Bad Vs Good Chemistry Education

Bad Vs Good Chemistry Education

When I entered college I was pretty sure I wanted to be a major in biology and absolutely sure I did not want to go to a medical profession. In fact, I chose my college partly based on the number of biological lessons offered that were not medical in nature. Thus I found it particularly ironic (and painful) when I had to jump through a series of hoops designed to eliminate individuals on the pre-with track that were not sufficiently serious to actually be accepted to the medical school. The most significant of these obstacles was chemistry. While I did not learn much chemistry as undergraduate education, I learned a lot about education (and how it should not work). The shortcomings in my undergraduate education for chemistry became clearer when I took many really amazing and really educational chemistry classes in elementary school (with permission by Professor Pam Mills at Hunter College).

As a basic course biology, I was required to take 18 credits of chemistry (8 ECTS inorganic chemistry and 10 ECTS organic chemistry). This is a good and reasonable requirement for a biology because a solid understanding of chemistry is undoubtedly helpful in understanding the biological world. Unfortunately, chemistry classes were not designed to be educational. In fact, the chemistry professor stood up in front of the lecture hall and on all the first day of the school told all 600 students that the primary goal of the class was to eradicate people who could not enter the medical school. Therefore, the university would consider the class a success if it caused anyone who could not hack the medical schools admission process to change majors, transfer to another school, or even drop college completely. The professor seemed like a nice guy; I suspect he was not comfortable to be involved in a chemical class that was intended to be a trial in the word medieval, and the only thing he felt he could do was to describe the situation openly.

Of the standards set by the university for the class, it was a success. When I started my second year of chemistry there were only 200 students left. With another measure, Im afraid that the class was a failure. One semester my average was 55%, but thanks to the curve I got a B +. Of course, most learned even less than I was. (This is something I try very hard not to stop when I need to see a doctor.)

But what did these classes do so badly? As an educator, this is a question that I have spent a lot of time on.

On the surface, chemistry classes seemed to operate in a professional and reasonable manner. If the designer of the chemistry sequence was asked to explain the teaching, there would no doubt have been three or four learning tools mentioned. Information would include the students brains during the lecture periods and reading the textbook. That information would be consolidated by completing homework problems. Finally, there were chemical tests that were intended to measure learning. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to discuss ideas, ask questions or get real-time communication. This lack of opportunity to talk through things and answered questions was, I think, the single biggest problem.

There have been many, many research studies that show that learning must be active to be effective. It is imperative that the students can enter information, manipulate it in their minds, put it in a new format and get feedback so that their understanding is correct. Exams are not very useful feedback; When a test is given and graded it is quite late to say a student for the first time that his or her ideas are not right. Instead, the real function of tentamina in chemistry or any other subject is to motivate students to study and to provide a relatively objective method of attesting that learning has taken place.

Fortunately, chemistry supervision is almost exactly the opposite of the classes I maintained as a basic education. In a tutoring session there is almost constant discussion, questioning and feedback. This allows students to explore ideas and create understanding. It is a very effective way to develop a real understanding of challenging content and to learn how to solve problems.

It is true that private tutoring is generally one-on-one and is therefore very difficult to compare with major college sections. However, there is evidence that a properly structured large class can be quite effective. In fact, a great exciting research is being done to discover more effective ways of teaching chemistry. Of course, research is completely useless if chemistry classes are incorrect as filter equipment. I hope my experience of basic chemistry was exempt from the rule.



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