How an award winning professor teaches a technical chemistry course

Dr. Greg Evans is an award-winning professor for his teaching at the University of Toronto. In this post, I will breakdown how he teaches a technical chemistry course, CHE230 – Environmental Chemistry. As you will find out, his teaching pedagogies are not only limited to chemistry courses but can be applied to your course as well. Let’s begun the de-construction of his course.

Greg Evans CHE230 Environment Chemistry

Dr. Greg Evan’s Overview Slide on How He Teachers CHE 230 – Source

Overall Course Teaching Pedagogy

CHE 230 – “Environment chemistry” is a core chemical engineering course for second-year. A central park of the course is it’s “Environmental Consulting Engineering” project – a full-semester design project that is excecuted with a team of five.

The overall course teaching pedagogy is of semi-inverted (semi flipped) cooperative (team-based) learning environment. In layman terms, the course is taught by Dr. Evans in a way where homework readings are encouraged while the in-class time is used to explore higher-levels of learning.

More specifically, the following teaching pedagogies are used throughout the course:

  • Team-Based Learning: Students form a team of five for the tutorials and project for the course.
  • Project-Based Learning: The students and teams work with a real-life mock project.
  • Peer-Instruction: Furthermore, the team does peer-instruction to promote reflection amongst each other.
  • Formative Assessment: Lastly, there is ample opportunity for formative feedback (without a grade penalty) for students to improve their work.

Let’s see how Dr. Evan applies each of the above pedagogies to his course.

Team-Based Learning and Cooperative Learning

The course and the instructor, Dr. Evans, emphasize the value of team-based work by having students work in teams for both – the project and the tutorials. This way the teams can get closer to real-life experience of working together to learn and solve problems.

“Instruction of team skills has been based on two conceptual frameworks. A leadership styles framework examines the preferences of individual students and helps students see how these styles are manifested within a team. This framework allows students to identify their leadership style preferences and more importantly, recognize the strengths of others, and styles that may be missing from their team. A team-effectiveness framework helps students examine organizational, relational and communication behaviours evident within their team, and thereby helps students to recognise where they do, or do not, tend to contribute. These two frameworks provide students with a shared vocabulary, along with a basis to observe and understand their team experiences that can then be used to promote learning and structured reflection.” Source: G Evans 2013

Project-Based Learning

For the project-based learning component of the course, Dr. Evans provides students with a very close to real-life experience of working in an environmental consulting company.

Students, in their groups, create their own environmental consulting company. Then as a consulting company they bid on one of the five RFPs made available by the teacher.

During the life of the project, students get feedback from their “client” (formative assessment) and adjust their work accordingly. This helps the students prepare for the real world in which they can ask for help and get feedback earlier in the project rather than risking a single deliverable which may not meet client requirements.

Peer-Instruction

Throughout the course, Dr. Evans encourage peer-instruction so that students can learn and reflection with each other in a more real-time basis. He primarily uses peer-instruction in two occasions:

  1. Quiz or a Class Activity – to get the students to understand the content
  2. During Tutorials – so that students can work together to solve a problem

Formative Assessment

Lastly, formative assessment is used throughout his course to provide students critical feedback to adjust about;

  • Team Health – team members evaluate each other on their skills and the teacher is able to intercept and get “at risk” teams back on track
  • Project Health – they are giving feedback on their consulting project so that they can adjust and improve the final deliverable.

Overall, the teaching pedagogies of team and project based learning, peer-instruction, and formative assessment is what delivers an engaging teaching and learning experience for the students and the instructor.

If you are interested in the presentation slides of Dr. Greg Evans’ talk from which the the above notes were extracted, you can do that here.

Leave A Comment