This science communication activity is meant to replace the descriptive chemistry portion of my sophomore level inorganic chemistry course by having the students teach each other through blog posts. It is a semester-long project culminating in a summary of a primary literature article about their chosen element aimed at a general audience and a presentation aimed at a scientific audince. This project could also be used in a general or upper-division course with changes to the literature portion.
Students will explore the descriptive chemistry of an element.
Students will practice reading, understanding, and summarizing articles from the primary literature.
Students will adapt their communication to different audiences.
Students will practice giving constructive feedback.
Students will learn about other elements through their peers' blog posts and presentations.
I have used word press but now I generally use the blog function in my LMS.
Students choose their element after listening to the BBC Elements podcast to get some background information. I use a first come first served model where students post their chosen element in a discussion board on the class LMS (I do not allow students to double up on the element). Students write four or five of varying length on their chosen element: 0) what is their favorite science blog and why 1) why they chose the element, 2) where is this element used, 3) descriptive chemistry of the element, 4) summary of a literature article involving their element. I also require students to read their peers' blogs and comment, and sometimes take exam questions from the blogs.
I have used this project for three classes of second-year inorganic with 10-20 students. Each time I have added more scaffolding. I spend time in class discussing what makes a good science blog and how a blog is different than other types of science writing. The students then find examples of science blogs they like and write their own post on what makes them work. I have also greatly expanded the amount of time I spend on finding, reading, and summarizing literature in class. We use other literature discussion LOs that are related to course content to practice reading papers. I also spend time in class discussing different types of scientific literature and what is most appropriate for the assignment, and working on finding papers for the class. Next time I teach the class I plan to invite a librarian to help with this portion.
This project in total is worth 30% of the course grade. 15% for the blog and 15% for the presentation. I evaluate the blogs and presentation using attached rubrics.
Students generally have fun with this assignment. As I have added more scaffolding the products have improved. In 2019 the average grade on the project overall was 83% and in 2021 the average grade was 88% Students generally do well and the assignment is a grade booster.