Study of ALOC Workshop Effectiveness Published

Justin Houseknecht

Our study measuring the impact of the 2015 and 2016 Active Learning in Organic Chemistry Workshops was just published in Chemistry Education Research and Practice. As many readers will know, we used teaching self-efficacy and teaching practices instruments to measure changes in participant beliefs, knowledge, and practice over a two-year period – thank you to those that faithfully completed the surveys every six months. We found large and sustained increases in each domain measured for participants in the 4-day and 3-hour workshops, though gains were larger for participants in the longer workshops. Highlights include gains of a standard deviation or more for belief in the efficacy of active learning methods, belief that OrganicERs is able to support their efforts, and several scales of the Post-Secondary Instructional Practices Survey (PIPS): student-centered teaching, formative assessment, and student-student interactions. Gains in the amount of class time used for small group activities and decreases in the amount of class time used for lecture were also large, though less than a standard deviation.

This study is important for several reasons. The OrganicERs Leadership Board is obviously gratified that the effort we’ve put into the ALOC workshops has produced quantifiable results (in addition to the qualitative results we’ve gathered from one-on-one interactions). This study also addresses the long-standing criticism of faculty development workshops that their value is transitory at best. Previous studies had largely ignored this criticism, though one attempt to address it gave ambiguous results. By following ALOC participants for two years, four semesters, we were able to show that the changes in beliefs, knowledge, and practice were sustained. Participants didn’t just try these new techniques for a semester, then revert to their previous practice. They (you) implemented new teaching methods, confirmed that they work, and then continued to use them for at least three more semesters. There is good reason to believe that after four semesters the chance of reversion to previous practice is minimal.


There are several reasonable explanations for the increased success of the ALOC workshops relative to other faculty development workshops, but one factor is almost certainly the continued contact that we have with one another through the OrganicERs community. We plan to enhance this in future iterations of the workshops.

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