Starting with Art for the First Time

Elaine Yau, History of Art
I have often noted that students who have never had an art history course can be overwhelmed by a commonplace assumption that artistic “masterpieces” are self-evidently great. This point of departure usually results in hackneyed discussions about beauty, perfection, or “pinnacles of civilization.” I wanted my first writing assignment to provide a structured, accessible process for formal analysis that would equip students with a vocabulary from which to build their own interpretations confidently — to treat paintings as primary sources from a moment in history.

Empowered Learning: History, Collaboratively

by Jesse Cordes Selbin, English
I believe that education functions best when students are not merely passive recipients, but collaborative creators, of knowledge. To that end, I designed an ongoing assignment wherein students used online software to contribute to a collective historical timeline of the nineteenth century…The function of the timeline was primarily informational: it was intended to give a deeper understanding of a historical era. But its crucial secondary function was to ask students to reconceptualize their own role as creators and perpetrators of historical narrative.

The Importance of Implicit Feature Awareness for Problem Solving in Organic Chemistry

by Jordan Axelson, Chemistry
During 2012, I served as head GSI for both first and second semesters of organic chemistry (Chemistry 3A and 3B). Despite the utility of resonance in solving problems presented during these classes, I found that at the end of Chem 3B, many students still struggled to understand and apply resonance…To alleviate this challenge, I built a kit that included a stainless steel “whiteboard,” dry-erase markers, and colored magnetic pieces meant to represent a single lobe of a p-orbital.

Moving Beyond Plot Summary: Doing Things with Words

by Laurence Coderre, East Asian Languages and Cultures
My…students were having difficulty understanding how to approach literary texts beyond the simple recapitulation of plot. Focusing on what a given reading said, they rarely considered the significance of how it was conveyed….Ming dynasty xiao pin wen, or “short personal essays,” in which authors write in great detail about frivolous or mundane things, offered me an opportunity to address this concept, and students’ difficulties in grappling with it, head on.

Beyond Bean Counting: A New Laboratory to Teach the Concepts of Microevolution

by Sonja Schwartz, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
My goal for this laboratory was to engage students of all learning styles by using a combination of passive and active, visual and auditory, and conceptual and applied activities. By reinforcing the material this way, I wanted to get beyond endless bean counting to more effectively teach my students key concepts of evolution.

The Challenges of Teaching in the Summer Session

by Conrad Hengesbach, Mathematics
The variety of the students’ backgrounds meant that everybody brought different prerequisites to the table, especially when it came to their training in first-semester calculus… I needed a mechanism to ensure that towards the end of the first week everybody was on the same boat.

Maximizing the Impact of GSI Feedback through Reflections on Writing

by Rebecca Elliott, Sociology
In deference to the time they put into writing their exams, I spend considerable time writing up my reactions. I provide substantive feedback in the form of questions and comments, in both marginal notes and in a narrative paragraph…[but] how could I ensure that my students read, reflected, and internalized my feedback in a way that would improve their skills and enhance their learning?