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For this assignment need a literature review of the uses of integrated chemistry and cross-disciplinary science courses are in science education research.

The review should address the following questions;

1. What concepts that are taught in chemistry courses did instructors/researchers focus on teaching from the perspective of or at the interface of another discipline?
For each concept, what were the challenges for students?

2. What did you find on assessment frameworks or assessments of student learning in integrated science courses or courses that approach concepts from more than one discipline?.

Literature review

Topic: Uses Of Integrated Chemistry And Cross-Disciplinary Science Courses In Science Education Research.  

According to the Oxford dictionary, to integrate is to form something in wholesome from combining two things together. Traditionally, science was made up of Chemistry, Biology and Physics. Integrated chemistry is therefore a discipline that combines either Biology and Chemistry or Physics and Chemistry together to form a whole discipline. (Abdella, Walczak, Kandl, & Schwinefus, 2011).

Cross-disciplinary courses in science education research are the activities that usually involve two or more science academic disciplines. (National Research Council. 2012).  As much as, the traditional sciences are the most recognized which usually fall in the field of biological and physical sciences, other disciplines like philosophy, sociology, law …etc. are sciences too which fall in the field of humanities and social sciences.

Integrated sciences and cross disciplinary science courses have been a major focus of many institutions all over the world. Biochemistry is a discipline born from the integration of chemistry and biology that seeks to incorporate a broad spectrum of experts from both disciplines in investigating and studying chemical interactions in living organisms and microorganisms. On the other hand, undergraduate institutions that tutor Neuroscience incorporate philosophy, computer science, chemistry and several other disciplines in training their students for a Neuroscience degree. Therefore, it is essential to recognize that chemistry has become inter-disciplined in lab experiments and teaching which has also led to the introduction of such disciplines as chemical biology. Biological chemistry is another sub-discipline that has emerged from chemistry. (Orgill, & Cooper, 2015).

It is important to note that integration of science has been faster between chemistry and biology than between biology and physics. (Dreyfus, Geller, Gouvea, Sawtelle, Turpen, & Redish, 2013). For instance, in the development of science integrated courses in The University of Maryland, there have been few to none courses focused on Biology by Physics as compared to Biology and Chemistry. (Redish, & Cooke, 2013).

Medicine is born from biology and recently, tutors from Medicine and Chemistry departments in various STEM institutions have developed courses to incorporate chemistry at the undergraduate studies level of Medicine. However, the concepts taught are those that are geared in helping the student with the noble task of applying certain topics taught in chemistry in medicine.  

From the above build up, we can ask ourselves, is it really essential to teach a humanity undergraduate student abstract chemistry concepts who probably has no prior chemistry knowledge? Or in the discipline of biochemistry, which is an integration of chemistry and biology, are there any challenges that undergraduate students studying biochemistry face? And what measures are institutions and biochemists experts taking in order to disseminate the course material effectively?

Objectives of learning cross-disciplinary/inter-disciplinary science education

Objectives of learning cross-disciplinary/inter-disciplinary science education. There are certain set goals and objectives that are set by curriculum experts of various science disciplines when developing the various courses to be studied by undergraduate students in the institutions of learning. Failure to have learning objectives of a particular developed course, then it would not be important to study that course.

The following are the major learning objectives or uses: development of deeper levels of understanding concepts, to change the student expectations and attitude towards the discipline, metacognition of the learned discipline expertise and development of scientific reasoning techniques. (Gouvea, Sawtelle, Geller, & Turpen, 2013).

Development of deeper levels of understanding concepts. Learning a certain concept from different contexts equips the student with better and deeper understanding of when and how to apply that concept to a practical problem. This is only possible if the student has the good coherence of the concept from whatever the discipline the concept is sourced from. But learning of a certain concept from multifaceted disciplines with the student lacking coherence and understanding of the concept and where it should be applied becomes very problematic. (Klein, 2010). Energy concept, for example, depends on the context it is learned. For instance, electromagnetic energy in Physics, ionization energy in chemistry and metabolic energy in biology. Each energy has its own meaning depending on the course but it is solely up to the student to place each concept in its own context in accordance with their coherent comprehension of the concept in question.

To change the student’s attitude and expectations towards a discipline. Not much has been researched or known about the reasons as to why some students have negative perceptions and attitudes towards certain disciplines. It is vital that they are introduced to other disciplines, different from their majors. This helps the students appreciate other disciplines that they are not studying in their majors. This also changes their perceived expectations of these disciplines.

Chemistry students usually have an analytical approach towards problems while biology students commonly have a theoretical approach. Merging of these two disciplines helps the students of either discipline in appreciating the discipline the other student is pursuing, giving them the ability to approach a problem from different angles.

Metacognition of the learned discipline expertise. The importance of pursuing a certain discipline is to be equipped with problem solving techniques in case the student is presented with a problem which the student is expected to solve in accordance to what they have learned from class or laboratories. Therefore, cross-discipline education equips the learner with the ability to apply certain concepts to certain problems after reasoning strategically using old class-learned or new personally invented strategies. (Dreyfus, Geller, Gouvea, Sawtelle, Turpen, & Redish, 2013).

