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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop 6 The Graduate Student in the Dual Role of Student and Teacher Angelica M. Stacy University of California, Berkeley Beginning graduate students face many challenges as they adjust to a new learning environment in which they will assume the dual role of student and teacher. The goal of this discussion is to raise awareness of the challenges facing new graduate students so that we can think in new ways about how we offer them support and professional development. Specifically, we want to discuss the following questions: What models of teaching and learning might graduate students hold? What assumptions do we make when we place graduate students in the role of instructor? How can we enhance the experience of graduate student instructors? WHAT MODELS OF TEACHING AND LEARNING MIGHT GRADUATE STUDENTS HOLD? It is reasonable to assume that new graduate students will draw many of their models of teaching and learning from their prior experiences in school. Thus, we want to consider the way in which chemistry instruction typically is offered. These new graduate students have spent many hours at their undergraduate institutions sitting passively at lectures. While the quality of the faculty presentations might have been quite high, it is likely that little time was available for the students to think about ideas. Many spent most of the time copying directly from the board into their notebooks. What is the model for teaching and learning that one might draw from observations of these behaviors? Certainly, there is a belief that communication of ideas in chemistry is facile. If we explain these ideas carefully, in the way in which we understand them and have organized them for ourselves, students will understand them. We assume that the vocabulary we use has meaning, that students have mastered the foundation of understanding on which we are building, and that they believe what we say. It all seems so efficient. By simply listening and taking notes, students can process the information and learn new ideas.
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop We might refer to this model of teaching and learning as the “telling” model. Teaching is about transmission of ideas. To learn you need to receive and memorize these ideas. Another way to say this is that students come into our classes as blank slates on which we write information. What are the learning outcomes? Students repeat ideas and often sound approximately correct when we ask them about what we taught them. But what have they really learned? In her Ph.D. thesis (University of California, Berkeley, 1999), Melonie Teichert showed that the lecture model was not successful in helping students understand that energy is required to break bonds. She reports that despite the fact that this idea was stated explicitly several times during several lectures, many students believed the opposite. Indeed, Teichert found that fewer students were able to answer correctly that energy is required to break bonds on a posttest at the end of the semester compared to a pretest given at the beginning! It is tempting to try to dismiss these data. Perhaps the students are not very good. Their backgrounds are poor. The explanations were not complete. I assure you that the students involved in Teichert’s study are talented, bright, and capable. The faculty instructor is a dedicated teacher who received high ratings from students and from faculty observers. No, it is not possible simply to make excuses about preparedness of the individuals involved. We need to think more deeply about what might be going on, and look beyond trivial assumptions we might make to dismiss these data. It is interesting to consider why students might draw the opposite conclusion about bond energies from what we tried to teach them. Why might students think energy is released when bonds break? Consider their prior experiences and observations that they have made. Students have watched paper burn. As the paper breaks down, energy is released. The paper is gone, and to the observer, it appears as if nothing is left. Students speak about getting energy from the foods they eat. Again, as the food is broken down through digestion, energy is released. In my opinion, students are making reasonable conclusions on the basis of these experiences. When things break down, energy is released. Why should they believe that energy is required to break a bond just because we tell them? It simply doesn’t make sense given these prior observations and little counterevidence. There is plenty of other evidence in the literature that students hold ideas that are contrary to those we think we have taught them. The videotapes “Private Universe” and “Minds of our Own” (The Annenberg/CPB Math and Science Collection) contain other cases. An example from these tapes regards photosynthesis. From where does the tree get its mass? A common response from students is soil and water. This answer is given even after detailed instruction about photosynthesis. Students write down the equation that carbon dioxide and water are involved but draw little meaning from it. Again, it is not possible simply to dismiss this example as anomalous. Students have good reasons for the ideas they hold. In this case, it is hard to believe that a gas (which does not crush us) can give rise to something as massive as a tree. Now back to our entering graduate students. They believe in the “tried and true” transmission model of teaching and learning. After all, this method has apparently worked for them. They are the success stories. They have been told repeatedly that they are the best and the brightest (because only the best and the brightest succeed in science). But, indeed, they also hold many ideas that are counter to those they have been taught. They are still struggling to gain an integrated knowledge of chemistry beyond doing well on tests that often emphasize memorization. It is these students with these experiences whom we now place into the classroom to teach undergraduate students.
