Submitted by Craig M. Davis / Xavier University on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 09:26
Reflection Piece 2

My term as a VIPEr Fellow officially began on March 29, 2018, when I accepted the offer from Joanne Stewart to be a member of Cohort #1. The next academic year I video-recorded lectures and passed out surveys in preparation for our June 2019 workshop.

I learned so much in four days! (1) The COPUS data (courtesy of Barb Reisner and her students) revealed that I talked too much in lecture. The next academic year I strove to ask the students to draw their own conclusions and “connect the dots”, which lead to a more interactive learning experience for the students. (2) From my Birds of a Feather conversations I was relieved to learn that I was covering roughly the same topics (at about the same depth) as other instructors at schools that offer only one semester of Inorganic Chemistry. (3) Previously, I had never had the students engage in the primary literature; this was partly because I did not think I could spare the time (“I only have one semester!”), but the biggest factor was being uncertain how to proceed. (What articles should I choose? What questions should I ask?) Fortunately, at the workshop Sheila Smith demonstrated how to conduct a Literature Discussion (LD). Plus, we were given time to explore the VIPEr website to select LDs that we would attempt the next year. (During the 2019-2020 academic year I became comfortable enough leading LDs that I volunteered to lead one at our virtual workshop this past summer.)

Jump ahead to Fall 2020. Despite the pandemic, Xavier University held in-person classes. However, like many schools, we started early and finished classes by Thanksgiving, and the students took final exams the following week at home. This precluded me giving the A.C.S. exam, which I had been using for over twenty years (different versions). One day I told my class that I needed to write a take-home final exam, but was still grappling with the format. One student offered that he enjoyed the literature discussions; maybe I could build a final exam with those.

Needless to say, that is what I did! I selected five LDs from the VIPEr website that I had not yet used, and modified and/or shortened the questions. It was very rewarding to read the students’ submissions and observe how they applied the principles from the semester to these articles. This experience was made possible by being a VIPEr fellow. (Thank you to the authors of those LDs for writing my final exam!)

Nicole Crowder / University of Mary Washington

Hi Craig,

Thanks for sharing your reflections. I'm interested in how you selected your 5 literature discussions and which ones you chose? Were you looking for certain content coverage in the articles and/or questions?

How long did you give the students to complete the final? Did you give them the papers to read beforehand?

Thanks! Nicole

Wed, 03/03/2021 - 16:49 Permalink
Craig M. Davis / Xavier University

Hello, Nicole.

The Final was a "take-home" exam, so the students had as much time as they needed; also, this made it "open notes". The format was the only significant flaw in my plan: The average score was 99%! The six students were very strong (three have GPA's > 3.9), but this was not an ideal outcome. Your questions suggest a better way: I could have given them the articles in advance, and told them what sections to read; then, during our proscribed final exam slot, I could have sent the questions out and given them two hours to finish. (Hopefully, I will never need to do this again.)

I selected the articles based on concepts we had covered. They were:

1. First Molecular Hydrogen Complexes

2. Germanium Fluorides

3. Monomeric SiO2

4. Prussian Blue

5. Zn(I)-Zn(I) Bond


Wed, 03/03/2021 - 21:09 Permalink
Joanne Stewart / Hope College

In reply to by Craig M. Davis / Xavier University

In a pandemic year, if they all did the final and provided reasonable answers and explanations, then >99% for all is a fine outcome. :)

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 07:24 Permalink
Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

Wow, Craig - so neat that you went from literature discussion hesitancy to a full-on final exam full of literature-derived problems.  I think the One Figure LO's (1FLO) are good to keep in mind, too.  The phrase "literature discussion" may lead people to think they have to really dig down into the corners of a paper and thoroughly understand it, but just taking one figure is sometimes enough for a very good problem. 

It's nice to be a little bit re-connected with a fellow bird of a feather!

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 09:36 Permalink
Craig M. Davis / Xavier University

In reply to by Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

Hi, Anne.

Good to hear from you! Thank you for suggesting the 1FLO's.


Thu, 03/04/2021 - 20:12 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

Craig, that is a great final exam idea, even not during a pandemic. I might have to steal that for my last midterm in May...


Sat, 03/13/2021 - 13:09 Permalink