We make extensive use of research-supported active teaching methods, including Problem Based Learning (PBL) and Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) done in groups. This pedagogy reflects modern theories of student learning. Our guided-inquiry method uses team problem-solving to build an understanding of material. The approach teaches individuals to consider problems from several different perspectives and to collaborate effectively – skills that are considered valuable in the workplace. Furthermore, students can problem solve more efficiently and work on problems that are more interesting and complex. The benefits to using these approaches in the classroom lead to more interactive classrooms, student ownership of the material as they have constructed their own understanding, and improved success in the classroom based on persistence in the classroom, higher overall grades, and student satisfaction.
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Our laboratory program focuses on students learning a set of basic practical skills we have identified every chemistry student should have to prepare for the modern workplace.
In the foundation labs, students perform their own lab experiments so they can develop a sense of independence and competency. Lab is independently paced; individual students choose which experiment they will do during a given lab period. They can and do ask questions of their instructor, their TA, and each other. Starting in their first year, students use some of the same sophisticated instruments (NMR, IR, UV/Vis, MS spectrometers) and chemical separation methods (low pressure chromatography, GC) they would encounter in their first year as employees in industry and in graduate schools. These experiences will prepare them for research in their junior and senior years.
Upper-level labs are available providing advanced experiences in method development, biochemistry, synthesis, and materials chemistry. There are no labs in the other in-depth courses, so junior and senior students can undertake academic-year research.
Lab hours and skills are rolled into early courses, focused on focused on training students for research projects and ultimately for handling the sort of open-ended questions they may face in the workplace or graduate and professional schools.
We choose this approach as it helps develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, and technical skills as students work on labs individually and experience a unique set of challenges to overcome. Since not all students need to take labs, this approach also increases student options, and is greener and thriftier as fewer lab supplies are required to support the students in lab. Students who do sign up for labs thus have greater scheduling flexibility to accommodate their four-year plans. Finally, splitting labs from courses provides a more accurate reflection of student strengths and weaknesses between lab skills and the theoretical understanding of the class.
Expanded use of advanced instrumentation
Students, starting in their first year, use the same sophisticated instruments (NMR, IR, UV/Is , MS spectrometers) and chemical separation methods (low pressure chromatography, GC) starting in their first year as employees in industry and in graduate schools. These experiences will prepare them for research in their junior and senior years.