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop WHAT ASSUMPTIONS DO WE MAKE WHEN WE PLACE GRADUATE STUDENTS IN THE ROLE OF INSTRUCTOR? Graduate student instructors have just come from an environment in which faculty talked at them. Now, they have to adjust to a new living environment, figure out the university’s bureaucracy, excel in graduate courses, find a research advisor and, by the way, they have to teach. When we ask new graduate students to go into a classroom and teach, what assumptions are we making? Our actions imply a set of beliefs, which include the following: They know how to teach (after all, they have been students). They understand the way the class runs (even though they have come from diverse undergraduate institutions). They are comfortable in being partially in charge (they have to assign grades but as proscribed). They are perfect slates of chemistry knowledge (they have an integrated understanding of chemistry). Are these assumptions valid? How successful would you be in the following situations: You watch a carpenter, then teach carpentry. (Can you learn how to teach only by watching others?) You read books, then teach writing. (Is it enough to have read about science without having been engaged in doing real science?) You take 4 years of Spanish, then teach Spanish. (How well do you need to know the language before you are effective at teaching it? Aren’t students struggling with a lot of new chemistry vocabulary words?) What if you need to teach and English is not your native language? Could you imitate the teaching of a colleague? (Can you be a clone of any of your colleagues?) Many of us would not be comfortable in the situations described above, yet we are asking the graduate student instructors to work in situations analogous to these. They have only watched others teach, and then we ask them to teach. They have read about science and done directed laboratory experiments, but have done very little research, yet we expect them to know what science is all about. They are struggling with the chemistry vocabulary they have heard over the last few years, and now we want them to teach others to speak the language of chemistry. Moreover, they have to teach in the way that we dictate, which may or may not be consistent with their own views about teaching. Despite the high regard in which we might hold entering graduate students, it is clear that they may not have the knowledge and resources necessary to meet the demands we place on them. The realities are that they were recently undergraduate students themselves, and now we are asking them to be the instructors. They are uncertain about protocols in their new environment, yet they are asked to guide undergraduate students. They have to assign grades as proscribed to students they may consider as peers. They have to teach what they are told to teach, even if they are uncomfortable with the material or believe the course should be structured differently. HOW CAN WE ENHANCE THE EXPERIENCE OF GRADUATE STUDENT INSTRUCTORS? There is ample evidence that we are placing graduate student instructors in a position for which we do not give them the support they need to be as successful as is desirable. If we want to change this
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop situation, we need to give more thought to the professional development that we provide. To help initiate a discussion of how to do this, I would like to offer two examples of how graduate students have achieved high levels of success in their roles as instructors. First, let’s return to Teichert’s study of student understanding of bond energies. The results reported above were for the control group. In Teichert’s study, there was a group of students (the intervention group) who received a slightly different treatment. The graduate student instructor for two discussion sections was armed with a worksheet on bond energies that helped guide students to think about their prior conceptions. In the intervention sections, the students struggled with the ideas as they tried to make sense of all the evidence they had. The graduate student instructor facilitated the discussion. In contrast, the graduate student instructors in the control sections did what they were most comfortable doing—they talked at the students about bond energies. As discussed above for the control sections, student understanding of bond energies declined on the posttest compared with the pretest. However, with the single intervention in which the graduate student instructor facilitated a discussion that engaged the students in evaluating evidence, the results were strikingly different. The students in the intervention sections did significantly better on the posttest compared to how they had done on the pretest. In another study, Lydia Tien and Dawn Rickey developed a model for instruction in the laboratory called the MORE Frame, which stands for Model-Observe-Reflect-Explain.1 Instead of performing standard laboratory experiments, the students in the MORE sections spent more time thinking about their ideas and refining them. The students in the MORE sections covered less material and spent less time on calculations compared to the students in the control sections. Despite differences in the laboratory curriculum, all students attended the same lectures and took the same exams, which were based mainly on the material presented in lectures. The students in the MORE sections, who were encouraged to think about their ideas, did significantly better on the standard final exam administered at the end of the course. These are two examples of the success that graduate student instructors and their students can achieve with sufficient support. If we want to create more opportunities for all of our students to enjoy these kinds of successes, then I believe we need to rethink the telling model for teaching and learning. The successful graduate student instructor described above adopted a different model called a constructivist view. Rather than talk at the students, the instructor took on the role of a guide who helps students construct their own understanding. This graduate student instructor gave students the opportunity to think and rethink and to evaluate whether evidence they gathered was consistent with their ideas. The evidence cited above documents that learning outcomes are much greater with the constructivist model for teaching and learning. SUMMARY Beginning graduate students face many challenges as they adjust to their new learning environment. There are difficult graduate-level courses in which they want to succeed, the daunting task of choosing a research advisor, and general uncertainties of a new school and a new place to live. Simultaneous with the major adjustments they need to make as new students, they are given the responsibility of educating undergraduate students barely 3 to 4 years their junior. This responsibility is cast upon them with very little formal training. The expectation is that since they themselves were students, they know how to 1 L.T. Tien, D. Rickey, A.M. Stacy, “The MORE Thinking Frame: Guiding Students’ Thinking in the Laboratory,” Journal of College Science Teaching, March/April 1999, pp. 318-324.
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop teach. Indeed, the implicit assumption is that they have mastered the material they are asked to teach, know how to teach it, and are ready for the responsibility of evaluating the performance of students close to their own age. As we explore the demands upon new graduate students in their role as instructors, we need to consider the validity of the assumptions we make as we place them in this role, and examine the realities of the graduate student teaching experience. We need to consider what measures we might undertake to equip graduate students so that they are better able to meet the challenges they face as graduate student instructors. My view is that this endeavor is pointing us in the direction of rethinking our own views of teaching and learning so that we are better able to serve all of our students. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to acknowledge the many stimulating discussions I have had with Eileen Lewis, Robert Bornick, Joshua Gutwill, and Elaine Seymour regarding the ideas expressed above. The National Science Foundation, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and the Exxon Education Foundation are gratefully acknowledged for support that they have given to address the issues raised. DISCUSSION R. Stephen Berry, University of Chicago: I need to say something about your next-to-last transparency. It was a little bit of a contradiction of your own case. I expected you to say, when you were putting that up, that the graduate students, when they start their teaching assistant (TA) training, should to be able to go through the experience of being in the situation of the students they are going to teach. Angelica Stacy: I absolutely agree. I think that is what I mean. So, here is an interesting thought. It is a very important point. If we want our students to construct an understanding of chemistry, we need to assist teaching assistants and faculty to construct their own understanding of teaching and learning, and there are multiple correct answers, if you will. Judson L. Haynes III, Procter & Gamble: While I was at Louisiana State University (LSU), I had the opportunity to teach an analytical laboratory chemistry course for a year. One of the main things that I noticed or observed is that, in chemical education, especially with analytical chemistry, most of the students were premed students who don’t care about chemistry. You are a TA trying to explain chemistry to someone who only wants to know the answer. They only want to know if they got a grade above 98, because they are going to medical school and need the grade. So, it discourages the one or two chemistry majors who are trying to learn chemistry and are truly interested in it. I found it to be a big problem. Also, the experience of being a teaching assistant immediately upon arriving in graduate school was overwhelming. I went straight from undergraduate studies to teaching a class with 30 undergraduates. That is an overwhelming feeling. I think one thing that can really help is having a system and orientation. That is one thing that we had at LSU. You come in a week or two before you start school, and you attend an orientation. You get training before you begin. Universities need to take those things into consideration. Angelica Stacy: You liked the training, in other words.
