Category Archives: musings

Class Management I

Class management is the “teaching” side of science teaching that I often struggle with. I enjoy the science and I enjoy contact with students. If I didn’t like those, I wouldn’t have much of an excuse to do what I do. On the other hand, class management is something that I do reluctantly and without […]

Consumer Chemistry

“The customer is always right.” This must be a quote from a multi-billionaire retailer like Marshall Field. Not exactly words to live by for a college laboratory instructor, but something to contemplate. In college courses students ultimately play the role of consumer/customer.  I am always amazed that college students, experienced education consumers for over a […]

Anomalies or Inexactitudes?

The main reason we do concurrent laboratory sessions with our science courses is to reinforce the (largely theoretical) material presented in the lecture with hands-on observation-based laboratory experience. Truly, it is a delight to talk with authority about a reaction that I, myself have actually performed in lab. It is even more wonderful to talk […]

A 3 Hour Experiment or 3 Hours of Scheduled Lab?

One questions most asked by students about Organic Chemistry lab is, “Will this take long?” Truthfully, I am always tempted to reply, “What does your schedule say?” I suspect that students ask this because they know that a science lab might be significantly shorter than the scheduled time. I take it as a personal challenge […]

The Dynamic (Organic) Chemistry Laboratory Part II

4) Ongoing investigations replace repeated experiments. It has been customary to repeat the same student experiments year after year without any acknowledgment of past or future experience with the experiment. However, in the dynamic chemistry laboratory, experiments can be performed focusing on the same technique(s) but instead of simply repeating last year’s work the previous […]

The Dynamic (Organic) Chemistry Laboratory Part I

1) Instead of one single experiment repeated by all the students, three or four different variations of the same experiment can be performed by different students during in the same lab. For example, the oxidation of cyclohexanol to cyclohexanone is expected to yield identical results for every student every year. However, the oxidation of 2, […]

You Break It You Buy It

One of my summertime tasks is to purchase the consumables, equipment, and chemicals necessary for the next school year. We have not collected lab or breakage fees since I began working at Dominican. My impression is that it is common for schools to collect lab fees or at least require students to purchase glassware that […]

Answer/Question the Questions/Answers

This is a continuation of last week’s entry on how grading (evalution) can be rendered more efficient. How an assignment is to be graded determines what kinds of questions can be asked. For an instructor graded scenario, anything goes from multiple choice to lab-report format to critical thinking design. If a teaching assistant is going […]

I Corrected It Myself

I grade my own students’ lab reports. In truth, I do this because when I started teaching ten years ago, I had about a dozen students in Organic Chemistry. Lately, I have found that assignments and grading methods that I had developed for small class sizes were too labor intensive for larger classes. One common […]

An Activity Model for Scientific Inquiry

I was interested in a letter to Chemical & Engineering News (November 10, 2008 ) that proposed a “question-centered” model for Scientific Inquiry written by Rebecca Reiff and Teddie Mower. The nature of scientific inquiry comes up not only in experimental design and evaluation but also in articulation of the overall goals of science education. […]