[Print this out for frequent consultation.]
This course is pyramidal in structure. That is, it continuously builds on previous material. You should do your best to keep pace to be successful. Even though the early material may look like review to some who have had chemistry before, that situation soon changes. The average score on the first exam has frequently been less than 60%, partly due to overconfidence and "eleventh hour" cramming which simply won't work here. Caveat: Many new students enter this course with the sense that studying just the night before the exam will be sufficient to get a top score. Experience over the years shows otherwise.
In this course, we encourage you to self-assess how well you are learning the material and to adjust your approach accordingly. The key components of this course (e.g., readings and lectures, "target practice", homeworks, and exams) are not only opportunities for learning but for self-assessment. You can use the results -- how well you performed or where you had difficulty -- to direct your own learning so that you spend your time as efficiently and effectively as possible. Self-assessment is an invaluable personal tool with lifelong applications regardless of your ultimate career objectives.
Lectures in this course are delivered using computer-generated slides including animations. Many students find it useful to bring a hard copy of the lecture preview to class. Previews are made available on the course website in "Blackboard" before class, but admittedly are subject to change by lecture time. Participation in class benefits you and the instructor and is part of the learning/teaching collaboration. Although the instructor will not spontaneously call on individual students during lectures, questions will be asked occasionally as a way of getting you to focus your thoughts and as a means of indicating to the instructor the success or failure of a particular presentation. To this end, there will also be spot "microquizzes" answerable using "iClickers", purchased in the Bookstore, registered to you, and required for the course (and some other courses as well). You can ask questions. You are encouraged to let me, the instructor, know if the pace gets too fast. Your active participation is even more important in recitations (see below).
On the "Blackboard" web site (www.cmu.edu/blackboard) will be formative assessments under the link called Target Practice. These are a short list of questions posted immediately after a lecture, dealing with some of the significant aspects of that lecture, enabling you to make some self-appraisal as to how well or inadequately you've digested recent material. These are not graded, nor are solutions posted. They may be brought up with recitation instructors and/or collaborated on. Each lecture's Target Practice questions disappear at the time of the next lecture. It is in your best interest to use this resource. There is no limit to the value of monitoring your understanding of coursework.
The textbook readings are not necessarily sequential. (See the Syllabus or Outline to get an idea of the path we'll follow.) Most, but not all, homework problems will be drawn from those at the end of chapters. Within the reading are scattered " Examples". These are worthwhile doing as an effective way of progressing through the material in learning mode rather than glazed-eyes mode. Solutions to these examples are given after the problem is posed.
The very first part of the course will have you dwell on stoichiometry-type problems, applications of the simple conservation laws we'll visit, in preparation for the stoichiometry Mastery Exams. Despite all the practice problems on stoichiometry you should be doing, the lectures will begin to drift into a discussion of atomic structure while you are probably still involved in the stoichiometry material. After a few lectures, everything will merge in terms of what's being covered in reading, listening, note-taking, etc.
"Microquizzes" using the iClickers are something relatively new in the course. During lecture, an unannounced 2-minute (micro)quiz will be given based on material recently presented in lecture. These may be worked on in collaboration with nearest neighbors. With the iClickers, results are tabulated immediately. Points accumulated over the entire semester will be tracked. Those with some as yet undetermined "highest totals" will be rewarded with the option of dropping two quiz or two graded-homework low scores. Those who have accumulated what falls into the next highest category will be allowed to drop one quiz or graded-homework. These "drops" provide significant leverage in determining the final grade average. If you don't have your iClicker, you do not get credit for correct participation.
Recitations are designed to give you opportunities to strengthen and deepen your understanding of the course material through discussion of additional examples, through practice in solving problems, and through increased opportunity to ask questions, even about "Target Practice" problems. You will find that you and other students get the most from recitation when you have tried solving some of the homework problems on your own and have discovered what questions you need to ask. Attendance at recitations is very strongly encouraged. The assigned homework problem, if any, is collected during recitation. They absolutely will not be accepted late. Quizzes, if any, are given during recitation as are most of the stoichiometry Mastery Exams. (See the calendar on Blackboard for schedules. One Mastery Exam is given during a lecture period.)
