ENCOURAGING AUTONOMOUS LEARNING IN THE FIRST-SEMESTER COURSE ON FUNDAMENTALS OF CHEMISTRY AT THE DEGREE OF CHEMISTRY
The first semester of University studies is of paramount importance in the adaptation of students to their new environment. The degree of success in this adaptation has implications for their academic progression that often extend well beyond the first semester. In the case of the Chemistry Grade, the future chemists will not achieve an acceptable level of knowledge about the fundamentals of Chemistry if they do not acquire previously the correct habits of study, as well as a rigor, in the first semester of their studies.
The acquisition and consolidation of correct habits of study since the beginning of the academic career requires a right combination of motivation and demand, as well as the final reward to the effort made by the students. In this context, the implementation of undergraduate studies according to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has allowed changes in the teaching methodology and evaluation in order to improve the academic performance of students. The introduction of the continuous evaluation has been shown to be a good incentive for students, in such a way that they are pushed to study continuously throughout the semester, improving at the end their academic performance. To achieve these objectives the adopted learning and evaluation methodologies are fundamentals.
The present communication describes the results obtained along the teaching of the course “Fundamentals of Chemistry I” for Chemistry undergraduate students at the University of Barcelona (Spain). In the framework of a teaching innovation project, the impact of autonomous work on the academic performance of students was investigated. Along the semester, students were encouraged to prepare in depth a small set of definite concepts about Fundamentals of Chemistry, such as the energy transitions in one-electron atoms or heating curves, with the help of a textbook. Once in the classroom, a brief and focused exercise was done about the concept which was under study that week. After the exercise was complete, a general discussion about the concept was held, emphasizing the correct answer to the exercise. The final mark was annotated by the students themselves into their exercises. In the present communication, we evaluate the impact of this learning methodology on the final performance of the students. Univariate and multivariate data analysis are used with this purpose. The results show clearly that students have a good opinion about this learning procedure. Moreover, the students who made most of the autonomous work obtained better performance at the end of the semester.