Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything

Clue Pic

What is CLUE

General Chemistry is a gateway course for many students intending on careers in scientific, engineering and health care related disciplines. While there have been many attempts to improve the outcomes for these students, little has changed over the past 60 years. Recent transformation efforts have focused primarily on incorporating student engagement techniques into the course, rather than considering what it is that is important for students to learn. Chemistry, Life the Universe and Everything (CLUE) is a transformed general chemistry curriculum, developed by an interdisciplinary team of a chemist and a molecular biologist, that aims to bring about evidence based change in general chemistry. CLUE was developed using a design research approach that focuses on scaffolded progressions around four core ideas: structure and properties, bonding and interactions, energy, and change and stability. The course emphasizes causal mechanistic reasoning in order to help students move beyond knowing that, to knowing how and knowing why chemical phenomena occur.

The materials developed include a text (supplied free to students), lecture support materials, workshop/recitation activities, video mini-lectures, and formative and summative assessment materials. We have now taught the course for over five years, and this year all general chemistry students at Michigan State University took the CLUE curriculum. We have assessed the outcomes of CLUE in a number of different ways and find that in general course grades are higher than similar traditional sections, and ACS examination scores are similar. However, when we assess specific skills such as understanding how intermolecular forces operate, or the ability to determine and predict structure-property relationships, we find that CLUE students are significantly better at these tasks than a matched cohort of students from traditional sections. Perhaps even more importantly, these improvements are maintained throughout a year of (conventional) organic chemistry instruction.

Sample Materials


Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything:
An Evidence-Based, Transformed General Chemistry Curriculum

Melanie M. Cooper1 and Michael W. Klymkowsky2
1Chemistry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824
2Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, 80309
View Article

Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything:
A New Approach to General Chemistry, and a Model for Curriculum Reform

Cooper, M. M.; Klymkowsky, M. W.
J. Chem. Educ. 2013, 90, 1116 - 1122.
DOI: 10.1021/ed300456y

Development and Assessment of a Molecular Structure and Properties Learning Progression

Cooper, M. M.; Underwood, S. M.; Hilley, C. Z.; Klymkowsky, M. W.
J. Chem. Educ. 2012, 89, 1351 - 1357.
DOI: 10.1021/ed300083a

Are Noncovalent Interactions an Achilles Heel in Chemistry Education?
A Comparison of Instructional Approaches

Williams, L. C.; Underwood, S. M.; Klymkowsky, M. W.; Cooper, M. M.
J. Chem. Educ. 2015, 92, 1979 - 1987.
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00619

When Do Students Recognize Relationships between Molecular Structure and Properties?
A Longitudinal Comparison of the Impact of Traditional and Transformed Curricula

Underwood, S. M.; Reyes-Gastelum, D.; Cooper, M. M.
Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2016, 17, 365 - 380.
DOI: 10.1039/C5RP00217F

Contact us

For more information about Dr. Melanie Cooper and her research at Michigan State University visit the Cooper Group research page
For information about Dr. Mike Klymkowsky and his research at the University of Colorado Boulder visit the Klymkowsky lab research page
For questions about CLUE please email Dr. Melanie Cooper at mmc(at)