Infusing Critical Thinking into the STEM First Year Experience
Carmen Works and Jeremy Qualls, Sonoma State University
The School of Science and Technology at Sonoma State University has introduced two diverse paths to integrate critical thinking into the first year experience for STEM or STEM interested students. The first is a yearlong 12-unit course designed to recruit and retain STEM students, and combines critical thinking, general biology, and pre-calculus. The course meets area A3, B4, B2, and lab general education requirements. In addition, the course is thematic and allows students to learn while exploring one of the watersheds of Sonoma County with numerous community partners. The class uses innovative methods in inquiry based learning, peer instruction, and student driven pedagogy. This pathway is currently supported by an NSF STEP grant.
The second approach uses linked courses to build a learning community for first year Chemistry and Biochemistry majors. All Chemistry and Biochemistry majors enroll in Analytical General Chemistry with lab, Thinking Like a Scientist, a Math course (Calculus or pre-Calculus), and a course of their choice. The course “Thinking Like a Scientist” is a GE Area A3 Critical Thinking course, taught by a Chemistry faculty member, which uses case studies to introduce students to thinking critically, applying the scientific method to science-related issues that impact society. The faculty member works closely with the instructors teaching the chemistry course to incorporate topics from both the Chemistry and Math courses the students are additionally enrolled. Both approaches aim to increase the retention of a diverse group of learners, build community, transition students to college, blur the lines of traditional disciplines and facilitate graduation.
Jeremy Qualls, Associate Professor of Physics, received his BS in Physics from East Tennessee State University and his MS and Ph.D. in Physics from Florida State University. He joined the faculty of SSU in 2007 and teaches all levels of undergraduate physics courses from descriptive to quantum mechanics. He also performs a variety of NSF supported research utilizing intense magnetic fields as well as other characterizing methods to exam material properties. He has conducted mechanical engineering and material research at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Seoul National University, Los Alamos National Lab, and UTPA in Mcallen, Texas. His current focus is on developing best practice methodology to more effectively attract and retain STEM majors.
Carmen Works, Professor of Chemistry, received her BA in Chemistry and Psychology from San Francisco State University, and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She joined the faculty of SSU in 2001 and teaches general chemistry, inorganic chemistry, metals in biology, research methods and spectroscopy. Her primary research interest is the functional role of transition metals in biochemistry, specifically the bioinorganic chemistry of chromium. She frequently mentors students in her research protocols and has sponsored several students at the CSU Student Research Competition.
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October 3, 2014 – Research Fellowship applications for 2014-15 due.
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