Course Administration

I pride myself on giving students clear pathways to successful learning and maintaining an organized course structure. Please feel free to peruse the sample materials below that I have used in the past while teaching high school physics and college chemistry.

Weekly Email to Support Team

When I taught high school physics, more than 15% of my students had a documented learning disability that warranted accommodations to ensure they got an equitable STEM education. Many of these students worked with different special education teachers, counselors, and paraprofessionals during the school day to complete homework assignments, work on executive functioning skills such as time management, and prepare for upcoming tests. In addition to updating my class website (publicly available to students, parents, and other teachers) at least daily, I also sent out a brief weekly email to all members of my students’ support team, a sample of which is transcribed here.

While I often saw most of these special education teachers weekly in-person when I stopped by to discuss how to best support our mutual students, this email provided a quick run-down that they could reference if a student came to them with a question and I was unavailable. In the particular example I have posted here, I try to preclude any confusion about academic honesty and the new take-home quizzes that my fellow teacher and I were piloting. Making quizzes take-home for the rest of the year was overall a great success, reducing stress around what was supposed to be a low-stakes formative assessment while allowing more in-class time to be spent on problem-solving.

Student Reflection & Feedback Form

While I appreciate feedback that students give me at the end of the year, it is too late at that point to improve those students’ experiences in my course. As a more frequent feedback channel, I sometimes ask students to fill out a “minute paper” at the end of class using an index card; they draw a smile on one side where they write something that went well in class and then draw a frown on the other side along with something that didn’t go so well. While teaching college general chemistry in 2018, I formalized this student-to-teacher communication a bit more using a combined reflection & feedback form, which students handed in with their weekly homework.

In addition to giving students a regular channel to communicate feedback to me, this form served two other purposes: (1) By asking students what problem was hardest for them that week, it allowed me to quickly scan the front of each problem set and ascertain what material we needed to review in the next class. (2) By having students reflect on their own understanding of the homework they were handing in, I believe that this short metacognitive exercise allowed students to pinpoint material that they needed to focus on when preparing for exams.

Looking forward, I believe this homework “wrapper” can be easily adapted to a high school setting to the continued benefit of both my students and me myself.

Weekly Email to College Students

When teaching, I frequently communicate with students both inside and outside of class to make course expectations clear and thus help students succeed. When I taught Organic Chemistry I during Fall 2016, I sent emails like this one to my discussion section students as a preview of the upcoming week, only briefly repeating the most important announcements in class. This course in particular had many assignment deadlines and exams, as well as a plethora of optional practice problems with solutions that students could use to study. To prevent students from becoming overwhelmed by the daunting workload, I suggested practice problems for them to prioritize each week and emphasized that their studying would be more efficient if they actively worked through problems instead of passively reading over lecture notes.

At the beginning of the email, I validated stressful feelings that students are having about the midterm, hoping to make them feel less alone and more confident in their chemistry abilities. Many of the students were on the pre-medical track, which made them stressed about their grade and its impact on their future medical school applications. By being informal and including emojis, words of encouragement, and some pump-up songs, I tried to inject some positivity into this typically stressful pre-exam crunch.

After receiving generally positive feedback from students about these emails, I continued to send them out when teaching General Chemistry I/II/III at the University of Chicago the following year.

Sample. student-centered learning objectives for an electrochemistry unit for college general chemistry.

Scaffolded Learning Objectives

When I taught General Chemistry III in Spring 2018, students often felt that the lecturer moved through a large amount of material very fast, which led them to have trouble figuring out what material was most important to learn to be successful in the course. To help them focus their studies, I began providing my students with a set of student-centered learning objectives for the week, which they could use as a checklist to track their learning progress. This image shows a sample of these learning objectives, matched to the days of the past week in which they were introduced in lecture and the sections in their textbook. The italicized learning objectives were those that I covered that day through the discussion section practice problems. Including these at the top of every section handout not only helped students more effectively study but also were a helpful guide for me when deciding what problems to go over that week during class, in combination with the reflection and feedback form above.

More Sample Materials: