


Date of this Version


Document Type



Presented to UNL Discipline-Based Education Research Group, 2012.


Copyright 2012, Mark Griep.


For the past two summers, I've taught a professional development course for high school teachers called "Matter Matters". In the mornings, we discuss the literature about factors affecting student performance in chemistry courses. In the afternoons, we discuss the creative instructional activities that can be used to engage student interest (including movie clips and Nebraska‐specific chemical stories). The literature includes a series of articles by Roger Tai and coworkers about the correlation between High school training and performance in college science courses. To do these studies, they survey thousands of demographically diverse students in over 100 introductory science courses at over 50 colleges (a range of sizes; private and public). They have found that high school math is an excellent predictor of success in college biology, chemistry, and physics; there is no support for an advantage to teaching biology first, chemistry first, or physics first; peer teaching and everyday examples are the most effective instructional practices; students who remember learning about nuclear chemistry perform the worst; and students who remember doing a lot of stoichiometry problems do the best. With the last point in mind, I will show a clip from "Apollo 13" (1995) that I use to teach the importance of stoichiometry in my chemistry course for non‐science majors.