Do we do our students a disservice in entry-level courses?

A collection of the most important words in a general chemistry course.


I have begun wondering whether many higher education programs, including mine, are doing their students a disservice in how we teach the entry-level courses in our programs (general chemistry for me). I’m a physical chemist and I have an analytical chemist and an organic chemist as colleagues. We all have our upper-level courses in which we are the experts but it has occurred to me that we seem to be missing something in our entry-level course.

I’m not sure about all programs, but most of the programs I have ever been around have entry-level courses which are broad in scope, covering topics from all the sub-disciplines. Our general chemistry courses cover broad overview of analytical topics, physical topics, organic topics, etc. The way we teach the class is that one faculty member teaches it. Right now, for instance, I am teaching general chemistry. Our current topic is an aspect of organic chemistry. I’m fully qualified to teach the concept but am I the best? Wouldn’t it be better if the organic chemist teaches a topic that they are the expert on? Are we doing a disservice to our student by not doing this?

Picture of a blue solution in a flask with some organic chemical structures in the background.


The problem, of course, is that implementing a course in which profession jump in and out of the course is problematic for a number of reasons. How do we compensate the faculty members fairly? Is is distracting to the students to have different professors from week to week, topic to topic? I’m not sure there is an easy way to rectify this issue. However, I have become more and more sure that if we teach those topic of which we are the experts, we can provide our students with a better educational experience.