Intuition Is What You Need to Take Home!

by Caroline Delaire, Civil and Environmental Engineering
I quickly realized that the class generated a lot of anxiety. Students, undergraduate and graduate alike, were surprised and challenged by the quantity of equations and algebra involved in lectures and homeworks. I helped them the best I could with solving problem sets, but at the same time I started to understand that by focusing on algebra and equations students were at risk of missing the point of the class: gaining practical knowledge about water chemistry. They were simply not developing the intuition that would help them address real world environmental issues!

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.

Problem Solving and the Random Number Generator

by Justin Hollenback, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Based on the mistakes the students were making, I felt that the example problems I presented weren’t conveying the material as well as I wanted. Students did not appear engaged or actively learning during lecture. In response, I developed a strategy … to make the process of working out example problems in class more interactive.

Fostering the Ability to Think Like an Experimenter in a Lecture Course

by Daniel Bliss, Molecular and Cell Biology (Home Department: Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute)
Their proficiency at internalizing and recalling textbook-level explanations had led them astray. My challenge, I realized, was to help them be able to switch into the thinking mode of an experimenter.

Teaching Quantitative Optical Filter Choice as Part of Practical Microscopy

by Neil Switz, Biophysics
My objective was to remedy the limitations of existing, theory-based classes by allowing students to learn the practical optical techniques and theory for microscopy via hands-on experience and instruction in the practical techniques used by optical engineers but not emphasized in textbooks.

Bringing Astronomy Down to Earth: A Teaching Strategy That Helps Develop Intuition

by Aaron Lee, Astronomy
I found that students were far too trusting of their calculators, possibly due to a fear of math, and they blindly accepted whatever the calculator returned. My solution…was to include weekly activities that taught students how to relate new concepts to familiar experiences to develop their intuition about the subject matter.

Using Prediction, Competition, and Reflection to Make Connections in Calculus II

by Danielle Champney, Education, SESAME
I view Calculus II as more than just a solution-finding mission or strategy game. Students will learn little or resort to untested pattern-matching if I simply tell them what method to use each time they encounter a new problem! Learning how concepts in class are reflected in procedures used to solve problems is, to me, a core principle of the course.

Applying Economic Concepts to Environmental Problems

by Shanthi Nataraj, Agricultural & Resource Economics (Home Department: Economics)
I noticed that the students’ analyses of environmental issues in their problem sets improved. Most students still stated strong opinions about environmental issues – but now, they were able to back up their opinions with economic reasoning.

Teaching Young Scientists to Speak the Way They Think

by Seemay Chou, Molecular and Cell Biology
I found that the problem was not rooted in lack of comprehension but an imprecision in their scientific language, owing to their lack of experience in the field. They felt that they knew the answers but could not express what they were trying to say…They needed to think and speak in the same language as scientists.

Training Molecular MacGyvers Using the Immunologist’s Toolbox

by Nicholas Arpaia, Molecular and Cell Biology
I designed what I called the Immunologist’s Toolbox, a running list of techniques that the students could refer to when it came time for them to design experiments. They were able to draw from this list to act like molecular MacGyvers and use the reagents that they were given in particular scenario-based questions to answer them.