One of the things I enjoy most about teaching is seeing my students grow as scientists and as people. I interact mainly with freshmen. I love seeing them when they are getting ready to graduate and observing how much they have matured. I particularly enjoy when students take information from my class and relate it to a problem outside of the classroom. It could be something as simple as a reference to a term in a new context or using the material to complete a research project in another faculty member’s lab. If I can help my students better understand the world around them, I have done my job.
I have innovated my classroom by fully integrating the lecture and laboratory components of the second semester general chemistry course. I am calling it the Discovery Experience. Students spend all of their contact hours, six per week, in the laboratory space, either performing short experiments or working through problem sets designed to support their understanding of the material. The only direct instruction comes in the form of a short video that they watch before coming to class. This is the ultimate flipped classroom for a science course.
Students who are in the Discovery Experience build strong social networks that support their learning inside and outside of the classroom. They are learning through active, student centered activities that require them to actually try the material, with experts (myself and teaching assistants) in the classroom to answer questions. Students leave the class more confident in their abilities as scientists, as well as more comfortable in the laboratory space.
If you have an innovation that you want to try, big or small, just try it. Even if it is only for one lecture, or one piece of a lecture in one semester, it can make a big difference. Students are very forgiving, if you explain to them why you think a new strategy will be better for their education. It is more effective to teach with active learning strategies, and a lot more fun for you and your students.