The A.C.E. course was created after the CLAS staff noticed that most students on academic probation had taken the Chemistry 1A class

After academic skills counselor Jay Stemmle and her fellow CLAS colleagues introduced A.C.E. Chemistry CLAS tutoring at the beginning of Spring Quarter, the course has become a popular chemistry solution for many students.

As of now, 32 out of 100 students taking the Chemistry 1A course are also enrolled in the A.C.E. Chemistry program. This coming fall, CLAS plans to expand the amount of study groups to 72, each with a maximum of seven students.

The CLAS staff created the course upon discovering that most students on academic probation or facing disqualification from UCSB had taken the introductory chemistry class, Chemistry 1A.

The staff also learned that about 12.9 percent of students that took Chemistry 1A between fall 2014 and spring 2015 had taken it once before.
Stemmle said the information was true based on her own in-office experience as an academic skills counselor.

“I had seen at least a mol of tears shed in my office over this one class,” Stemmle said. “I got interested; how could this possibly be so hard?”
Last year, Stemmle sat in on a chemistry lectures to better understand these complaints.

“I thought that Chemistry 1A would be easy. It’s an introductory undergrad class after all. Man, was I arrogant,” Stemmle said. “If a grade had gone onto my transcript for that winter in Chem 1A, it would have been an F. Not even a D-. Not even an F+. I was so embarrassed and confused. I had never gotten an F. It filled me with anxiety. So then I understood, really, what all the tears are about.”

She gave a presentation of her experience to her colleagues, and they formed the CLAS Task Force shortly after to help students perform better in Chemistry 1A.
Stemmle and her colleague, Emma Cristofani, interviewed several students to find the source of the problems, deciding that smaller study sections would give the students an opportunity to discuss specific content.

“We received a Michael D. Young Grant to try the program, and that’s how the A.C.E. Study Teams were born,” Stemmle said.
The A.C.E. Chem CLAS program has also teamed up with UCSB’s Education Abroad Program to help students in their chemistry classes. Because CLAS is working with EOP on the project, EOP students get priority enrollment to study groups.

The Study Teams provide academic skills lessons in addition to problem solving built into their curriculum. After the students’ midterm, tutors review “habit adjustments” that can improve test results.

“Also, because the Study Teams are small, the tutors can really see each student’s strengths and weaknesses,” Stemmle said. “The idea is that if you’re not getting it, your tutor will know and you don’t have to get up the courage to get your hand in the air to call attention to your confusion.”

According to Stemmle, a common misconception about Chemistry 1A is that the curve dictates that a certain percent of students enrolled in the class will receive non-passing grades and that the students are in competition with each other.

“Part of the point of the A.C.E. Chemistry Program is to create a sense of solidarity, mutual aid and shared effort among the students in the class,” Stemmle said. “But you don’t have to be in A.C.E. to generate this dynamic; you just need to talk to the people sitting next to you in Chemistry 1179.”

A version of this story appeared on p. 14 of the Thursday, May 5, 2016 print edition of the Daily Nexus.