Most students come from a background where they are shown some facts, or how to work a problem. They then repeat the lesson as homework. Finally, they repeat the same knowledge on a test. Because we can easily look up facts and figures from devices we carry in our pockets, this is no longer "learning." It’s more important to know how to make sense of those facts and figures, and how to use them to solve problems.
Our instructors help student to understand concepts and apply them to new problems. We teach in a ‘flipped’ style classroom. We expect our students to read the course material and work on basic problems before they come to class. During lecture, we work on problems, activities, and case-studies that illuminate the concepts from the chapter. Students then work on additional problems to reinforce their understanding of the concepts. Any student who is struggling with a particular concept has the opportunity to meet with instructors during office hours.
There are three areas that all students need to improve in order to be successful in chemistry and college:
- Reading. Students need to learn how to actively read a textbook. Reading and highlighting is just saying “This is important and I need to come back and learn it.” It is far better to read a section and then write a brief summary.
- Problem solving. Students should spend time every day working on problems. They should work simple problems as they’re reading and then move up to more challenging problems as they progress. They should be prepared to tackle the "hard" problems from the back of the book. They should not focus on memorizing the solutions, but on the concepts that are used to solve the problem.
- Time Management. Students who wait until the week prior to an exam to buckle down and start studying will not succeed. Cramming is a sure way to fail chemistry (or most college courses, for that matter). Every student should develop a study plan at the beginning of the semester, then follow the plan through the semester. Studying in 20-30 minute blocks is more effective than studying for hours. An hour every day on each class probably translates to less time than cramming for days during the weeks before each exam.