10 Sep 2019

(Re)viewing the classroom experience

Submitted by Bradley Wile, Ohio Northern University
Cohort 1
Reflection Piece 1

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. 

When we had a chance to watch our videos at the summer workshop, I realized that the classroom experience was different than I had remembered. I was in frame, leading the class in a relaxed and thoughtful lecture, asking questions, and circulating around the room during active components of our in-class meeting. I saw students that were attentive and working, but intimidated by the material. While talented and intelligent, these students were not ready to engage with the material I had spent so much time preparing. I knew that these students were capable of succeeding (and many already had by the time we watched the videos), but it seemed like the students themselves didn’t. Even though I had spent hours preparing my course materials and designing activities for the class, it was apparent that I hadn’t really thought about what that classroom experience was from the student’s perspective. 

The most difficult part of watching this video was recognizing that I wasn’t really connecting with many of the students that in retrospect, I now knew were going to struggle with the course. Despite my best efforts, some students really weren’t ready for the classroom discussion that day. More than anything else, this set my resolve to work on student-centered activities that gave everyone a chance to participate. 

I talked with the other fellows about their courses, and shared ideas about our own experiences teaching undergraduate inorganic chemistry. I spent the next several days asking myself “how am I going to make certain that the students are prepared, and that they get something out of this activity?” I was excited to look through the list of VIPEr LOs, adapting some for my course, and creating others based on my current activities. What I have now probably isn’t perfect, but it draws from the best parts of what I have done previously, and each lecture starts with the question “how will my students be prepared for today?” I am excited to see how it goes.