Dr. Joanne Stewart of the Hope College chemistry faculty has co-authored two articles focused on chemistry education that were selected for the ACS Editors’ Choice program of the American Chemical Society, receiving twice in a row recognition earned by fewer than one percent of ACS-published articles each year.

The program is an initiative of ACS Publications, a leading scientific journal publisher and a Division of the American Chemical Society.  Every day, 365 days a year, ACS Editors’ Choice features a new scientific article of broad public interest made open to anyone at no charge.  The selections are made from among the approximately peer-reviewed 44,000 articles that ACS Publications prints across the society’s 44 journals annually.

The articles co-authored by Stewart, featured on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 3 and 4, each highlight the results of a national survey regarding the teaching of undergraduate inorganic chemistry.  They were published by the “Journal of Chemical Education.”

The papers provide a detailed look at how inorganic chemistry is taught in the United States.  The research developed through work that Stewart has been conducting during the past seven years as part of the leadership team of the international community of practice IONiC (the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists).

“The American Chemical Society promotes study in five chemistry subdisciplines: analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic and physical. Of these, inorganic has arguably the broadest and least well-defined curriculum,” Stewart said.  “This is partly for historical reasons related to how the subdiscipline itself developed and partly for ‘local context’ reasons as different institutions developed very different approaches.”

“The first paper reports on the ‘foundation’ inorganic chemistry course and the second paper on the ‘in-depth’ course. This language comes from the American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training,” she said.  “While the language implies that colleges have an introductory course followed by a more advanced course that builds on the first, the study found that few schools follow this model. Realizing this, the papers try to answer the question ‘How is inorganic chemistry taught?’”

As the second abstract notes, “The results confirm diversity in the inorganic chemistry curriculum and the need for awareness that students leave degree programs with varying understanding of inorganic chemistry based on the coursework offered at their respective institutions.”

Stewart has been active at the national level for more than two decades in efforts to enhance science education.  She has held or administered multiple grants, from agencies and organizations including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), for projects focused on science education nationally as well as on the Hope campus.  Through the years, she has made presentations on interdisciplinary learning and communities of practice at off-campus workshops sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, the NSF and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, among others.  She co-edited the 2013 book “Connected Science,” focused on making college science education more effective and engaging.

She was a 2005-06 Carnegie Scholar in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), which engaged 21 college and university faculty in projects that explored the integration of learning across courses, over time, and between campus and community life.  In 2012 she was named a Teagle Pedagogy Fellow in the “Lattice for Pedagogical Research and Practice” program developed by the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) to enhance student learning and achievement.

Stewart has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1988, and her professional interests include chemistry research as well science teaching.

In 1996, she was one of the first two recipients of the college’s “Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching” (now the “Janet L. Andersen Excellence in Teaching Award”).  In 2009, she was chosen to speak through the “Last Lecture Series” organized by the college’s chapter of the national Mortar Board honorary society.  She has mentored more than 60 undergraduates in collaborative research, in both her current initiatives and in her work in synthetic inorganic chemistry.

More about the ACS Editors’ Choice program, including the two articles coauthored by Stewart, is available at http://pubs.acs.org/editorschoice/