Reflections on Student SuccessSubmitted by Jasmine Coleman, Chemistry

A large part of my goals as an instructor involve the person that my student is becoming rather than solely the knowledge that my students seek to gain from the course. These goals include my students recognizing the way they learn new information and how my students help others both in and out of the class. When we as teachers consider these ideas, we naturally remain engaged enough to be ready to take on the concepts. I noticed that there is sometimes a student that hopes to just get by on their own, and sometimes that student gets left behind because they don’t know how to learn the information. As instructors we often judge our students that aren’t successful. We think that maybe they aren’t spending enough time on the topic independently. This is a harsh point of view for us to have, and I, admittedly, had this point of view in the past. Sometimes the student that is failing may be trying their best! In some form or another, there may be an unsuccessful attempt to learn. I had a student a year ago who made me reconsider this point of view.

This student was new to chemistry and had not taken a chemistry course in a while but was confident that she would do well based on previous experiences in high school. She was taking my Organic Chemistry I course during the summer, which is already a feat. I was forced to be creative in the ways we learned the concept, which allowed me to learn, and I challenged her to reflect on what made certain topics “click”. Initially this was an individual technique I encouraged her to use, but I eventually dedicated class time to this activity this past semester here at Harper. Students write a reflection on a topic and choose to share with the class to help others.

I noticed that when students reflected early in the semester, after week 4, they made decisions about the course sooner – whether they decided they needed a lower level course first or whether they were going to accelerate for the A. This has allowed my students to become a central part of learning new topics and setting the pace that fits best for everyone overall. I enjoy the communication that has also resulted from just setting one key goal as an instructor.

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