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop Judson L. Haynes III: Yes, definitely. If you don’t get that training, or you get one day and walk out feeling overwhelmed, then you think it is only you. If you spend more time with other people, then you find out they also feel overwhelmed. Then we can bond together and strengthen whatever needs strengthening. Anne Duffy, University of California, San Diego: I have had quite a bit of experience as a teaching assistant. When I first started, I was not a typical TA, because I had had training in my workplace with employee orientation. So, I could communicate when I started, which I think is a big hurdle for many TAs, because they have a hard time getting their points across. One thing I wanted to say, though, as far as my learning experience, is that I first taught organic chemistry. I had had a lot of organic chemistry and worked in a lab as well. So, I knew my subject and felt really comfortable, even with premed students. Then I got thrown into a physical chemistry class and had to teach quantum mechanics. Although I had done well in quantum, I had all of a sudden to teach it and relay whatever I had done to students. My learning experience was that I was able to acknowledge that a couple of students in the class knew more than I did. So, I really relied on them to help me when I was miscommunicating or when something wasn’t coming across. I find that TAs have a hard time, when they are in a position of authority, admitting they do not know something. They also have a hard time asking for help from the students. That is a partnership issue. That is not an authority issue. I think that they are told that they have authority, which they do, but they are also in a partnership with the students they are teaching. Victor Vandell, Louisiana State University: It is interesting to me that you would talk about problems with teaching and communicating ideas to students. As an undergraduate, I remember sitting in my classes and noting the arrogance of the professors who presented the information. I always got the impression that I should know what they were lecturing on before I even got there. It seemed to me that if I knew it already, I wouldn’t be sitting there. I took the stance that one day, when I would be teaching students, I would be an animated teacher who would do whatever I needed to do to get the concepts across. In the presentation you just gave, because of the way you interacted with the audience and your animation, I picked up on all the concepts that you were talking about. I think that is also something that needs to be instilled into the teaching methods of the students. My question would be, If you train TAs to know their material better, and maybe get ready to address and control a classroom environment, then how do you also teach them to relate to their students and effectively communicate, especially when, on top of everything else, many TAs are foreign students? Angelica Stacy: I can say only one thing about that. Communication is two sided. You can think you have the most brilliant lecture in the world, but if you haven’t checked with what people are hearing, it doesn’t work. Karen E. S. Phillips, Columbia University: I am particularly interested in this subject because I really want to be a teacher on the undergraduate level. Another thing that I want to add is that my friends tend not to be chemists. They tend to be musicians and artists and in professions like that. Usually, when people hear I am doing a Ph.D. in chemistry, they grimace. In other words, they think that this is one of the worst things in the world. People always come to me with horror stories about trying to learn chemistry in high school or as an undergraduate. I am so glad to hear your choice of words because I
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop always tell people that learning chemistry is like learning a foreign language. If someone is standing up in front of you and assuming that you know the vocabulary, when you really don’t, then nothing is going to get across to you. You spoke about the fact that we, as TAs in graduate school, are expected to learn from the people who taught us how we should then present ourselves as teachers. If the people who taught us are just talking at us, and not really putting us in touch with what we need to know to understand the subject, then that is what we are going to pass on to our students. I have had more experience than the average TA, because I had the opportunity to teach while I was still an undergraduate. Therefore, I felt way ahead of the game when I entered graduate school and became a TA. I was also put into a supervisory position to help train the next year’s TAs. This seemed like a mere formality, however, because although I had gone through the training programs with the students and had certain opinions about who would be effective in teaching what areas of the chemistry course, no real use was made of my opinion. There was never a real opportunity to say how the TA training program could be improved in future years. I think something needs to be implemented by departments as a whole to deal with issues such as these. I went through an associate’s degree at a community college and then a small liberal arts college. The term “TA” was foreign to me until I got to graduate school. I think many universities are doing a disservice to their students by having TAs who are not interested in teaching or who are not properly trained. William Jenks, Iowa State University: The problems that graduate students face in selecting a major professor are much like those faced by an assistant professor seeking a research grant. Fortunately, I am no longer an assistant professor, but I remember being one well. My question is about foreign nationals as TAs. The academic culture that they come from is often significantly different, and I am not sure I fully understand the differences. I know that their academic culture is different from the one I grew up in. When you are training or retraining TAs, do you take that into account, and what impact does it have on what your are doing to train TAs in your system? Angelica Stacy: This is a good point. I think you have to take different cultural backgrounds into account. If you are going to instruct someone, you need to know where they already are. The best thing you could do is guide them to become better TAs. We should understand the cultural backgrounds of the foreign TAs and what their academic life has been like. Joseph Francisco, Purdue University: At Purdue, in the fall semester, I have to coordinate the training of more than 2,500 students going through freshman chemistry at Purdue and coordinate with five prima donna professors. I want to tell you of an experiment that was done out of frustration about what to do to help everybody, particularly the students and the TAs. Because we have a large number of students, we can get good statistics, and also, if it works, we can make a convincing case to our colleagues as something to consider trying. One of the things we realized, at least I realized, is that one of the problems with my TAs was that although I sat down with them every week to talk about what was going on in their recitation and what I would like to see happen, it never happened. When I made visits to the classroom to see the things that I wanted them to do, they were not doing them, simply because they had a model of what a teacher should do and that was a model of me. I did not want them to go into the classroom being a model of me or any other instructor. That was not the point. In response, we developed what we called continuous TA training, because we learned from an experiment that, although there are TA orientations or boot camps, TAs don’t remember any of it when they get into the classroom. So, we decided we would work with the TAs every week on their teaching.
