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!)