Sign Language Incorporation in Chemistry Education

Learning Chemistry with your Hands

Rochester Institute of Technology is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID). The organic team at RIT has recognized the inherent difficulties of learning organic chemistry specifically for those who are Deaf (D) and hard of hearing (HH) . A complicated vocabulary and a lack of dedicated signs in American Sign Language (ASL) makes organic chemistry an even greater challenge for D/HH students.

Since 2015, profound performance gains were observed after our team worked to develop, adopt, and propagate a new sign language lexicon for organic terminology. Best of all, transition state signs by way of sign expansions were also conceived. Now, the team is investigating if the same learning gains can be achieved if these signs are also taught to hearing students taking the course. Using your hands to model a concept or even move your hands to mirror a transition state is a powerful way for students to think about the electron pushing formalisms we write on paper. Using our hands as models changes the two-dimensional static framework of writing reactions into 3-D opportunities for students to conceptualize the repercussions of the transition state. Students can learn the process of using their hands as models as guided through a REActivity.

These REActivities are organized by transition state motifs and can be done as workshops (dry labs). Downloadable pdfs of each SLICE Reactivity and the videos for each motif are available. If you'd like to see these signs in action and try the accompanying REActivity, visit our SLICE REActivities under the Resources page or click here.

What are REActivities?

The Self Start

Instructional Freedoms

Coordinating Lab Sections

Contact Information:

Dr. Tina Goudreau Collison

Professor of Chemistry

Rochester Institute of Technology