Apprenticeship in Teaching

The World is Your Lab

Jennifer Swift, Ph.D.

Jennifer Swift knew her "Organic Chemistry II" students weren't intellectually engaged with the material of the course due to its formulaic series of "cookbook" four-hour experiments. While this approach kept costs low and experiments efficient, it felt impersonal and failed to promote a meaningful understanding of the actual chemistry. A CNDLS Fellowship enabled Dr. Swift to restructure her course so as to better meet her students' needs.

CNDLS helped Swift think critically about her teaching practices and identify her goals as she redesigned the course in a modular format, in which students now participate in four, conceptually connected units. This interrelated design moves toward meeting her course goals, which include:

* Emphasize organic chemistry in the 'real world'
* Generate original research data
* Develop students' scientific writing skills

Students are now asked to write laboratory reports and abstracts in the style of a professional journal, an assignment that refines their scientific writing skills in addition to improving lab work. The new design balances logistical considerations with fostering potential for deeper student learning.

During her fellowship, Professor Swift also prioritized investigating new tools of assessment. In order to evaluate the new course's ability to meet her students' needs, CNDLS helped her conduct a knowledge survey at the beginning and end of the semester. She continues to use this to refine the course's content and format.

For more information on science education at Georgetown, visit our Science Education Teaching Commons page.