A Field Trip for Teachers

aerialOne of our goals in Worthington is to produce students who are College and Career Ready.  In an effort to make certain we understand exactly what colleges expect from our graduates Brian Geniusz, Worthington’s K-12 Science and Health Curriculum Leader, recently took some Worthington teachers on a field trip to meet with area colleges.  Brian wrote about this experience and captured several important take-away’s.  Here is what Brian wrote:

“After hours of work on the Worthington Science Curriculum rewriting Chemistry courses, the five high school Chemistry teachers began to reference their own experiences in college.  “It’s not like this in college!” one emphatically stated.  “Colleges expected students to be able to do this on their own.”

These types of statements prompted the question: When was the last time any of us were college freshmen taking chemistry?  The solution was simple, we will go to local universities and meet with college chemistry professors to better understand what it takes to be college ready for chemistry students – for both science and non-science majors.

downloadOur investigation took us to three campuses around Columbus.  We met with Dr. Bob Tatz and Dr. Robert Zellmer at Ohio State University, Dr. Dinty Musk at Ohio Dominican University, and Dr. Kim Lance at Ohio Wesleyan University.  All three of these college chemistry professors remarkably shared similar view points on the preparedness of their freshmen students which we have distilled down to these five items:

1)      Algebra – The single most emphasized skill which was lacking in the freshmen chemistry students regardless of the university was algebra skills.  Dr. Musk clearly stated that he could help anyone learn the chemistry but students which lacked the basic algebra skills were significantly behind to the point where their math deficiencies inhibited learning chemistry.  This same sentiment was echoed loudly at all of the universities we visited.  The professors even gave some algebra examples such as solving equations and isolating single variables, understanding and using base ten logarithms, as well as natural logs and variables in the exponent.

2)      Reading your textbook: College students are also expected to read their college textbooks and understand the content they are reading.  The professors all expected the students to be able to read the dense and complex text structure associated with the college textbook.  They also emphasized the homework assigned in these textbooks as crucial to better understand the content.  Although the homework does contribute a small impact upon the students’ final grade in the course, the knowledge gained by completing the assignments is far more influential in the student success.

3)      Double your time outside of class: This is a basic rule of college life which also applies to chemistry.  Student should double the amount of time spent in the lectures with quality study time on their own.  Dr. Tatz from OSU stated if a student attends three hours of lecture a week, they should at least spend six hours a week studying the textbook, and notes before attempting the homework assigned for the topics.  All of the universities offered additional help to students outside of the lectures, recitation and lab classes.  Ohio State University showed us a room staffed five days a week, eight hours a day, with five teaching assistants whose sole responsibility was to help students with chemistry questions.

4)      Understanding of the process:  Dr. Kim Lance from Ohio Wesleyan University brought together the algebra requirement as well as the ability to learn the processes as opposed to factual memorization.  Dr. Lance cited the use of “techniques” which are limited to only certain scenarios and do not provide an understanding of the processes of chemistry as an impediment for student success. Such “techniques” train students for limited success rather than educate them for success in all scenarios.

5)      Communication Skills: All three universities stress the importance of good communication skills in the written form as well is presentation and collaboration skills.  Students at ODU first learn to write abstracts in their first semester freshmen chemistry course.  This sets up the fundamental skill of summarizing the important aspects of an experiment in a concise and descriptive manner.  Student then add to this skill subsequent semesters until they are prepared to write for professional journals and submit research in a comprehensive and detailed manner.

The Worthington high school science teachers learned even more about college readiness in this one professional visit.  Such smaller details about the use of online simulations in the chemistry lab, class size matters to all of the universities, and the depth of help available to students to mention just a few.  The universities also provided our teachers lab manuals and course syllabi to aid in our curriculum development.

This was such a positive experience, the Worthington Schools is now investigating and setting up an opportunity for additional teachers to participate in a similar opportunity over the summer.”

Worthington has great teachers and great teacher leaders.  Our Chemistry teachers have blazed a path to make certain our students are ready for college.  We’ll plan to create similar experiences for teachers in our other content areas.

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One Response to A Field Trip for Teachers

  1. I am reading parts of the blog to my juniors today. Thank you Trent. If possible, I would love to be on your list to visit this summer.

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