Gateways to Completion Initiative

“In an equitable classroom environment, students of all backgrounds (e.g., race, nationality, gender) have the same opportunities to learn and develop their knowledge” (Hanover Research, 2017, p. 3).[1]

After reviewing our course enrollment data disaggregated for race/ethnicity, we decided to redesign the General Chemistry I course (CHEM 121) in an effort to improve pass rates.

Course Redesign Priorities

Across all sections

  • Increase math prerequisite to ensure students have the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the course.
  • Adopt learning objectives so that students can clearly see what they are expected to learn and assess these objectives on common final exam questions so that we can determine how well our students are learning.
  • Incorporate embedded Supplemental Instructors who meet with students during extended course meeting time.

Selected sections

  • Integrate one or more evidence-based practices to support the learning of all students. Examples include: posting or distributing lists of student resources, using exam wrappers, scheduling more frequent exams over less material,
  • Integrate active learning strategies. Examples include: use of clicker questions and group work during class, purposefully incorporating learning objectives, flipping the classroom, etc.
  • Use early, low stakes assessment and the Starfish feedback system to provide timely feedback to students.
  • Include a personal statement of diversity, equity, and inclusion in syllabi.
  • Faculty participate in 2-3 meetings per semester of General Chemistry instructors to share ideas and pedagogical approaches.

Changes in Pass Rates

The data collected so far suggest that the course redesign was successful in improving pass rates for most students, where ‘pass’ is defined as a grade of C or above. Overall pass rates improved by 17%, with the largest gains observed for African American and Latinx students, as well as for students who represent the first generation in their family attending college or whose family income is less than $60,000.


[1] Hanover Research. (2017). “Closing the Gap: Creating Equity in the Classroom.” Retrieved March 24, 2019 from