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Title:Harnessing curiosity, interest, and empathy in the college chemistry classroom
Author(s):Zavala, Jose Alejandro
Director of Research:Moore, Jeffrey S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Moore, Jeffrey S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Cromley, Jennifer; Zimmerman, Steven C.; van der Donk, Wilfred
Department / Program:Chemistry
Discipline:Chemistry
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):chemistry education
student-centered learning
Abstract:Freshmen and sophomores in college are historically at risk of disengaging with general and organic chemistry courses, performing poorly and not continuing in STEM. Utility value (UV) interventions, though, have increased the achievement and retention of low-performing students in psychology and introductory biology courses. In this study, a multi-semester UV intervention was implemented to increase curiosity, a predictor of increased learning and retention, of three student cohorts going through general and organic chemistry. Based on a preliminary analysis of Cohorts 1 and 2, students exposed to the multi-semester intervention perform a half letter grade better in introductory biochemistry after controlling for their ACT Composite and Math scores. Perhaps the most intriguing results from the FPIDC questionnaire is that the General Chemistry 2, Cohort 3 intervention resulted in a small positive effect on utility value of chemistry and moderate positive effect on interest in chemistry. These results contradict the earlier findings from the Epistemic Curiosity Scale results of General Chemistry 2, Cohort 2 which suggest that the PGX intervention had no effect on student curiosity and interest. The improved results in Cohort 3 are likely due to a major revision of the original General Chemistry 2 intervention. These results, therefore, support the notion that implementing new instructional methods in the classroom requires several iterations and revisions to be successful. In 2017, a grad-roots movement started within the Chemistry Department at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with the assistance of psychology PhD student from UIUC Department of Clinical Psychology. Data was collected with the permission of the Department Head of Chemistry at UIUC and administered by graduate students from the Department of Chemistry Graduate Student Advisory Committee (DCGSAC). The data collected using this survey was compiled into a concise report, the Department of Chemistry Graduate Student Wellness Report 2017 and posted throughout the halls of the UIUC chemistry department. In response to the publication of this report, the chemistry faculty organized, amongst other responses, a mandatory meeting to discuss the implications of this report. Graduate students in the chemistry department worked with the momentum that resulted from the Department of Chemistry Graduate Student Wellness Report 2017 to form a coalition of graduate student organizations in order to fund and organize the inaugural Summer Lecture Series directed at fostering a diverse and inclusive environment to support mental health and wellness within the Department of Chemistry at UIUC. This grad-roots movement toward mental health continues the arduous work of seeking expert guidance to promote mental health and wellness on campus and in graduate schools across the nation. The findings described in Chapter 4 suggest that depression and anxiety may, at least in part, be the result of insufficient or nonexistent management training for research advisors. The unique relationship between mentors and mentees in a research university consists of a steep power dynamic which may instill a sense of impotence over graduate student’s job control and may exacerbate preexisting mental health conditions. This work heavily influenced the author’s previous perspective on undergraduate education and the influence that instructors have on their students’ classroom engagement and mental health. This current chapter presents the need for empathic communication training for instructors of undergraduate courses, including gateway courses, such as introductory chemistry. A research plan is proposed for the development of a text classification tool for measuring and analyzing empathic communication in written assignments. Currently, the data collection for training this text classifier is underway. The Kubler-Ross model (1969), which delineated the five stages of grief, and the SPIKES method (1992), which provided step-by-step instructions for recognizing and addressing the emotional states of patients, are two landmark publications that indicated the emerging need to prepare physicians to address the emotional states of patients. In 2015, the AAMC updated the MCAT to include a test section on social and behavioral sciences, reflecting the growing interest in preparing undergraduate pre-health students for the social and behavioral training in medical school. In previous research, an educational intervention in Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 required students to write journal entries reflecting a role-play exercise. This utility value intervention intended to increase the task value of organic chemistry by connecting students’ academic tasks (studying organic chemistry) with their career aspirations (helping patients as practicing physicians). The goal of the research proposed herein is to analyze the text from these journal assignments to develop a proof of concept text classifier system able to recognize elements of empathy in text. Success of the text classifier will be assessed based on its agreement with human annotators of empathy in text. Further development of this text classifier will require data from medical school patient interview training and may lead to technology that will assist in consistently and objectively training future physicians to better address the emotional states of their patients.
Issue Date:2020-07-10
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/108441
Rights Information:© 2020 Jose Alejandro Zavala. All rights reserved.
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-10-07
Date Deposited:2020-08


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