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop We went into their classrooms, observed them, and gave them feedback after they came out of the classrooms. We taught them how to empower themselves and take more control of the classroom, not through lecturing the students but by empowering the students. As coordinator of this training, I am able to divide up the TA group any way I want to. So I split it in half—half went through the continuous training and half didn’t. One of the things that we found was that the foreign TAs who underwent the continuous TA training were getting very good evaluations. It became clear by the higher grades of the students who participated in continuous training that it was very effective. We also found that you don’t need to do it the whole semester. Continuously training and intervening up until about the middle of the semester is all that they need to have the confidence that they can control the classroom, run that classroom, and instill that thinking. In case people are interested, we published an article about this in the Journal of Chemical Education.2 It came out in the January or February issue this year, I think. I will also say that the faculty became overwhelmingly positive in embracing this, and we adopted continuous training for all new TAs. Let me make a comment on another thing that you said in terms of the issue of student learning, how students think about things, and how they structure their learning. The key emphasis of your work sheet is on how to get the students to assess their own understanding. There are other tools out there as well to help students do that. One of the tools that we are experimenting with at Purdue is concept learning. What we are finding is very intriguing and, again along the same lines of what you are finding, very helpful to the students. The problem that we are seeing is that textbooks present chemistry in a linear fashion. We all know that chemistry is not discovered linearly, and the concepts are not presented linearly, but this is how the students construct their framework of learning. What you have to do is to break students out of that mold of linear learning and to see where their lack of understanding is. Once you are able to do that successfully, that is when you can have active learning. Larry Anderson, Ohio State University: Joe Francisco convinced me that I should step up here and say something about the Early Start program that Ohio State runs each summer prior to the first year of graduate school. We offer anybody who accepts our program the opportunity to come in the summer. About 60 percent do, so we have roughly 40 students. We test them when they first come in, and then we give them a set of courses. This all began in the 1950s with Mel Newman, who decided that students needed to know more about synthesis. So, we had this total immersion synthesis course taught by the organic chemists, but also a number of other courses. We require all international students to come, and we teach them English as a second language. One of the consequences is that the foreign students are better skilled at presenting themselves in their TA duties than our domestic students are. They come in and say, “My name is Win Wa Chang. You can call me Windy. As you can tell from my accent, I am not a native speaker of English, but . . . ,” and so on. This has been very effective. We also have a full quarter course, the summer quarter, in teaching college chemistry. James S. Nowick, University of California, Irvine: How do you get your colleagues to buy into your constructivist model of teaching at Berkeley? Angelica Stacy: The best we can do is to encourage the research community to stop making assumptions about themselves as teachers and about their students, and to start applying the same strategies that 2 S. C. Nurrenbern, J. A. Mickiewicz, and J. S. Francisco, Journal of Chemical Education, 76, pp. 114-119, 1999.
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop they use in their research labs to their teaching. Find out what is going on. The more data we can collect and the more ideas we can sprout, the better off we will be. Peter K. Dorhout, Colorado State University: Angie, I really like the idea of the TA training handbook. The American Chemical Society (ACS) puts together a very nice three-ring binder affectionately known as the “green monster” for local section leadership. In a weekend’s time, you are taught basically how to lead a section of 2,000 or so ACS members, at least in Colorado. The bottom line is that the ACS has done a lot to teach its membership how to be leaders. A lot of the information in the green monster can cross over into this particular manual, and I applaud it. After all, we didn’t learn how to be faculty members other than by being TAs. Angelica Stacy: We have also learned a lot from the Lawrence Hall of Science, which does teacher training, about how you can train teachers in an inquiry-based way. We have a lot of great activities that TAs can do to learn about learning and teaching. Peter K. Dorhout: It is a trickle-up theory, because these individuals become faculty, or they become research scientists in industry, or lawyers, or lobbyists, and all these things are really key. The only thing I would add to your TA training manual is a section on ethics. I didn’t hear you mention that. Angelica Stacy: Yes, that is part of the activities that would be in there. Robert E. Continetti, University of California, San Diego: As a former TA of Professor Stacy, in the absence of other extensive training at Berkeley in the early 1980s, having a motivated lecturer like her is what it took to inspire me to do a good job as a teaching assistant. Now that I am a faculty member at University of California, San Diego, I am aware that we have a course on teaching chemistry, perhaps along the lines of that described by Joe Francisco, that TAs take during their first quarter of teaching. I must admit, though, that I am not familiar with the topics covered in that course, given by my colleague Barbara Sawrey. Perhaps as a new faculty member I also should have taken this course. Angelica Stacy: There is a lot of great research in cognitive science. Go watch your elementary school teachers. There is a lot you can learn. It is very exciting, and we shouldn’t separate ourselves from it so much. John Hutchinson, Rice University: Dr. Stacy, as you know, we have been using the sort of constructivist approach that you describe here in teaching chemistry at Rice for quite some time. It is extremely effective. The concern I want to raise is that I think it is a reasonably accurate perception that teaching in an active-learning classroom, particularly with a constructivist view, is more challenging than simply standing up, presenting the material, or solving homework problems. The question is, How do we persuade graduate TAs, most of whom are conscripts in their teaching assignments, that they should work even harder, particularly—to echo what was just said—when they see most of the role models on the faculty being unwilling to make that same adaptation? Angelica Stacy: These are all good points, and I think we have to work at it. My TA training handbook was to help them have some varied experiences, which would help them construct a new model for teaching and learning. I am not going to talk at them about teaching and learning. I am going to give
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop them some experiences, so they see the differences. Developing those is not easy. Also, understanding what the students know and don’t know is a very important part of this. Barbara Sawrey, University of California, San Diego: Very quickly, Peter, to address your comment, the ACS, through the Division of Chemical Education, publishes a TA handbook, Handbook for Teaching Assistants.3 There also is something I think is even better, and I say that in spite of co-editing the one for the division of chemical education. It is the National Research Council’s Science Teaching Reconsidered: A Handbook,4 which I think is excellent. I highly suggest that, if you don’t have a copy, you get one. There are two things I want to say. One is that I teach, and have taught for 10 years, a course for incoming graduate students on how to teach chemistry. We don’t front-load their learning of this because they can’t recall it in the heat of the moment when they are standing in front of a class at a later point in time. It is much better addressed on a weekly basis. Again, they don’t need it the whole term. They need it just part of the term, and it works out very nicely. I mostly get postdocs attending as volunteers. The TAs are conscripts, but the postdocs are desperate for teaching instruction. That means that we haven’t been providing this guidance at the undergraduate or the graduate level, or the postdocs wouldn’t be there. The other comment is that, almost without exception, the incoming graduate students come to us excited about teaching. The only two things that I have found that dissuade them from being excited about teaching are a bad experience or a faculty member who tells them it is awful. My vaccination for the second problem is to help them avoid a bad experience. Angelica Stacy: I want to echo Barbara’s comment. There is a lot of good information out there for people to find. Barbara mentioned some of it. Christopher F. Bauer, University of New Hampshire: We have heard a lot of opinions today on student learning, and it is good to see some data regarding this issue. One of the issues mentioned was the need to give faculty or TAs a compelling reason to take a look at their teaching. I think some of the information you have shown supports this statement. Your data are quite convincing, but we need not look just at your work. There are a number of places within the literature to find numerous examples of the same sort of thing. This raises the question about what we know about what our students understand after they leave us. Angelica Stacy: Can I please acknowledge that there are some of my colleagues in chemical education in the audience? Please tap into their knowledge base. There has been a lot of nice research that has been often ignored, I think. Janet Robinson, University of Kansas: What I am going to say will corroborate what some people have already said and then address some of the other questions. One question was, How do you get faculty involved? I think one way to get faculty involved is to pick a model that they are familiar with and show how it might apply to TA training, for instance. Since I am the chemical educator in our 3 K. Emerson, G. Essenmacher, B. Sawrey, Handbook for Teaching Assistants (Washington, D.C.: American Chemical Society, 1996). 4 National Research Council, Science Teaching Reconsidered: A Handbook (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1997).
