How do you teach?

With all the discussion of the relative merits or demerits of powerpoint, I thought it might be useful to take a step back and consider broadly what I’m doing in each of my classes and why.

General Considerations

All lectures delivered using a tablet laptop, annotated slides and lecture recordings provided to those students who attend after the session (except 3rd year).

First Year Spectroscopy (9 hours, 2013) & First Year Transition Metal Chemistry (9 hours, 2014)

Mainly powerpoint based lectures with worked examples, self-tests and references to additional reading and problems in recommended texts. Some screencast pre-lectures or on specific concepts. Also supported by problem sheets and problem classes. TM chemistry includes model building workshop for isomers. (generally 20 – 24 slides per hour)

Second Year Multinuclear NMR (4 hours, 2013)

Powerpoint, but low content (approx 20 slides per hour session), mainly taught through examples and problems. Integrated lecture-problem sessions as no discrete problem class for this content. Generally 16 – 20 slides (including title slide and ILOs/textbook per session)

Second Year Catalysis (4 hours, 2013, not taught yet in 2014)

Tablet, talk and technology. Students provided with a study guide containing complex images, tasks to do (e.g. writing out definitions of terms, simple problems) as the lectures progress. Powerpoint used to provide blank slides for in-lecture annotation in ‘chalk and talk’ style. Some powerpoints with complex images for discussion and annotation.  Exam style problems in study guide, integrated lecture-problem sessions as no discrete problem classes for content. [increasing to 5 hours in 2014 with problem class]. Interestingly when preparing this course I hand wrote my notes for writing out in the lecture. I consistently covered 2/3 of the intended content per session due to the slow down in delivery caused by writing it all out by hand. This fits with the notion that powerpoint leads to too much content.  Consequently I removed quite a bit of content from the 1st year TM powerpoints before delivery this year and slowed it down quite a bit.

Third Year Designer Polymers (6 hours, 2014 in progress).

2 hours of standard lecture to cover ‘key concepts required’, 3 hours of flipped content with students reading assigned papers. Lists of questions for each paper are provided then used for discussion in class. 1 hour of problem class where students bring answers to exam style questions and they are discussed.

Omitted: Third Year Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms (6 hours, 5 lectures, 1 problem class; run for first time in 2013, work in progress).

Omitted: Second Year Sustainable Chemistry (18 hours, varied content, run for first time in 2013/14, work in progress).

Omitted: Second Year Bioinorganic Chemistry (3 hours, run for first time in 2014, not yet delivered)

As a general trend, the number of slides seems to decrease from 1st year to 3rd year. That reflects the increasing complexity of the information per slide perhaps? Or perhaps the need to write more on the slides for the first years to provide a better set of notes. An obvious question is why not do the ‘tablet and talk’ catalysis style lectures more. The obvious answer is once you’ve invested the time into creating a set of powerpoints, why revert to hand written? And powerpoint is a greater investment of time than hand written chalk and talk style, but it is more readily edited and modified – hand written notes get fairly messy.

I’m not yet sure where this exercise leaves me, other than a reasonable account of what I’ve done with my time all academic year so far (a lot of new preps…). There are a few things that strike me that I hadn’t noticed before but I need to think more before commenting.






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