My charge with this reflection is to try and communicate how being a Fellow impacted my teaching of inorganic chemistry and, more broadly, how participation as a Fellow impacted me as an educator between the 2019 school year, the workshop the following summer, and the 2020 school year.
For VIPEr Fellows, there are two types of people: bonding and solids. Fellows are asked to pick one of these two common topics in foundational inorganic chemistry courses as a specific focus for our course transformation efforts. When I became a Fellow, I joined the “solids” group for two reasons.
As I wind up year two of being a VIPEr fellow, I am happy to be able to think back on what I did, take stock of what I changed as a result of the first workshop, describe how it went, and share what I want to do for the future.
The workshop was an eye-opening experience on how I develop, implement, and assess my inorganic chemistry class. Information shared by the other fellows were highly valuable and instructive. I learned a lot about different styles and new ideas of teaching. I have to be honest that I was (still am) more of a traditional instructor and I was skeptical of implementing online materials such as those in the IONiC VIPEr website. However, the workshop included many hands-on experiences which gave me directions and built my confidence in incorporating online materials in class.
I had been teaching Advanced Inorganic Chemistry for three years before the workshop. I was struggling with various students' backgrounds: some are undergraduate students, some are graduate students; some graduate students already learned advanced inorganic chemistry when they were undergraduate students; some had not. It seemed impossible to set up concordant goals for the class.
The opportunity to be a VIPEr fellow has provided me with a new network of colleagues that share a common objective – teaching inorganic chemistry. This program has given me the opportunity to reflect on my teaching and adopt new strategies that I can bring to the classroom and share with my students, and for that I am forever grateful. For example, I plan to include more current literature discussions, not only in my inorganic chemistry courses, but also in the forensic chemistry course I teach.
Let’s be honest, everyone. Being a VIPEr Fellow is not always as easy as enjoying beers at Ford’s Garage in Dearborn or discussing the nuances of hard soft acid base theory while walking back to the workshop hotel in the Michigan sunshine. Being a Fellow is hard work! There are consent forms and surveys to organize, classes to video record, and conceptual questions and an ACS exam to deliver. And all of this work falls on top of teaching our usual engaging and thoughtful foundation-level courses. Some days, you may wonder if it’s all worth it.
I have been teaching Inorganic Chemistry for over two decades. Amazingly, the workshop gave me both the motivation and the tools to improve how I conduct my classes. In particular, I plan to make two major changes this fall.
As part of the first cohort of VIPEr fellows, I was excited to meet and work with other inorganic chemists from around the country. However, I was a little more cautious about one part of the program - recording and reviewing several of the in-class lectures from the past fall. I felt pretty confident that I had done a good job preparing and presenting the material those days, and I was even happy to show off some active classroom approaches that I had tried out.