For Jennifer Muzyka, Organic Chemistry is about teaching students to apply technical material they’ve learned to real-world problems. Through a combination of Just-in-Time teaching (JiTT) and mobile technology, she has developed a culture of engaged learning stemming from student inquiry within the classroom. She discovered that increased student learning occurs through class discussions surrounding student misunderstandings, so she structured the class in a way that allows students to lead class discussions based on their questions from the assigned readings.
Muzyka makes a point to draw particular attention to the two most important parts of the readings to help students begin to develop deeper reading skills and apply the material to the real world. After students complete assigned readings from their textbook, they are required to answer essay questions related to the material they read with an online quiz in Moodle, our Learning Management System (LMS). Muzyka emphasizes the importance of students providing honest feedback to the readings during these review questions, as student responses to these questions, specifically their misunderstandings, become the basis for the conversations during the next class period.
As the goal of JiTT learning is to promote an active learning classroom, she also uses PowerPoint with clicker questions to illicit class participation and engagement when covering new topics. After each clicker question, students are asked to debate the question and answers with a classmate with whom they might disagree. Following these discussions, the clicker question is asked again, and inevitably, the percentage of correct answers increases. The active class environment not only prevents students from falling asleep, but they are becoming involved with chemistry in ways they probably haven’t experienced prior to this class. Muzyka creates a bridge for her students between academics and everyday life when she illustrates how chemistry infiltrates relevant aspects of her students’ lives.
To extend the learning beyond the classroom, she began using an app called Doceri and her iPad, enabling students to access material online for makeup, review, or additional information. Doceri not only allows her to control the PowerPoint during class, but also record annotations made on blank slides, simulating a whiteboard. These Doceri annotations can then be uploaded to her Moodle course for students to access. This process helps mitigate a growing problem she noticed with students frantically trying to copy down everything during a lesson, rather than learning during the process. Knowing the material will be accessible allows students to feel less rushed to copy down every bit of information discussed in class or on the slides.
For Muzyka, giving up some control by allowing students to lead class discussions is a welcomed structure as it helps create an engaging classroom atmosphere. As students are learning technical material through readings and review questions, they are also creating connections between chemical elements and their everyday lives. Students are engaging with the material in ways that extend chemistry concepts beyond the classroom, becoming relevant in their lives.
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