Release Date: 
Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Instructional Innovations: Chemistry pass rates increase 17%

chemistry lab

To improve the success rates of students in Chemistry 111: Introduction to Chemical Skills for Pre-Professional Programs, the Fall 2019 semester saw the launch of a revamped version of the course.

Initial results are excellent. Pass rates have increased 17 percent over previous semesters.

“Chem 111 has been identified as a high enrollment course that traditionally had success rates below what we wanted to see. It’s a gateway course that helps provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in Chemistry 141: Principles of General and Inorganic Chemistry and other courses," said Dr. Paul Root, HFC Chair of Physical Science. "When we looked closely at the aspects of Chemistry 111 that were particularly challenging to students and the course learning objectives, we knew we needed to make changes."

The course was included in the John Gardner Institute’s Gateways to Completion project, funded in part by the Kresge Foundation, to improve the student success rates.

Redesigning the lab component

The first order of business was to make sure the content of Chemistry 111 aligned better with Chemistry 141. Chemistry 111 now has two labs per week rather than one. It uses the same online platform for electronic assignments as Chemistry 141.

“We redesigned and coordinated the scheduling of experiments to better align with the content that is discussed in lectures. Now, students have many topics that are first explained in lectures and immediately reinforced by hands-on lab activities. By using this model, we’re helping students develop the skills to succeed in Chemistry 111, and then to succeed in the more advanced Chemistry 141 course,” said chemistry instructor Alice Hull.

Many students who took Chemistry 111 in Fall 2019 enrolled in Chemistry 141 for Winter 2020.

Students giving positive feedback

“Next semester, we’ll be getting feedback from Chemistry 141 students who took Chemistry 111 in the Fall 2019 semester,” said chemistry instructor Chuck Irish, who has taught both courses.

According to Root and Hull, students say they are more confident and feel better prepared to handle the content of Chemistry 141.

“We have not sought students out for their feedback. They have come to us,” said Hull. “They prefer having two labs a week instead of one long one.”

Irish says his Chemistry 111 students are better prepared than he has ever seen them.

“Students had that 'aha!' moment in Chemistry 111. At the end of last semester, I was amazed to see them so engaged in the redesigned labs. I was very impressed.”

For more information, contact Root at or 313-845-6312.