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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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  • Number of pages: 2

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Introduction: As a chemistry instructor I aim to develop a clear idea about the fundamental principles,

by putting particular emphasis on practical problem solving. For example, to introduce the concept of

chemical equilibrium, I prefer to introduce its basic principles and then move on to their applications in

solving chemical problems- e.g. how the reaction conditions determine the amount of product formed in a

chemical reaction. I believe that a working knowledge of how to solve real problems leads to logical

development of the underlying chemical principles. A curious mind then ponders on to discover the

vastness of the fundamental concepts and their crucial role behind various functions and aspects of our

life. My ultimate goal as an instructor is 1) to promote a deep interest towards learning; 2) to nurture

critical thinking and 3) to develop ability for independent problem solving. To achieve these I often

supplement class lecture with a “problem based learning” approach, which I have found to be useful even

for advanced or graduate level chemistry courses. My teaching inspires the students to voice their

notions, think critically and find innovative solutions, which they can further explore by participating in

my real-world oriented research plan.

Student-Teacher Interaction: From my undergraduate education, I have an immense appreciation for

student-faculty interactions and benefitted more from an approachable teacher, who can simplify the basic

concepts to bridge the gap between the students and the textbook. Thus, to begin interaction with

undergraduate students from different educational background and cultural diversity, I begin to explain

the relevance of the course content, e.g. how the basic chemical composition of any substance guides its

material properties and makes it suitable for a particular real life application. From my experience in

teaching general chemistry to a diverse group of students, I find that the students are more engaged and

interested in the course content, when they can visualize the broad perspective, particularly, the

significance of the course content in their field of interest. For this purpose, I often talk about historical

facts, technical procedures and contemporary examples, such as the discovery of X-rays, vulcanization of

rubber, to name two. This interesting story telling, in the very first class puts students at ease to interact

with me during lecture, throughout the course.

Active Learning in Lecture: To solicit individual thinking, I engage the class in group discussions and

group problem solving activities, in addition to delivering exciting and interactive lecture. In a group

setting the students feel more confident and also comfortable to reach out – help each other. In my

ongoing general chemistry class, a Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) approach has

proven successful to teach the concepts such as chemical nomenclature or classification of reactions,

where some factual memorization is necessary. In these cases, after the students work out a few examples

of how to name the chemicals or how to identify the types of reactions, they develop a clear working

knowledge of how the rules work. I also believe that the audio-visual effects associated with laboratory

tours and classroom demonstrations, i.e. combustion reactions, exo- or endothermic processes, evolution

of gas etc; promote a keen interest towards the subject matter.

Laboratory Teaching and Integrated Classroom: Laboratory experience is essential for practical

understanding of chemical principles. A Chinese proverb says: “I hear, I forget. I see I remember. I do I

understand.” Thus synchronization between classroom lecture and laboratory experiments, where the

students get hands-on laboratory training on lecture materials, advances the learning process. This

integrated approach enables the students to think independently to solve problems they come across in laboratory and also enjoy the ongoing experiments. Extensive academic learning needs to meet the needs

of solving real world problems, where innovative solutions are often sought after. Involvement of

students in real world oriented research further prepares them to face the practical challenges. My

research plan focuses on solving contemporary problems in the fields of bioinorganic chemistry and

environmental sciences, also emphasizing the importance of chemical hygiene and “green” chemistry,

where students interested in engineering as well as medical fields will benefit from. Thus my research

plan will complement coursework with further development of scientific knowledge and engineering

skills. The students will further benefit from the opportunity to present their innovative ideas and research

at the American Chemical Society Meetings and learn presentation and communication skills.

Student Assessment: Finally, following student progress throughout the semester, I believe, is an

essential step to effective teaching. In addition to class examinations I design quizzes and interactive

problem solving sessions which contribute to a certain percent of total credit hours. This strategy has

twofold advantages: students get more focused to the course materials and I get a weekly progress report

of individual students. I also assess their depth of understanding in subject matter by setting novel

problems and assignments, which require cognitive knowledge than factual memorization. A part of the

question sets contain open-ended problems, which can have more than one correct answer. Student’s

approach to solve the problem reflects their independent thinking ability and depth of knowledge in the

subject matter. A good example that I often use is asking them to briefly explain why the isolated yield of

a given reaction can be lower than the theoretical yield and ask them to suggest ways to improve the

isolated yield. The answers other than “accidental loss” reflect their understanding in chemical

equilibrium and kinetics.

Conclusion: I believe that effective teaching is a crucial step for the intellectual development of students.

As a teacher I aim to kindle a life-long passion for the subject matter and inspire the students toward

broader applications beyond the course-content. For this purpose a combination of classroom-laboratory

and cutting edge research can provide them with both academic learning and more realistic training to

help them in becoming successful and productive members of our society.

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