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.
First, I need to talk less! The videos of my lectures revealed that I primarily deliver a monologue. (I think I knew that ahead of time, but it was jarring to see the actual classroom setting.) Certainly, I will incorporate student-centered Learning Objects from the VIPEr website. However, I will also strive to involve the students by asking questions as we explore a topic, especially when the background material or explanation involves material we have covered earlier in the semester. By encouraging them to think – and more importantly, speak – as we progress through a concept, they will become active learners.
Second, I will introduce Literature Discussions. At the Workshop I began to appreciate that Literature Discussions are a necessary component of a lecture course, because they allow the students to realize that the concepts they are learning are often used in the analysis of cutting-edge research. Furthermore, the VIPEr Learning Objects for Literature Discussions guide the students through a focused examination of a paper, and thus the students should not feel overwhelmed as they begin their reading. (Thank you to those who have developed some of those Learning Objects.)
Finally, I want to express my gratitude to all of the participants at the Workshop, especially the members of my “Birds of a Feather” group (Adam, Anne, and Kari). The support and encouragement I received was invaluable. As has been noted, most of us are the sole Inorganic Chemist at our respective institutions, so simply gathering together to work (and eat!) in one place provided a much-needed, mid-career boost.