Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Reflections on Teaching

Last night, I had the students do an experiment on Lewis Structures, VSEPR (Valence-Shell Electron-Pair Repulsion) Theory, and Molecular Shape. Whilst learning about the molecular shapes of a variety of different compounds, they had the opportunity to practice writing Lewis dot structures, as well as to construct molecular models with a model kit.

I had thought if I had the students start at ca. 7.00 pm, they should be able to finish by around 9.00 pm. Boy, was I wrong. I didn't anticipate that they would have a heap of problems grasping the concepts in this experiment. For most of the other experiments, I was able to leave them alone, with minimal supervision, as they completed their tasks. This one, I noticed they were a lot more dependent on me as they muddled through this experiment. The last students did not leave until 9.45 pm, approximately 30 minutes over time. I suppose it compensates for the times the students left early (and class should go on until ca. 9.15 pm).

In addition, I gave them what I thought should have been a very very easy Question of the Day, asking them to identify what class a variety of compounds belong. They had five choices: alkane, alkene, alkyne, cycloalkanes, and aromatic compounds. No one received perfect marks, and one of them (whom I've been quite concerned for a while, actually) only managed to get one correct.

It is making me wonder - considering that the students received this information on-line, as opposed to me going over it in a lecture, if this is an example of how the Blended Course model is failing these students ... or if I need to re-think how to use the Blended Course model for this course. It makes me a little worried, actually.

The material certainly isn't getting any easier. I'm to administer an exam on-line tomorrow, and I already told the students they will have to answer 50 questions, multiple choice or fill in the blank. I might also add an extra credit problem, but it's one in which they'd have to think.

We'll see. I really want to see these students do well, but it is frustrating to me that, with one notable exception, they don't appear to be doing as well as I would have liked them to.


John C. Fowler said...

One thing that strikes me about this kind of blended course: In traditional teaching, when you see that a large number of students aren't getting an important concept, you can slow down and adjust the schedule to give it some more time. With half of the course on-line, though, I doubt that the on-line part is willing to slow down. If you have the flexibility, you might be able to schedule an optional extra session to go over some concepts again, like a pre-test review. In a real university, you could make your TAs do this, but with what you've got, I don't know if you can even get a room to do this in.

Lyn F. said...

You make an excellent point, John. Despite my constantly telling the student if they have difficulties with any of the subject matter to contact me, they are not all that verbal in telling me they can't understand the material, and I only find out when I see their quizzes and exams.

I will be teaching Chemistry 111 (Gen Chem for Science Majors) as well as Chemistry 227 (Organic Chemistry) during the Summer Term, and I do intend to keep an in-office Office Hours during that 8-week term. I believe TPTB is going to try to pitch those courses, as well as a couple of upper-level biology courses, to students from other universities who want to get those courses out of the way during the summer.

Also - careful on the "real university" term: them Baptists might not appreciate their university not being referred to as "real." ;-) It's a small, liberal arts college, and I happen to be teaching at one of their Extended Campus locations.