Cooperative learning in organic chemistry increases student assessment of learning gains in key transferable skills
Science and engineering educators and employers agree that students should graduate from college with expertise in their major subject area as well as the skills and competencies necessary for productive participation in diverse work environments. These competencies include problem-solving, communication, leadership, and collaboration, among others. Using a pseudo-experimental design, and employing a variety of data from exam scores, course evaluations, and student assessment of learning gains (SALG) surveys of key competencies, we compared the development of both chemistry content knowledge and transferable or generic skills among students enrolled in two types of large classes: a lecture-based format versus an interactive, constructive, cooperative learning (flipped classroom) format. Controlling for instructor, as well as laboratory and recitation content, students enrolled in the cooperative learning format reported higher learning gains than the control group in essential transferable skills and competency areas at the end of the term, and more growth in these areas over the course of the term. As a result of their work in the class, the two groups of students reported the most significant differences in their gains in the following areas: “interacting productively to solve problems with a diverse group of classmates,” “behaving as an effective leader,” “behaving as an effective teammate,” and “comfort level working with complex ideas.” Our findings clearly show that cooperative learning course designs allow students to practice and develop the transferable skills valued by employers.