Course preparation assignments: A tool to enhance independent learning, increase student participation, and performance in chemistry courses


  • Niina Ronkainen Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Benedictine University, 5700 College Road, Lisle, IL 60532-0900, USA,



Studies have shown that the more ownership students take of their academic work, the greater the level of information retained, knowledge acquired, and general cognitive development. Many teaching techniques that span across sciences, and go beyond standard techniques such as: merely lecturing at students or following written procedures for “cook book-style” laboratory experiments, have surfaced in the last decade. One such method, known as Course Preparation Assignments (CPAs), requires students to read and analyze course material prior to attending class. This approach gives students their first exposure to new content outside of the classroom, while also engaging them in responding to a series of questions that they must answer individually. This prior exposure to course material allows the students to not only complete written assignments with the incentive of earning points, but also forces them to reflect on what they are learning. Prior to adopting the CPA teaching practice, I discovered that very few of my chemistry and biochemistry students completed the reading and homework problems until a few days prior to an examination. Each class or unit that includes a CPA follows a predictable pattern which students adjust to quickly: Read – Think –Write/Draw/Calculate – Discuss the course content. The impact of incorporating CPAs into undergraduate Analytical Chemistry and Principles of Biochemistry lecture courses will be described from this instructor’s point of view. In addition, the advantages and challenges of utilizing this teaching approach at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution, within classes made up of 8-45 students, will be described. Furthermore, the development and use of CPAs for teaching various Chemistry courses, the leading and facilitating of course discussions in class, the grading of assignments, and student perceptions of the approach will be discussed. Indeed, the pedagogical approach generally promotes timely completion of assignments, helps create a more interactive classroom setting, encourages students to ask more questions, facilitates involvement in discussions all of which result in an improved ability to think and reason critically.




How to Cite

Ronkainen, N. (2015). Course preparation assignments: A tool to enhance independent learning, increase student participation, and performance in chemistry courses. LUMAT: International Journal on Math, Science and Technology Education, 3(5), 675–692.