As an educator I have several distinct goals for my students, all of which are intended to increase students’ chemical and scientific literacy. I aim to demonstrate that chemistry can be fun and interesting. I have spoken with students too many times who deplore the thought of pursuing chemistry any further than what is required of them. They may hear others’ horror stories or perhaps just claim their inability to succeed in chemistry, i.e. “It’s too hard!” For many students, chemistry is difficult; I believe their success is truly dependent on their abilities as an effective student. My main role is to facilitate the learning process and provide guidance along the way. As a college chemistry instructor and secondary chemistry student teacher, I have developed several teaching philosophies, some of which follow along with Jones' Tools for Teaching.
As a teacher I need to be organized with my lesson planning, desk space, and classroom space. Effective classroom management guides classroom instruction. Without an organized class, instruction becomes more difficult and haphazard, especially within a science classroom and laboratory.
- Efficient Classroom Setup.
My classroom will be set up in such a fashion that I am able to be an effective mobile teacher. Since a typical class consists of lecture, demos, activities, and practicing problem solving, I will not be stationed at the front of the classroom at the board. Being mobile means walking around the room as I lecture or assist students with problem solving, monitoring their progress. If I only stand at the board and lecture, many students may feel ignored – their learning needs aren't being met. Being a mobile teacher will permit me to reach all areas of the classroom and spend equal amounts of time near each set of students.
- Clear Rules and Expectations.
By establishing clear rules and expectations on the first day of class, a positive tone will be set within the classroom for the semester. To ensure that this positive tone sticks around, it will be imperative that I be consistent in dealing with discipline and behavioral issues as they arise such that the classroom rules and expectations are met and upheld.
- Modeling Behaviors.
"Treat others the way you want to be treated." This old saying holds true within the classroom when it comes to the student-teacher relationship. Behavioral characteristics such as respect, responsibility, kindness, fairness, etc. should begin with me. If I desire for a student to show me respect, then I should respect them. If I want students to be kind to others in the classroom, then I should be modeling that behavior as well. One of my goals as a teacher is to be a role model for students. Modeling appropriate behavior is certainly an important facet of being a role model.
- Flexibility in teaching styles.
Each student learns differently from one another. It is imperative that I take this into account as an educator and try to reach the general student population as far as learning style is concerned. I am an educator and my role is to facilitate learning and guide students the best that I can.
- Teaching with relevance.
The population in several of our chemistry courses is bimodal: those interested in the course and those who must take it as a required course. Since most of our courses are service courses, students are generally less interested in the science; rather, students are completing the course as part of their graduation requirements. I hope to teach in a way that engages even these students who do not plan to further their chemistry career. One way to engage students is to tailor the course to make the material relevant to the student. This can be achieved by referencing current events in the chemical world and personal experiences and relating them to the topic being introduced. While I could be an instructor who simply relays the information and tests students on their ability to memorize, I do not like that idea at all. Instead, I want to ensure that students are comprehending material. In my classroom, students will be assessed via exams and quizzes. However, there will be numerous opportunities for formative assessment and this will enable me to see how well students comprehend new material (as opposed to how well they can memorize information).
- Teaching science like it's a story.
Just like the heading says, I'd like to be able to teach chemistry as if it is a story. I have had a few professors teach science in this manner. I've also heard of professors at other universities who lecture in this format and they win the university's prestigious teaching awards time and time again! It certainly requires knowing and being comfortable with the content. However, the reward can be tremendous. Students are easily bored with standard, routine lectures. They thrive on excitement, whether it be YouTube videos or demonstrations (the more fire or explosions the better!). I certainly will not be able to deliver in these areas all the time. But I can do my best to deliver science stories that require students to attain the necessary knowledge to solve associated problems. Essentially, the content remains the same, but the delivery is different.
- Maintaining laboratory safety.
Many students do not know how to properly work with chemicals and instrumentation. I am their first point of contact for learning the appropriate techniques. Patience, precision, accuracy, and an attention to detail are all skills I hope my students will learn to practice and appreciate. Furthermore, many students will be able to transfer these skills to their future careers.
- Enhancing scientific writing.
Students come to college unprepared and unable to effectively write a scientific paper. Their lack of skills is further confused by different content areas within the sciences promoting different writing styles. I encourage students to discuss their lab reports with me, offering constructive criticism where appropriate and shedding some light on how scientists write about their work.
- Promoting active engagement.
Teaching in the classroom involves engaging students to be active participants. Whether this comes through asking questions, reviewing material, or having students volunteer to write a solution to a problem on the board, I feel that students will have a difficult time understanding and making sense of new material without practicing it. Active participation in the classroom, then, acts as formative assessment – I can see how students are processing the material and offer help or praise as needed.
- Using dynamic technology.
Using multimedia in the classroom visually helps students understand new material. For example, YouTube videos on stereochemistry, chair flips, and substitution reactions assist students in comprehending those new topics. Students indicated that these videos helped firm their understanding and that visualizing a chemical process made better sense than simply explaining the concept. Therefore, I plan to use multiple sources and teaching tools that accompany lectures. I want to give my students the best opportunity to learn and incorporating multiple teaching tools should prove advantageous while still sticking to my core teaching philosophy.