Chemistry concepts

Development of scientific reasoning techniques or strategies. Scientists apply specific reasoning techniques and strategies which differ in accordance with the discipline in question. (Wong, & Hodson, 2009). In classrooms, lessons equip students with the know-how of approaching problems in accordance with what is disseminated in a class by the tutors for instance use of chemical equations in chemistry or practical calculations in Physics. Real life problems will require a wholesome knowledge of the strategies needed to approach either of the disciplines in accordance with the students’ knowledge from concepts taught in class and in the laboratory.

Chemistry concepts. As earlier stated, chemistry is integrated with biology in the development of biochemistry and the sub-disciplines of chemical biology and biological chemistry.

Chemistry concepts have also been incorporated in medicine but channeled through biology in the tutoring of medical students by the relevance of these chemistry concepts to the medical student’s needs. The following table gives a summary of chemistry concepts and biology concepts in tutoring students.

Chemistry lecture Topics

Biology lecture Topics


Methionine case study

Le Chatelier’s principle

Blood oxygen levels


Glucose oxidation

Rate laws

Glucose oxidation kinetics

Transition metals

Lead poisoning treatment

The table gives a short description of the chemistry concepts that tutors laid emphasis on when teaching from a biology interface particularly medicine. Since medical students showed indifference to the chemistry concepts taught or lacked enthusiasm towards chemistry concepts, tutors used chemistry concepts tailored biologically in asking questions in biology tests. This not only proved successful by enhancing the students’ attitude and perception towards chemistry but also facilitated the better cognition of biology concepts by linking them with chemistry concepts.

Challenges students face.  A lot of research has been done on biochemistry, unlike other disciplines and sub-disciplines. The following outlined challenges are concerned with challenges that biochemistry students encounter when studying biochemical concepts.

Biochemistry is a broad discipline with a lot of abstract information which is difficult to learn and thus tends to overwhelm students studying it. Secondly, some biochemistry students lack sufficient prior biology or chemistry knowledge which is commonly used as a reference point for building upon new biochemical concepts. (Villafañe, Bailey, Loertscher, Minderhout, & Lewis, 2011).

If by any chance students have a negative attitude or misperceptions about prior biology or chemistry concepts, then these misconceptions will affect the students’ ability to comprehend the biochemical concepts that are directly related to biology or chemistry.

Biochemistry tends to use non-internal representations. Research has shown that biochemistry students find it difficult to interpret and understand these external representations used in their classrooms. Finally, the vocabulary and language used by tutors and researchers tend to be difficult or different from the language used in traditional sciences. A biochemistry student who lacks clear comprehension of the metaphors used in the classroom or in textbooks that give the coursework covered ends up confused, overwhelmed and unable to cope with the pressure of understanding new concepts explained from un comprehended analogs.

In order to address the research question, qualitative methods would be most appropriate to use. Students studying a certain science course say medicine or biology would be tutored by the same tutor on a chemistry unit partly developed for their coursework. They would then be given questions tailored to real-life problems concerning strategic adaption of their major course and the tutored chemistry course.

Responses would also be weighed in accordance with the student’s ability to creatively come up with responses which require prior knowledge of chemistry. (Orgill, & Cooper 2015). At the end of the semester, questionnaires would be handed out to a sample of students from both classes and responses analyzed in accordance to how they perceived the coursework to give them better cognition of real-world problems.


Abdella, B. R., Walczak, M. M., Kandl, K. A., & Schwinefus, J. J. (2011). Integrated chemistry and biology for first-year college students. Journal of Chemical Education, 88(9), 1257-1263.)

(National Research Council. (2012). Discipline-based education research: Understanding and improving learning in undergraduate science and engineering. National Academies Press.)

Orgill, M., & Cooper, M. M. (2015). Teaching and learning about the interface between chemistry and biology. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 16(4), 711-713.

Dreyfus, B. W., Geller, B. D., Gouvea, J., Sawtelle, V., Turpen, C., & Redish, E. F. (2013). Negative energy: Why interdisciplinary physics requires multiple ontologies. arXiv preprint arXiv:1307.5106.

Redish, E. F., & Cooke, T. J. (2013). Learning each other's ropes: negotiating interdisciplinary authenticity. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 12(2), 175-186.

Klein, J. T. (2010). A taxonomy of interdisciplinarity. The Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity, 15, 15-30.

Gouvea, J. S., Sawtelle, V., Geller, B. D., & Turpen, C. (2013). A framework for analyzing interdisciplinary tasks: implications for student learning and curricular design. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 12(2), 187-205.

Wong, S. L., & Hodson, D. (2009). From the horse's mouth: What scientists say about scientific investigation and scientific knowledge. Science education, 93(1), 109-130.

Villafañe, S. M., Bailey, C. P., Loertscher, J., Minderhout, V., & Lewis, J. E. (2011). Development and analysis of an instrument to assess student understanding of foundational concepts before biochemistry coursework. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 39(2), 102-109.

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