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop department, and the only one who is specifically designated as that, it is very clear that I can’t do any change by myself. I have to mobilize everyone. This is something that I think about constantly. One of the ways that the model is so effective, as we have been seeing today, is that it includes the apprentice. The apprentice doesn’t happen in teaching. You have seen that. We throw them in and close the door. Could we make an apprenticeship model? I think the Purdue model, the one that Barbara just mentioned, and our one-hour credit course for half a semester that I just discussed are all examples of this type of model. There is no point in talking at the TAs when they don’t even know what they are going to be immersed in. There is no way that they can connect what is happening. What we have been doing is talking with them a bit at the beginning, giving them some readings that they can use, and then having weekly meetings. The other key is observing them at work, making notes on pointers, and then every week discussing things that come up. That starts to approach what we do in the research lab, how people get feedback on what they do. Teaching is the loneliest profession, as we all know. No one is in there to see what we do, except our students. Because of that, we don’t get effective feedback. I think that has been the strongest thing about our approach—the idea of taking this apprenticeship model and applying it to teaching. I think that is something other faculty can understand. I am still, however, attempting to prove at my institution that this experimental course is worth continuing. Robert L. Lichter, The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation: First, I hope we can avoid one of several false dichotomies, that of the chemical educator vs. the chemical researcher. We are all chemical educators, but we may do things in different ways or with different emphases. I’m up here because one of Angy’s comments pushed a button. You and others have talked about not blaming students and not blaming teaching assistants. To that, I want to urge that we not blame the faculty. Of course, faculty members should know about research in cognitive science. Of course, faculty members should know that information about and for teaching assistants is available. There is a lot that faculty members should know about. I haven’t met one person who isn’t dead serious about wanting to do a better job in these arenas. But our structure doesn’t make it easy for them to do so, especially when they are extraordinarily busy doing the very things we tell them they are supposed to do, which is to advance the frontiers of knowledge. So I would urge people in decision-making positions to find ways to enhance the capability of these very busy folk to engage with larger educational issues. For example, it’s undoubtedly not too far off the mark to suggest that the majority of faculty members doing chemistry, who barely have time to read the multitude of research journals in their areas, certainly have little time to read the Journal of College Science Teaching, or even, I suspect, the Journal of Chemical Education, not to mention journals in cognitive science. Perhaps the research journals could have summaries, abstracts, or even just titles of papers and other presentations that discuss these issues, so that faculty members are at least easily alerted to these sources. The Journal of the American Chemical Society is exactly that, not the Journal of American Chemical Research. Angelica Stacy: I hope the journal editors heard that. I want to make a comment about not blaming the faculty, because I don’t want to do that either. I also want to stop blaming the high schools. I think a lot of us who do that haven’t been in many high school classrooms. I think we should know more about it and not just think about what we should be doing better and pointing the finger elsewhere. Eric Jakobsson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: I will inject a biological truism, and this is sometimes used with respect to, for example, the ecological effect of pesticides or antibiotics. If you put pesticides into the environment, you select for pesticide-resistant insects. If you put antibiotics
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop into the environment, you select for antibiotic-resistant microorganisms. This also applies to social structures. We get exactly the behavior from our faculty that we select for. I am reinforcing the idea that we have to change. However, if we want to modify the behavior, we have to modify the reward system. Derrick Tabor, National Institute of General Medical Sciences: I want to speak from my experiences as a faculty member; I am on leave from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. The dichotomy between the researcher and educator is not false. The fact that the reward systems are different speak to that. When the reward systems for both are equivalent, then we truly won’t have this dichotomy. The other thing I want to say about students is that I have found in my teaching that I could tell when learning was going on because they were actively displaying emotions, a whole range of emotions that I experience as a scientist. We don’t talk about the frustrations that we, as experienced scientists, have. That is because we have learned to ride out the low points and not ride too high on the high ones. Students are different. They wear their emotions on their sleeves, and they get frustrated. We typically don’t acknowledge that frustration, and we typically don’t help them. So, I started to understand that, when my students were frustrated, they were learning. They were in cognitive dissonance; they were looking at the old model versus the new model. They couldn’t make sense out of this. My job was to help them manage the frustration and help them get through it. It will become clear. I don’t know when. Do you want me to just tell you the answer? No, no, I will figure it out. That is when learning was happening. I think we have to acknowledge the emotional aspects of our profession. We enjoy it. We enjoy it because we know we are going to ride through those low points. We are going to be there sometimes, but we are going to figure this out. This speaks to the power that Billy Joe Evans was talking about. That is where the power comes from, because we know we don’t see a thing right now, but just wait, we will do some more experiments and we will get through it. That is what her students experienced when they went out and did their internships. It is the same thing, and we don’t prepare students for that. That, I think, is one of the real joys. Victor Vandell, Louisiana State University: I would like to reemphasize a point made earlier relative to the training of teaching assistants. As the young lady from Columbia stated, the current TA training process is a disservice to graduate students. I would like to point out that there is a level of frustration that is apparent in watching a teaching assistant. We are thrown into a shark pool. And that frustration carries over into the teaching process. Some TAs even feel—as I have heard them say when they first come into the program—that they were duped. No one told them they were going to have to teach a class without preparation. It seems to me that the overall process is a type of hazing. There is a mentality that I had to go through it, so now you have to go through it. We need to break that chain. We need to say to ourselves, “Let’s just stop right now and rethink what we are doing.” Then we have to stop talking about it and make it happen. Bettina Woodford, University of Washington: I have two brief comments. The kind of experimental course that Dr. Stacy was talking about, and so many other initiatives that were discussed today, seem to be pockets of innovation and change in doctoral education, that we would love to have written up for our Web site (Pew Charitable Trust, “Re-envisioning the Ph.D.” project). That is the only plug I am going to give for that, and I am not evangelizing. I want to remind everyone of an observation I made regarding a study in which I was involved. The study, funded by Pew, followed doctoral students for 4 years across eight different disciplines at three universities, two or three being in the natural sciences. What