The homework exercises are to help you ascertain for yourself whether or not you understand material in the text that has been assigned. Some of these problems are close to being trivial. Occasionally, there are supplementary problems to probe lecture material not in the text. There is no explicit or implicit intent that homework problems necessarily represent the full range of what might turn up on exams. They might... or might not. There are a total of about ten homework problems over the course of the semester that will be collected during recitation and graded. Check Blackboard's grade center to confirm that your homework has been credited. (Homework will not be accepted late. Its solution will not be posted. No homework scores are dropped. However, see "Microquizzes" above.) Furthermore, one of these graded problems will likely serve as the basis for an exam question. Nevertheless, it is in your best interest to try to do all the homework problems well before exam time. Collaboration with others on (non-graded) homework sometimes proves effective. For others, collaboration turns out to be self-deceptive, even counter-productive, making you think you can do problems on your own because you can follow the solution if it is placed in front of you. The same goes for attending recitation sections to watch how problems are solved. Learn by doing. Participate. (An exam is the wrong place to find out you didn't really grasp something critical.)
The quizzes are a way to discipline everyone to keep up with the pace of the course. Although for the first few weeks, it may seem that last-minute cramming will work to get you good scores on quizzes, soon enough the rate at which new material and more difficult concepts emerge and build upon each other will make cramming less effective and inevitably ineffective. The quiz questions are brief...10-15 minutes...and, like homework problems, therefore are not necessarily what exam questions will look like. Even so, over the years, there has been an unmistakable correlation between performance on quizzes and one's final average in the course. Keeping up, as evidenced by good quiz scores, seems to pay off. You automatically have the two lowest quiz scores dropped. (Also, see "Microquizzes" above.) There are no make-ups for quizzes. Answer keys are posted on Blackboard shortly after the recitation sessions with quizzes end.
Attendance at lectures is not required but it may be the most useful way to understand what is important in this course and to get deeper explanations of key concepts. Rather frequently the lecture will contain material that is not present in the textbook or that goes into material at a greater depth than the textbook does. A complete example may be worked in lecture for illustration of such topics and not infrequently serves as subject material for a quiz or exam question. If you are not present at lecture, you completely miss the subject matter covered in this way. Furthermore, the lecture format provides a means for concentrating on the more difficult aspects of the course syllabus and for drawing attention to applications and other interesting characteristics. And, there will be "Microquizzes" (q.v.) given during lectures. If you miss lectures, you also lose the opportunity to be able to judge what is important in this course (and what chemistry is all about) and miss opportunities to see what might be expected on exams. Recitation instructors will not be able to fill in this gap. Lectures start promptly on the half-hour and end at twenty minutes after the hour (without the need to shuffle books as a hint to the instructor). Please conduct your behavior in lecture with proper, respectful decorum.
Exams are to test your knowledge and your understanding. (They are not to test what you don't know.) For the exam, besides the assigned reading in the text, you will also be expected to know material presented in lecture. Old exams are provided on this web site for your convenience, but new types of problems also appear. It's always a possibility! Chemistry is complex and fascinating and contually provides room to tackle interesting problems. Also, keep in mind that since textbooks and the topic coverage has varied over the past few years, the back exams may have questions irrelevant to the current semester or may be relevant but appear on a later exam. Again, there is no implication that this semester's exams will replicate what has appeared on old exams. To reduce ever so slightly the anxiety that often comes with exams or with having missed an exam, you do have the possibility of one-and-only-one "replacement exam" opportunity during the time assigned (by the University's administration) to the "final" after classes end. The grading scheme is posted elsewhere. The scheduling of the "final" is fixed, unalterable. It is strongly advised, in general, that you do not make airline reservations for Summer Break before the final exam schedule has been released because you will not be allowed to reschedule your exam.
There are no other make-up exams nor extra assignments for credit.
Don't even ask! If you miss an exam for any reason...personal, medical, senior interviews, kidnapped by extraterrestrials, etc...that one exam's implicit zero can be swapped with the replacement exam (see above) scheduled for December. Do not waste this option. It's worth repeating: do not waste this option! Don't plan vacations without checking the exam schedule first. Similarly, there are no make-up quizzes. Two low quiz grades will be dropped. There are no exceptions. There have never been any exceptions despite some incredibly compelling requests.
In past years there have been a few (and fortunately, only a few) occasions at which cheating has occurred. These resulted in zeroes and in two cases, expulsion from the University. Consult the University Policy on Cheating and Plagiarism if you have any questions about definitions or philosophy concerning this issue that we take very seriously.
Finally, you are strongly encouraged to see me or the TAs
whenever you have questions or concerns in this course. The
recitation instructors and I, the course instructor, are here to
try to do everything possible to help you learn, understand and
appreciate the material and to help you do well in the course.
We're friendly, not ogres. Please make use of our talent, our
expertise, our availability, and our desire to assist.