CUTF 2: Becoming Involved in Teaching

I became a Peer leader for Dr. Bell’s class during the Fall 2021 semester, hosting weekly content reviews. One observation I made was that students often did not take advantage of the course resources until the days leading up to the exams. For example, there was low attendance at peer sessions in between exams, then an increase in the days leading up to it. Dr. Bell and I discussed this at the end of the Spring 2022 semester. We were particularly concerned not only about retained information for midterms, but knowledge retention for the final as well. From these, Dr. Bell drafted a plan to change the homework system according to a previous study based on spaced repetition. This study showed that increased repetition of topics led to greater long-term knowledge. I also brought up the study habits that helped me to succeed when I took the course. When I was a student, I frequently reviewed practice problems of previous material nearly daily, keeping the material fresh in my mind. Thus, my project was inspired by the commitment of chemistry concepts to memory via repeated exposure and practice. The combination of discussing concerns, deliberating, and sharing personal experiences helped us create a proposal.

Even though my role in the classroom has changed, my experience as a student in General Chemistry 2 has shaped my methods of teaching. Dr. Bell is a fantastic and engaging lecturer, and one of their best abilities is disseminating complex, jargon-filled, and difficult chemistry concepts into more digestible ones. They often use anecdotes, demonstrations, and careful, yet thorough explanations to build a solid foundation of knowledge. I have included a particularly interesting example of this where Dr. Bell replaces chemical concentrations with money while presenting the “x is small” concept:

 This is something I admired as a student. When I became a UTA for the course in the Fall of 2021, I strove to teach students similarly. I still learn from Dr. Bell in ways to better instruct students by clearing up difficulties or highlighting pertinent knowledge in my reviews. The concerns that we both saw in the Spring of 2021 inspired me to work with Dr. Bell to further help students succeed. As I have become a collaborator, I have become increasingly more confident in my teaching ability. Consequently, the connection I have to Dr. Bell and my project has made me very passionate about the success of the students.

When I started college, I would have never imagined being able to be this involved in teaching. Understandably, many students do not know how to get involved in teaching. Interestingly though, it seems that many people develop teaching abilities through their study habits. This is exemplified in the act of teaching others in a study group, where students actively teach others and help break down tough concepts. This requires great knowledge of the subject to expand definitions and methods so that people understand topics. Additionally, teaching starts by identifying one’s strengths. It requires passion, understanding, and patience. By focusing on classes one may find interesting, one may hone their teaching abilities in a certain course. I spent two semesters with Dr. Bell before engaging in the CUTF, so becoming comfortable with talking to your professor by getting involved in smaller ways may lead one to have discussions about proposals. By identifying changes you wish to see in the classroom, you may approach an instructor with a proposal to advance the success and understanding of students.

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