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 MCEP Course Descriptions  

  • The MCEP includes 10 courses, 8 in chemistry content and 2 in chemistry education.
  • All courses are specially designed for secondary science teachers, meaning they emphasize connections within and among chemistry topics, "real-life" examples, and include assignments such as creating lesson plans based on the course material. 
  • Because the course instructors are situated at a major research institution, whenever possible state-of-the-art research topics are also included.
  • All courses in the MCE program are 1 credit unit (which is equivalent to 3 credit hours each).

Course Sequence:

  • Summer 1: Chem 501 -- General and Organic Chemistry I and Chem 502 -- Information Technology and Experimental Chemistry
  • Academic Year 1: Chem 503 -- Organic Chemistry II and Educ 536 -- The Teaching and Learning of Chemistry
  • Summer 2: Chem 505 -- Environmental Chemistry and Chem 506 -- Inorganic Chemistry
  • Academic Year 2: Chem 507 -- Molecular Spectroscopy and Educ 636 -- Advanced Topics in the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry
  • Summer 3: Chem 504 -- Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Chem 508 -- Seminar in Chemistry

Course Descriptions:


The goal of this course is to provide participants with a sound background in the structures and physical and chemical properties of organic compounds using an inquiry-based instructional model which they can implement in their own classrooms. The prerequisite is one year of college-level general chemistry, and most participants will enter the program with this course. Because of the anticipated diversity of participants' backgrounds, concepts from general chemistry which are relevant to organic chemistry will be reviewed and used as a framework for understanding organic chemical concepts.

The sequencing of topics is closely correlated with the course Information Technology in Chemistry which will use many of those topics as a vehicle for information searching and laboratory experiments. The concepts developed will provide a foundation for understanding how the chemistry is applied to societal needs in medicine, industry, agriculture, and basic research and also for understanding the health, environmental, and economic issues to which those applications lead . (top)


The goals of this course are to develop in participants skills in information technology and experimental chemistry which enable them to introduce meaningful reforms in their own curricula. Specific objectives include the following:

-- To make use of participants' first-hand knowledge of the interactive learning model being employed in GOCI and to learn ways to transfer this model to their own classroom setting.

-- To obtain basic computer literacy skills and the ability to develop and maintain their personal web page using HTML editors and other tools.

-- To develop the ability to find chemical and other scientific information efficiently on the internet using various search engines and databases.

-- To develop critical evaluation skills needed to sort through this large amount of data.

-- To learn about materials that are available in printed form in chemistry libraries and to develop skills in accessing and sorting through this information.

-- To use some modern computational programs employed by active research chemists and to develop, with these programs, demonstrations that will be appropriate for their own classroom setting.

-- To develop skills for presenting and defending material before an audience.

-- To carry out a representative set of laboratory experiments which will provide the background for developing experimental programs in their own curricula.

The course is intended to be taken concurrently with General and Organic Chemistry I (GOCI) and will draw heavily on topics in that course for exercises in information searching and laboratory experiments. Participants will undertake two major projects which will impact on their own teaching, i.e., creation of a continuing personal web page and creation of a plan for introduction of innovations in their own curricula to be implemented in the ensuing academic year. (top)


The objectives of this course are to develop an understanding of the fundamental reaction types of organic chemistry, how these reactions are used in synthesis, and the role of organic synthesis in creating the compounds and materials used in modern society. The fundamental reaction types include addition to alkenes and alkynes, electrophilic and nucleophilic aromatic substitution, oxidation and reduction, nucleophilic addition to carbonyl compounds, free radical reactions, and cycloadditions. Reactions will be exemplified through syntheses used in research and industry.

The development of topic material will be based to a great extent on a "need to know" approach in which participants will be presented with a synthetic target and asked to develop ideas for producing it by consulting web/library sources. Emphasis will be placed on working out strategies for accessing the information needed to work out a rational synthesis. Examples to be explored include syntheses of antibiotics, anticancer drugs, detergents, old and new generation insect control agents, and condensation polymers, and the use of solid phase synthesis and combinatorial chemistry in drug discovery. Societal issues relating to the substances studied will also be explored.

Each participant will undertake an individualized project in which the synthesis of a compound or material of public interest will be examined through information searches, and the environmental, health, and/or economic consequences of use of the substance are analyzed. (top)


The goals of this course are to establish an understanding of the three-dimensional structures of nucleic acids and proteins and of how these structural entities interact in biological processes.  The biotechnology revolution based on this knowledge has lead to fundamentally new approaches to solutions to problems in medicine, agriculture, and the chemical industry, all of which are changing society.

The course will be organized around the central dogma of molecular biology and its modifications for genetic engineering, tissue engineering and biological catalysis.