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop we found was that, in the natural sciences, characteristically, TA training tends to drop off after the second year. Apparently, most of the TA training that people do is in the first and second years of their TA-ships, largely assisting in labs, and sometimes, if they are lucky, getting a lectureship of some sort. By the fourth year of our study, we were interviewing the graduate students as they were nearing the point of entering the marketplace. They were beginning to understand the realities of the job market and that some of them were going to have to consider jobs where they would be doing considerably more teaching compared with the amount of teaching their advisors were doing in the research universities. To their dismay, they also realized that they had spent the last 3 or 4 years of their training not practicing and preparing the skills necessary to teach at that level. The model of graduate education and, in some respects, the way it is funded, unintentionally preclude the graduate students from receiving training in teaching. This is not helping them, as they will head off in a year or two and be expected to teach three or four classes. That was something I wanted to remind everybody of and to offer as an agenda item if we are considering changing doctoral education. Michael Doyle, Research Corporation and the University of Arizona: Let me offer an observation. For the last five years, the Research Corporation has operated a teaching and research award program called Cottrell Scholars. We expect a teaching proposal and a research proposal from those who are applying to that program. The research proposal is filled with elegant ideas and complemented by references that give priority to the literature and to those who are practicing in the field. The teaching proposal rarely gives a reference, gives ideas that are generally personal preferences, and says nothing about continuity. I wonder why. Abraham Lenhoff, University of Delaware: I guess all the faculty in the room agree that we wouldn’t have this problem if the TAs emulated us perfectly, because we set a perfect example. One of the paradoxes is that we are spending time talking about fostering teaching, whereas much of our time is spent mentoring students in research. A parallel model for that would be graduate research assistantships for mentoring undergraduates in the research lab. This gets undergraduates going into research, and it also has several benefits for the graduate student. The first and most obvious is that they can get the undergraduates to do some of their research for them. Second, and more important, they are teaching material that they presumably know a lot better. They don’t have to go out and learn the material. Third, and most important, is that there is better two-way communication in this one-on-one teaching. The mentor gets faster feedback on how well he or she is teaching, and this leads to an improvement in teaching styles, I think, which can be carried over to the classroom. Perhaps, in addition to the TAs, research assistants, and outreach assistants, we can have mentoring assistantships. The graduate students in my lab who have had undergraduates work with them really have appreciated that opportunity. David Oxtoby, University of Chicago: I would like to comment on Lynn Jelinski’s talk and then describe a program at Chicago. One of the things described was the relationships with industry and the outside world, which mostly tended to be one student going off and doing a project. At Chicago, we have developed a team-based approach. It is a team of students from the physical sciences from several different fields, such as chemistry, physics, even computer science. The other member of the team—and this is important—are business school students. We work with a company on a project that has both a technical and a business side. This has been very exciting, because the team functions as a whole. It is not that the science students are doing the science and the business students are doing the business. Each one is looking at both sides of things and learning quite a bit. They also have that team experience that is very important as well. The teams have a coach who is not a faculty member, but a professional who
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop knows something about science and business. It has been an interesting project, to which the students have responded very well. There are issues, though, specifically in science cases, of funding this project. The faculty feel that if their students are spending a significant amount of time participating in this project, that they can’t support them on their research grants. Therefore, we have to ask the company for extra money to pay the students in the sciences. Of course, the business students are used to paying for their education, but to support the science students, we need to ask for extra money. It is a little bit awkward and not always easy to finance. The university also contributes to the funding. I want to mention that as an example. Ernest L. Eliel, University of North Carolina: I would like to bring up a new topic, which is not on the program, and that is the master’s degree. The master’s degree is, unfortunately, now used as a good-bye present in all, or almost all, of the institutions that offer Ph.D.s in chemistry. I think that is unfortunate, because there are many advantages to the master’s degree. The first and obvious one is that there is a demand in industry for the master’s, in some instances greater than for the Ph.D. One of my colleagues, who works in the area of synthesis, tells me that if any of his students want to leave with master’s degrees, they can find a job immediately, because there is a great market for them. In the second place, the master’s degree offers the opportunity to take a few more courses. If students take a master’s degree, certainly there would be some increase in the number of courses, thus reducing overspecialization. The third point is that, in my rather long career, I have found that some people get passed through to the Ph.D. degree who really shouldn’t get one. The problem is very simple. A student fails either in the first year, when he or she doesn’t pass the course exams or, in very rare occasions, fails at the time of the oral candidacy examination, which usually comes at the end of the second year. Even in some instances where I, as research advisor, have urged caution, some of my colleagues have said, “Oh, no, you can’t do that.” The student has got so far, so let him or her continue on and get a Ph.D. If we make the master’s degree an obligatory degree for every graduate student—I would like to throw this in as an interesting idea even though perhaps some of you will not readily buy it—then I think we could avoid this problem. One additional advantage is that, somewhere in their career as graduate students, students would discuss with their preceptor what they want to do in life. I think that occasion does not always come about, or it comes about late in the student’s career when he or she is ready to look for a job. After completion of a master’s degree would be the right time to ask whether one should go on to get a Ph.D. Do you really have what it takes? Do you have the imagination that it takes? Do you have the self-starting ability? If not, you might be a good worker in the laboratory and in other ways very clever, but you might be better off ending with a master’s degree. I have trained students with master’s degrees who have done well in their careers and have had happy lives. I have also had one or two Ph.D.s who haven’t been happy at all, because they were advanced too far for what they really had to offer. Someone said earlier that if you want to become a lawyer, it is a great shame that you spend time and money to get a Ph.D. in chemistry. I would agree with that. I acted as the consultant for a lawyer in a large, multimillion-dollar case. I very much appreciated that this lawyer had a master’s degree in chemistry, because we would communicate extremely well. With other lawyers that I deal with, we cannot communicate as well. What applies to lawyers, applies to members of Congress and to many other professionals, who, if they had a master’s degree in chemistry, would be very well off. The objection to that is two-fold. One is that it would take more time, and “isn’t it ridiculous, if you want to go on to get a Ph.D., to spend time on the master’s degree?” Most universities have two types of master’s degrees, a thesis and a nonthesis degree. I think if it is decided that, toward the end of the second year, the student will get a Ph.D., then a nonthesis master’s is appropriate. The student then has
