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Charles H. Atwood


Ronald and Eileen Ragsdale Professor of Chemical Education

B.S., Millsaps College, 1974
Ph.D., Florida State University, 1979
Research Fellow, Australian National University, 1979-1982

Phone: (801) 581-4383
Office: 2174 HEB-N

Activities & Awards

  • G. A. Philbrook Award for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduate Chemistry, 1985
  • University of Georgia Teaching Academy, 2006
  • University of Georgia Senior Teaching Fellow, 2008-2009
  • University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award, 2008
  • Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Chemistry, 2009
  • Honors Day Keynote Speaker for the University of Georgia, 2009
  • Ronald and Eileen Ragsdale Professor of Chemical Education, University of Utah, 2011

Research Interests

My group is interested in methods to improve student performance in large class settings. Initially we built a computerized assessment system that not only provided homework and testing services but also collected student response data. Once that system was in place and had undergone several years of use, we began an analysis of the student responses using a modern psychometric analysis tool called Item Response Theory (IRT). IRT analysis permitted us to determine the item difficulty and discrimination factors for individual test and homework problems as well as for entire tests and even a years worth of student responses. From that analysis we determined those chemical topics that are difficult for our students. Furthermore, we also determined questions that indicated which students were A, B, C, D, or F level. This helped us build our tests in a much more rigorous fashion than previously employed. It also showed us those chemical topics that needed to be emphasized or the teaching adjusted to improve student performance. Once instructional changes were initiated, we tracked changes in student performance over time. Based upon this prior work we instituted several in class, during homework, and in help session techniques that have improved student performance on tests from 4 to 12%. Publications on several of these techniques are now in preparation.

Here at the University of Utah we are in the process of instituting some of these same developments for the Utah undergraduate chemistry program. Furthermore, we are now engaged in the development of a statewide assessment system to use in concurrent enrollment courses throughout the state of Utah. Assessments will be delivered via computer to high schools throughout the state. Once completed, the data will be gathered electronically in Salt Lake City, analyzed using IRT, and information on student performance returned to the individual high school instructors for use in their teaching.

Selected Publications

  • Bobby J. Stanton, Lin Zhu, and Charles H. Atwood, “Experiments for General Chemistry featuring MeasureNet”, published in April 2005, Brooks/Cole, Thomson Learning, Inc. 2006 Copyright.
  • Charles H. Atwood, “Survival Guide for General Chemistry with Math Review”, Second Edition, April 2006, Brooks/Cole, Thomson Learning, Inc.
  • Charles H. Atwood, “Radon in Homes – Recent Developments”, Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 83, No. 10, October 2006, 1436-1439, an invited paper for the National Chemistry Week theme "Your Home - It's All Built on Chemistry".
  • Richard W. Morrison, Charles H. Atwood, and Joel A. Caughran, “Survival Guide for General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry”, October 2007, Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning, Inc.
  • Charles H. Atwood, “Survival Guide for Introductory Chemistry”, September 2008, Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning, Inc.
  • Charles H. Atwood, “The Day My Students “Saw” Atoms, Ions, and Molecules”, pp. 29-30, in Chalk Talk - Teaching Tips from the UGA Teaching Academy, Loch K. Johnson, Editor, UGA Press 2010.
  • Kimberly D. Schurmeier, Charles H. Atwood, Carrie G. Shepler, and Gary J. Lautenschlager, “Using Item Response Theory to Assess Changes in Student Performance Based Upon Changes in Question Wording”, Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 87, No. 11, November 2010, pp. 1268-1272.
  • Kimberly D. Schurmeier, Charles H. Atwood, Carrie G. Shepler, and Gary J. Lautenschlager, "Using Item Response Theory to Identify and Address Difficult Topics in General Chemistry", accepted for publication as a chapter in the American Chemical Society Symposium Book "Investigating Classroom Myths through Research on Teaching and Learning."
Last Updated: 6/3/21