Facilitating the Development of Students' Problem-Solving Skills via Active Learning in General Chemistry

Matt S. Queen, Mark S. Cracolice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the most important skill sets one can have across all aspects of life - employment, family life, social life is problem-solving abilities. Most chemistry instructors agree that general chemistry courses serve, in part, to develop students' problem-solving skills because students must solve end-of-chapter textbook problems. Yet there is evidence that indicates that this aspect of curricula alone likely has little to no effect on problem-solving ability because students tend to learn algorithms rather than learn how to truly problem solve. In this chapter, we describe active learning strategies that can be used across multiple aspects of a general chemistry curriculum that are specifically designed to facilitate the development of students' problem-solving skills. In particular, we discuss instructional tactics such as use of a data-to-concepts sequence in curriculum design, lecturing less to allow time for problem-solving in the lecture period, building programmed examples into the textbook, and challenging students with demanding problems that require cross-curriculum concept linking in a session structured in alternative manner to traditional recitation section. These strategies allow students to construct both content- and problem-solving knowledge in an environment that provides meaningful emotional and intellectual support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalACS Symposium Series
StatePublished - 2019


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