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop to write a report, and going over the report in great detail would improve his or her writing and organizational skills, which is something that industry is very much interested in. On the other hand, if the student and the preceptor decide that the master’s degree is appropriate, then I think there should be a research thesis, so as to finish the degree in two-and-a-half years and have something to show for it. I think this should be considered very seriously. It would be in the interest of the students, and it might be in the interest of the community as a whole. Now, there is another rather serious drawback that I cannot conceal, and that is that universities usually pay, out of departmental funds (usually TA funds), stipends for students in their first and sometimes second year. Then, later, when they get into research, they often are supported by research assistantships. The universities would certainly say they are wasting the TA money in the first 2 years if the student doesn’t stay on to do a full research program. I think that possibility will have to be faced. Joel I. Schulman, Procter & Gamble: Before I say what I was going to say, let me echo what Ernie just mentioned regarding master’s degrees. Certainly, in industry, master’s degrees can be highly valued, particularly if they are thesis master’s degrees. I don’t think a master’s degree that involves only course work is particularly useful to industry. Research experience, even if it is relatively short, can be very useful. What I want to say, though, goes back to what a previous panel member, Dr. Jakobsson, said about information technology potentially leading to a generation of people who are “multiple experts.” That bothered me when he said it, and I finally figured out why. I react negatively to the concept of training a Ph.D. chemist to be a “multiple expert.” Rather, with 60 or so percent of Ph.D. chemists going into industry, one of the emphases that should be placed on graduate training is that Ph.D. chemists need to know how to work in multidisciplinary teams. We are not saying that people have to be multidisciplinary themselves or “multiple experts.” When you work on a multidisciplinary team, what we are asking is that an analytical chemist be able to work with a medicinal chemist or a physical chemist or a pharmacologist or somebody in business. Multidisciplinary is different from “multiple expert,” and I am not sure that it serves the Ph.D. well to train “multiple experts.” Remember the team model, for which you want people able to act broadly and to show that they have depth in a particular area. The idea is that they can drill deeply in another area if they have to, but they can also work broadly with a diverse group of people. Eric Jakobsson: When I look at the knowledge that I use today, the fraction of it that I learned in school is pretty small. Lots of what I use today is knowledge that didn’t exist when I was studying at a university. One of the problems that I had, when I was a young engineer, was coming to grips with the massive layoff that I saw of people who were more senior than I. I realized that this was something that occasionally happens in industry. Because of its bottom line, to a certain extent industry treats scientists and engineers as disposable. That is, if somebody hasn’t kept up, if somebody’s skills have become obsolete, if the skills of new graduates are more relevant, then the rational thing for DuPont or Air Products or any corporation to do is to lay off the mature scientists and hire new ones. I think the ability to acquire multiple and new expertise throughout life, throughout the entire working life, is really the only safeguard, or the best safeguard, that a scientist or engineer has. Joel I. Schulman: I agree with that. What I am saying is that, in graduate school, you don’t need to be a multiple expert. Eric Jakobsson: You had better learn a mind-set that will let you do that.
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop Stanley I. Sandler, University of Delaware: First, I want to thank Angelica for her marvelous presentation, which showed a lot of enthusiasm. I must admit, however, based on my experience in educational pedagogy, that many of the methods proposed do not transfer well. I believe the reason is that students generally are responding more to the enthusiasm of the people involved rather than to the specific methodology used. This suggests to me that the enthusiasm of the instructors is important, more than the methodology. I also have a question for Eric. I am concerned about intellectual property issues. In your presentation, you showed links to many different sites including databases that have subscription/membership fees or commercial software. It is unclear to me exactly how someone who didn’t have access to these sites would be affected, or whether such users were gaining access to such sites by using your site. The third comment is to Ernest. When I was department chair, I set up an industrial advisory committee, which included vice presidents of various corporations. The question to them was, Should the department offer a master’s degree, since it was not a cost-effective research activity for the department? They were unanimous in saying we should continue to offer the degree. However, before we agreed to that, they were to contact their human resources people, have the records of their employees studied, and we would discuss the issue again at our next yearly meeting. A year later when the advisory board met, they were unanimous in the view that there was no discernible value to the master’s degree. In fact, starting in industry directly out of college and getting a year or two of extra experience, instead of spending time getting a master’s degree, was more important for long-term career success. So, unlike what has been said here, it is questionable as to whether a terminal master’s degree is useful, at least in chemical engineering. Eric Jakobsson: Let me respond briefly to the intellectual property issue, which is a serious issue, and one that we spent more time on than we had hoped. Everybody we access for databases, or whose software we use, has agreed to let that be used in a public domain way for nonprofits. So, we make the Workbench freely available to everybody who is in a nonprofit institution, either a governmental or educational institution. On the other hand, the Workbench is licensed to corporations, to be mirrored behind their firewalls. They often have to make some sort of arrangement with the people whose data are incorporated. Intellectual property with respect to software and information technology is one of the areas that is in the Wild West of the law. We patented the Workbench. I think, and I believe Shankar does as well, that whatever else we do will be public domain, an open source, and we will never patent anything again. Timothy A. Keiderling, University of Illinois at Chicago: Angelica said something that stirred me up, but I think it applies to a lot of things we heard today. It was her concept of blame. Her phrasing was very gracious: “Don’t blame the high schools.” I honestly think what she did was to blame the faculty. She seemed to blame the faculty because she in effect said, “They are not doing what I do, and my way is new and exciting.” I think we have to get into those faculty’s heads, too. As a department head, I have had to sit down and try to find solutions with people who have taught freshman chemistry and physical chemistry for 30 years. They really know the material and have taught it effectively for a long time. They tell me that they sometimes use the same exams from 30 years ago as a test of the continuity of the course and find significantly lower scores with the current students. The point is that the students are different. Now, do you blame high school, or do you blame modern (more visual learners) culture? It doesn’t really matter. Students are different. We therefore need to take different approaches, but we have in large part to use the same faculty. We need to think creatively about how to approach this problem. It is the same pattern of thinking in terms of working with industry. A lot of faculty don’t have
