Characterizing Instruction

Connecting student learning with Instructional Style in General Chemistry

University of California Davis. Center for Educational Effectiveness

Catherine Uvarov, Alberto Guzman-Alvarez, Greg Allen, Alan Gamage, Marco Molinaro


Students in large introductory STEM courses often struggle, giving these courses the reputation as being “gate-keeper” courses. The General Chemistry course sequence at UC Davis is one of the highest enrollment course sequences on campus. Our goal was to collect evidence of student learning in General Chemistry and link that data with information on instructional practices in order to form a more complete picture of what is happening in the course series.

Tool: GORP

We used the GORP tool to collect classroom observation data on instructors using the COPUS protocol.(1) Instructors agreed in advanced to have their classes randomly observed over the course of the academic year. Observation data were mostly collected by trained undergraduates (not enrolled in the course). However, some observations were also collected by graduate students or CEE Staff.

Evidence-based Action

For more details about what evidence was collected, and actions taken, join the Tools for Evidence-based Action group on Trellis.


  1. Smith, M. K., F. H. Jones, S. L. Gilbert and C. E. Wieman (2013). “The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): a new instrument to characterize university STEM classroom practices.” CBE Life Sci Educ 12(4): 618-627.
  2. Lund, T. J., M. Pilarz, J. B. Velasco, D. Chakraverty, K. Rosploch, M. Undersander and M. Stains (2015). “The Best of Both Worlds: Building on the COPUS and RTOP Observation Protocols to Easily and Reliably Measure Various Levels of Reformed Instructional Practice.” CBE-Life Sciences Education 14(2).