LSU Chemistry Curriculum Improving Student Communication Skills

September 27, 2021 | LSU Chemistry

 

students in the Chem 1212 lab

LSU sophomores Katherine Galy (left) and Allison Hughes (right) in CHEM 1212, a CI-certified course.

Baton Rouge, LA- Once considered a soft skill, communication is increasingly becoming a core professional skill that employers in all fields and industries want every student and early career professional to possess.  In the sciences, effective communication disseminates the relevance and impact of ideas, fosters collaboration and innovation, and enhances a scientists’ ability to secure employment or funding. 

In order to improve the writing, speaking, visual, and technological communication skills of students, LSU launched the Communication across the Curriculum (CxC) program in 2005. The CxC model facilitates undergraduate student learning by integrating certified courses within the disciplines, providing faculty development and training initiatives, and hosting student support and extracurricular workshops. 

“Effective communication is a highly sought and transferable skill that students can hone as an undergraduate. When in a communication-intensive course, students are advancing their discipline-specific communication abilities while elevating their learning experience. Each C-I course is listed on their transcripts, making it a great talking point in future interviews of how they focused on both knowledge and skill development,” said Dr. Becky Carmichael, CxC Science Coordinator.

In Communication-Intensive (C-I) courses, LSU instructors integrate communication-building activities into the course content to improve student understanding of material and increase student performance. Students are provided with a robust learning opportunity that prepares them for the skills needed to succeed in their professional careers without taking any additional courses.  

Starting this fall semester, the General Chemistry Laboratory course (CHEM 1212) and Survey of Organic Chemistry (CHEM 2060) are taught as Communication-Intensive (C-I) courses. Chemistry faculty will work with enrolled students to advance their written or visual communication skills while simultaneously learning the course content. 

Among several instructional outcomes for CHEM 1212, collecting and organizing data and observations in a written scientific notebook is one of the main objectives. Students must use qualitative and quantitative skills to make inferences using the appropriate terminology and technical language. In addition, students communicate experimental outcomes, errors, and an analysis of their lab work in their notebooks.

"Written science communication is one of the main ways we share what we have learned with others. Clear, concise, and appropriate language is used to convey our findings, as well as tables, figures, and diagrams,” said Senior Instructor and Director of Chemistry Laboratories Kandace Hurst. “In addition to learning general lab skills and techniques, the CHEM 1212 Lab course serves to train students in how to record their findings and analyze their work in a scientific notebook. Best said by Adam Savage, 'Remember kids, the only difference between 'playing around' and science is writing it down.'"

In CHEM 2060, taught by Senior Instructor Fedra Leonik, students learn an overview of structure, bonding, nomenclature, and reactivity of the major functional groups of organic compounds that are necessary for the ultimate goal of multi-step synthesis of molecules. Learning how to synthesize a molecule involves the visual communication skill of building a synthetic scheme. 

“A synthetic scheme is the visual language that organic chemists utilize to show the methodology used to make molecules,” said Leonik. “Students will have to use visual synthetic schemes, a CI modality, to propose synthesis of molecules in which they will be applying reactions learnt in the course.”

Chem 1212 and 2060 join a list of other chemistry courses approved as CI courses at LSU, including: Physical Chemistry Laboratory (CHEM 3493) and Instrumentation Methods (CHEM 4553) taught by Distinguished Instructor Kresimir Rupnik, and Research Methods (CHEM 4005). These courses provide learning activities that strengthen communications skills in various modes, including visual, spoken, and written; therefore, students develop into well-rounded, skilled communicators.

LSU students are also encouraged to enroll in communication-intensive courses to refine their communications skills. By enrolling in CI-approved courses, students earn mode credits towards the LSU Communicator Certificate. In addition, students seeking to advance their communication skills further can apply to be a candidate for the LSU Distinguished Communicator Medal. Students with this distinction are recognized with a medal at graduation and receive a permanent commendation on their official transcripts.

For more information about CI course listings, the LSU Communicator Certification, and the LSU Distinguished Medalist Program, visit the CxC website

 

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Media Contact
Gretchen Schneider
LSU Chemistry
gschne2@lsu.edu