Practice English Speaking&Listening with: CTL Faculty Stories: Chris Harmon

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When I first started as an instructor,

you know, I felt like I was, you know, I'm trained as a scientist. I'm here to teach science.

I'm here to teach about climate change because that's what I do research in.

And it never dawned on to me the importance to really look at

how my students learn. That they're all different learners.

And not only is that just because they're different people but because they come from different backgrounds.

They have different families. They have different experiences.

And I was convinced that that didn't matter.

That science is science and math is math.

And you don't have to be born good at it. You have to work at it.

But I was convinced that anybody can do it if they work at it.

I wanted to do something about it and I didn't have the means to fix it.

I didn't know how I was gonna change the way that I teach.

And I was convinced I couldn't changed the way that I taught.

So I learned a ton at ESCALA.

They really gave me the tools to know how to address these issues.

And not only in a broader sense.

But like how, specifically, I could address the issues of different learners and different backgrounds.

So that's what I did.

I kept the same like notes and textbook and everything.

But I just really changed the way I hold students responsible for the knowledge.

So I crafted up very specific learning goals that I wanted them to have --

like, you know -- very specific. These are not like student learner outcomes that are kind of vague and general.

These are extraordinarily specific.

Like, be able to use the Clausius-Clapeyron equation for any liquid. You know what I mean?

Like really, really specific things so that I could measure that outcome.

And then, with those learning goals

I gave them a survey that would have each of those learning goals.

And I would say, how do you feel about this learning goal, you know?

Are you ready to take an exam on this?

Do you need more practice on this learning goal, or are you not ready?

And I would have the students self assess.

You know, I would constantly encourage them, every lecture.

I would start the lecture by going over the learning goals that we were gonna cover,

which I really dislike by the way. When I give seminars I really don't like this whole outline.

Like this is what we're gonna talk about. Now I'm going to talk about what we're going to talk about.

Which I think makes for a really crappy scientific presentation, but what you realize is,

to be the most equitable communicator that's actually the best approach.

That is, to start my lecture, like, this is what I want you to learn today and this is what we're gonna do.

And so I would encourage them to, like, fill out the survey as we're going.

What I also did, in addition, was I totally changed the way I do exams.

And I wanted to base the exams off of these learning goals.

I would give them examples of questions I could give on the exam, based on that specific learning goal.

So on this document, you know, that I would create it's like, okay, here's the chapter 4 question bank.

And here's learning goal #1. And here's like ten questions

I could give you on the exam based on this one learning goal.

You know if the question was 1.5 grams -- on the exam it might be 1.7 grams.

So you still have to do the work, but all the same, it's the same question.

And so I think it really has helped the students account for their knowledge.

Like where they need improvement, you know,

if they feel really good about this one learning goal and they can answer all these questions,

great, move on, don't waste any more of your time.

Focus on the learning goals that you don't feel so good about.

And so, my exam scores just went through the roof.

There's so much more in my class than just teaching science

and I don't think I would have said that a few years ago.

But, you know, they're learning how to learn.

You know, that's that's something -- and I

that I think is so important in college instruction.

You know, we're not here to memorize facts.

We're not here to like continue the same paradigms that we've had. Like, we're here to break the paradigms, right?

We're here to learn how to learn because the field is going to change.

I mean the field of chemistry already has changed since I graduated.

It has to change -- it has to -- that's the nature of disciplines. They die if they don't. Yes.

So I would actually say: I don't teach science. I don't teach students. I teach learning.

I teach how to learn.

The Description of CTL Faculty Stories: Chris Harmon