The Effect of Preconceived Notions and the Lack of Fundamental Skills while Taking General Chemistry

  • Malinda Wilson Gilmore Department of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics
  • Dwaynia Wilkerson Department of English and Foreign Languages, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, 4900 Meridian Street, Normal, Al 35762, USA
  • Razi Hassan Department of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics
Keywords: Chemical Education, General Chemistry, STEM


Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are vital areas of national interest. However, there has been a gradual decline in the number of Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees issued in STEM based disciplines from United States’ colleges and universities. Research indicates too few stu- dents are equipped with the mathematical and analytical skills necessary to be successful in college level mathematics and science courses. Data indicates that millions of people are discouraged from studying mathematics and science because of false assumptions about who has the ability to master these subjects.   It has been shown that in General Chemistry courses some students perform exceptionally well, but a large number of students avoid and/or have a fear of General Chemistry, which results in a high drop/failure/ withdrawal (DFW) rate.   This is coupled with the fact that they enter college ill-prepared in mathematics and lacking analytical and verbal reasoning/critical thinking skills.  This initial negative attitude and deficiency results in a frustrating experience in General Chemistry.  It is for these reasons that a study was performed to address the overall goal of deter- mining the attitudes and identifying the foundational levels of the students from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU), a Historically Black College and Univer- sity (HBCU), currently enrolled in General Chemistry and at- tempt to determine the effect on their overall success in Gen- eral Chemistry. Subsequently, it was determined that a large percentage of students believe that attitude determines their overall success, but most lack self-confidence.  In addition, some appeared college ready with respect to their mathemat- ical skills, but, they were lacking in verbal reasoning/critical thinking skills. As a result of a negative attitude and a lack of foundational skills, their grades reflected such negativity and over 50% of the students earned a grade of “C” or below. These studies revealed supportive evidence as to why there might be a decline in the number of BS graduates in STEM.


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