Engaging and Challenging Students in Large Science Class

Casey, Mike (2011) Engaging and Challenging Students in Large Science Class. [Conference Proceedings]


Innovations in the teaching of a large first year module, 'Organic Chemistry & Chemical Biology', to more than 400 students will be presented. This is a challenging module because approximately half of the students are learning Organic Chemistry for the first time, and about three quarters intend to major in a subject other than Chemistry. Several changes have been initiated and designed (i) to help students learn the material, (ii) to improve student engagement and retention, and (iii) to extend the learning outcomes to include transferable skills. Initiatives included asking the students to do many exercises in class, using the time freed by providing partial lecture notes in advance, and incorporating 'Mastery Problems' in the lecture material to allow students to test their ability to meet the learning objectives, which are listed in detail. An interactive website with powerful tools for the manipulation of 3D chemical structures has been created, to help students understand difficult concepts of molecular structure. A sustained effort has been made to make the lecture material more interesting, and the power of multimedia presentations has been harnessed to explain concepts clearly. Perhaps most importantly, a new component has been introduced. Students are grouped into small teams, each of which is asked to give a PowerPoint presentation on the chemical and biological properties of a drug. The objectives were to increase student engagement, and to help students to learn information retrieval, teamwork, independent learning, and presentation skills, as well as to reinforce chemical concepts. The administration and assessment of this component is onerous (>80 teams), but the standard of the presentations is high and many students find it rewarding and stimulating. The results of the changes are encouraging, with a positive student response, increased examination pass rates, and an increase in the number of students taking Chemistry in year 2.

[thumbnail of NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf]
NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf

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