As in earlier courses, participants will use previously learned information- searching skills to undertake an individualized study and analysis of an application of knowledge in this field to solving some problem of public interest. (top)


The goals of this course are to expand the participants' understanding of current environmental issues and the centrality of chemistry in providing solutions to environmental concerns.

The course will provide an in-depth look at environmental issues impacted, both negatively and positively, by chemistry. This will include the chemistry of "pollutants" in air, water, and soil; their transport and fate in the environment; how they are detected and analyzed, and methods of remediation. Concepts of risk assessment will also be studied. (top)


The goals of this course are to expand participants' understanding of modern concepts of bonding, structure, and chemical reactivity among inorganic compounds and of the impact of newly developed inorganic compounds and materials on society.

Coverage will include a general treatment of ionic and covalent bonding across the periodic table including bonding in coordination compounds, hard and soft acids and bases, chelation therapy, the electrical properties of metals, semiconductors, and insulators, organometallic chemistry, catalysis in chemical industry, nitrogen fixation, zeolites, and inorganic superconductors.

Once again participants will undertake individualized projects using information-searching skills and will explore various aspects of the interface of inorganic chemistry with matters of public interest. (top)


The goals of this course are to establish participants' understanding of the principles of molecular spectroscopy, to broaden their knowledge of the many types of molecular spectroscopy in use today, and to make them aware of the ways in which various spectroscopic techniques are applied in society.

Coverage will include infrared spectroscopy and the greenhouse effect, UV-visible spectroscopy, ozone depletion, and the design and use of dyes, mass spectrometry and the determination of molecular formulas and structure, NMR spectroscopy, the determination of molecular structure, magnetic resonance imaging, lasers and their use in medicine and commerce, and X-ray crystallography.

Individualized projects as described in previous courses will be carried out. (top)


In this capstone course each participant will undertake the study of a topic which is of interest to them and is relevant to some aspect of forefront scientific research.  The selected topic will also contain a significant chemical component.

Each participant will prepare a "teaching/learning resource module" on their topic.  This module will include an abstract, paper and appropriate information searches.  These modules will be made available to all MCE students both in a print version to be kept in the CERC and an electronically available version.  Additionally, participants will present a talk on their topic to an audience of peers, staff and invited guests.

It is expected that many of the topics selected will coincide with current departmental research programs and that consultation and interaction with faculty and staff conducting the research will enrich the educational experience. The opportunity for highly motivated and qualified participants to collaborate with a faculty mentor and participate in the research will be possible and will be encouraged. (top)


Chemistry education courses will be offered in the fall-spring semesters that separate the three summer sessions. Each of the courses will focus on teaching and learning chemistry in the classes of the participants.  The goal in each course is to build change, personal changes in teaching and curriculum as well as systemic change in departments and buildings of the participants.  Because these courses meet monthly over an entire academic year, communication within the MCE community of learners is facilitated by the use of the on-line communications tool  Blackboard©.


The course will examine issues associated with curriculum planning and enactment. Issues such as representations of chemistry concepts, the nature of chemistry, the role of models and the effect of socio-cultural issues on the teaching and learning of chemistry will be examined.  In addition, in order to integrate their learning with their professional practice the participants will undertake research in their own chemistry classrooms.  A core goal of the course is to establish and maintain a community of learners of chemistry and chemistry education.

Most classes will consist of laboratory activity, seminar/discussion and lecture. Laboratory activity will provide an environment for the examination of specific issues related to the teaching and learning of chemistry and will require both written pre-lab and post-lab reports. Discussion and lecture will provide contexts for examination of broader issues associated with the teaching and learning of chemistry. Participants may be expected to contribute to and to lead the discussions using their written analysis of the readings.

Participants are required to demonstrate the methods that they are using to integrate their social, cultural and conceptual understandings in their own classrooms by organizing site visits. (top)


This course will attempt to implement some of the topics presented in the previous education and chemistry courses of the MCE program in typical high school chemistry classrooms. This information will be presented to students using a teaching method informed by the knowledge of how students learn as presented in the MCE education courses. In order to make the knowledge gained in this course meaningful to the participants, a joint research project will be planned and executed to examine the effects on students of implementing a new approach to teaching chemistry. Therefore, the goal of this course is to use the knowledge already gained in the MCE program to implement a research project that will have meaningful results in the participants’ school community. This course is designed as a collaboration between experts —chemical education (course staff) and teaching (participants) experts. Each member of the course is considered a full participant in the direction and results of the course. (top)

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Penn Science Teacher Institute
Dr. Larry Gladney, Director
University of Pennsylvania, Department of Chemistry
231 South 34 Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6323