Green chemistry design principles to support learners’ sustainable thinking

Elizabeth Day
Assistant Professor
University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)

This project fulfills a need for the development and evaluation of curricular materials to elicit evidence of understanding of green and sustainable chemistry from second-year organic chemistry students. Rather than the typical assessment strategy of treating green chemistry as a set of abstract concepts, this project utilizes the principle of “knowledge-in-use” by positioning green and sustainable chemistry as decision-making based on understanding of the underlying chemistry. The guiding question has been how to leverage theories of how people learn and evidence-centered assessment design (ECD) to engage students in using their core chemistry understanding and green metrics/strategies in the ways that scientists and engineers do to evaluate green(er) solutions and define sustainability problems. This question will address questions about expectations for student performance in systems/sustainable thinking, inform on how to balance chemistry content with socio-scientific issues, and provide implications for curricular change to support sustainable thinking. The outcomes thus far have been the development of a laboratory curriculum to achieve these aims through project-based labs and sustainability case studies. The initial student evidence demonstrates that students can use (1) green metrics in experimentation and argumentation and chemistry understanding (2) to Define (sustainability) Problems and Design/Evaluate Solutions. The broader impacts are a ready-to-adopt curriculum, a design architecture to empower others to elicit similar evidence, and information on a learning progression for sustainable thinking within the undergraduate chemistry curriculum.


Melanie M. Cooper, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI