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Teaching Methods

Where does a detail discussion of atomic structure belong in H.S. Chem?

Started 2 months ago by John Varine.

For many years (1964-2002), I taught the CHEM Study course to 1st year chemistry students (Soph & Juniors). The course put off a discussion of energy levels, orbitals, detailed chemical bonding, etc. until the latter part of the year. It used the idea of elements trying to get to a noble gas electron population when reacting. The amount of chemistry that can be understood with that simple idea is amazing. The rational for it? Beginning chemistry students need some concrete knowledge of chemistry before that can really internalize the abstract idea of energy levels, orbitals, etc. We covered solubility, acid-base, redox reactions first. Once with that background, the students were in a better position to see how detailed atomic structure worked into their understanding of chemistry. Teaching detailed atomic structure early in the course provides the student nothing to "hang" that information on because they know so little chemistry. What do you think?

1 Comment

  • Thomas Ellsworth

    Posted 2 months ago

    I see the logic of your idea here. My experience has been similar, in that I have always started with basic atomic structure, but this really does not give the students a view of the bigger scope of chemistry. I think your plan would give them a better sense of what chemistry encompasses and would allow them to see bigger applications early, so that they could better appreciate the why atomic structure is important.