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop a concept of working with industry. They are purists about academic science. We have to change the faculty and the structure in order to make these things fly. Angelica Stacy: I didn’t mean to blame the faculty. I just want the faculty to start thinking about teaching and learning. I thought I was clear that I have a constructivist philosophy, that faculty should construct their own understanding of teaching and learning. You can’t do that if you already think you know everything. That is all I was saying. I want to make one point. Twenty or 30 years ago, the population of students coming to the university was the elite, upper crust. Now we should be enjoying the fact that more people are coming. I would bet that if you gave that test to the top group that is there now, compared to the 20 percent that was there 30 years ago, you would get the same results. Timothy A. Keiderling: At our university, that is not true. Twenty or 30 years ago, the distribution was, in fact, lower than it is now. Billy Joe Evans, University of Michigan: I would like to make a reference to Professor Eliel’s comment about the master’s degree. I supported him vigorously at the ACS meeting at which this was brought up. ACS will have little or no control over the Ph.D., but it can exercise a good bit of control over the master’s degree. Apparently, my support did not give Professor Eliel the sense of power to really push that at the meeting. So, we failed to get it. I want to speak to Professor Stacy’s presentation. I thought it was very useful, and I learned a lot from it. My comment is this: It appears you believe that the way your students are being taught, and the way that they are learning in the paradigm you are pursuing, is superior. One way of getting around having to train graduate students as TAs is to selectively admit students from other undergraduate institutions at which this model is also promulgated. Now, if we don’t feel that this superior way of teaching and learning actually produces a better student, then this enterprise that we are in is doomed to failure, because we believe that only those students who are born with certain intellectual attributes can actually do the work that we have for them. I do not believe this is a good description of what happens to us as humans. I competed against students who would have run over me, if that were true. We can heal ourselves of physical and emotional diseases. If we are in education and do not believe that, then heaven help the parent who sends his or her child to us to have a better opportunity at living a life that is fulfilling and also contributes to the betterment of his or her fellow man. We have been dancing around all kinds of little things, and we are smart people. We can do little things here or there, but we have not reached the core. The core of the matter is that we have made some bad hires. Universities are about teaching and learning, nothing else. You can call it research; I don’t care how you define it. It is simply two things—teaching and learning. Anyone who goes into the university and is not committed to teaching and learning, learning for oneself as well as helping others to learn, does not belong there. We have a sacred commitment. We work under a charter from the nation, from the state. We get tax relief because we are given a certain job. That job is to prepare the young people of this country to be effective citizens, to give them challenging problems, to teach them how to learn to approach difficult issues. That is where research comes in. It is just another way of teaching and learning. If we are not doing that, then we should not be sitting in the chair. If we are doing that, we don’t need to talk about minorities. We don’t need special programs. A program that would work only for minorities probably does not work for them either. So, it is an issue of teaching and learning. Here I am, an adult person. Am I going to run over and sacrifice a young life for this ego of mine? Faculty should be content with themselves. They should
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Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences — Issues for the 21st Century: Report of a Workshop have a sense of self-worth. They don’t have to publish 50 papers a year to feel as though they are worth something. This is critical. Young people are dying in our labs because of these big egos. They are little kids. They do not know. They come expecting one thing, and we give them another. A young man who is premed asked me in class yesterday why I didn’t pursue medicine. I replied that when I went to Morehouse, the most challenging and exciting discipline on campus was chemistry. So, I did chemistry. Chemistry is a good discipline for improving the lives of the people in this country. We should use it for that. Schools should be able to hire someone who says, “Look, I am good enough. I can take a little of my time, choose my problems carefully, and bring up the next generation.” We have made bad hires. That is the problem. Yes, you can have academic freedom, but you don’t have the freedom to ruin the young people of this country. Dady Dadyburjor, West Virginia University: I would also like to address Professor Stacy. We are a relatively low-enrollment department of chemical engineering. So, we have the luxury of having all of our courses taught by faculty. However, that is not the point that I want to make. Several of our faculty who are into teaching as a pedagogy have dragged me, kicking and screaming, into an advocacy of the “active learning” approach, where students sit in groups during the class time and work on assignments. The professor or the instructor walks around, sees the problems that these students are having in solving the assignment, and is able to address that directly. That is an approach that is not credited to us. Rich Felder at North Carolina State University and others have used it as well. I wonder if maybe you have thought about including the active-learning approach in any brochure or booklet that you have prepared for your TAs. I would advise it. Angelica Stacy: Yes, and I wasn’t clear about what we were trying to do. I think we want an active-learning approach in understanding the concepts. When I referred to a TA training handbook, I meant an active-learning approach to helping TAs understand about teaching and learning that adds to the handbooks that are already out there. R. Stephen Berry, University of Chicago: I thought it would be worth pointing out that the National Research Council has just published a book that addresses these issues, which I think people in this room might find very helpful. We will try to have it available with the others that have been mentioned. This is a substantial volume called How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice (www.nap.edu).5 It came out recently. Angie knows it. I don’t think there will be any problem in having copies that people can see. It also is available in full text on the Web for free. 5 National Research Council, How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1999).
Representative terms from entire chapter: