P1032: Class-style TA training in Penn State’s general chemistry labs

Author: Joe Keiser, Penn State University, USA

Co-Author: Jing Dong and Mary Shoemaker, Penn State University, USA

Date: 8/7/14

Time: 10:15 AM10:35 AM

Room: LTT 103

Related Symposium: S77

Penn State has developed a number of approaches to training, supervising, and coaching TAs in our general chemistry lab. The most important component is an accelerated version of the lab course that is taught in the week or two before the start of each semester. A top TA from the previous year is hired to serve as a TA for this class. The new TAs are the students. They complete all of the experiments for a grade under the same conditions as the students. The experienced TA models all of the roles of a TA: prelab talks, lab management, and grading. The new TAs observe and experience all of these things under the dynamic conditions of a real class. All of the typical problems occur – some students come late and unprepared, some don’t wear their eye protection, some are unhappy about their grades, some drop their samples on the floor, etc. All of these matters are handled in a similar way to how they are handled with undergraduate students. At the end of this class awards are given to top performers, and those below minimum standards are reassigned to non-teaching duties. The TA Trainers then become “Section Supervisors”, and are involved with observing and coaching TAs throughout the semester. This system has been in place for over 20 years and it works well. Details will be presented.

P785: Tailoring homework and lecture activities in Introductory Chemistry for diverse student interests

Author: Mary Shoemaker, Penn State University, USA

Co-Author: Angela Bischof, Penn State University, USA

Date: 8/6/14

Time: 11:50 AM12:10 PM

Room: MAN 102

Related Symposium: S62

Chem 101 is an Introductory Chemistry course taken by both Science and Non Science majors. In areas where the course can be tailored to specific disciplines, students can select homework assignments and lecture activities related to their major or personal interests. For example: in the 2 week lesson on Solutions and Concentrations, student can pick between 4 assignments: making a 0.9% saline solution, determining the % phosphorus in plant fertilizer, performing composition calculations for varying % of fat in milk, and determining blood alcohol levels. In the topic of Stoichiometry, students can pick between making rocket engine combustion calculations, determining environmental effects of pyrite decomposition on streams, calculating proper drug dosing based on patient mass, and predicting changes in bridge structural integrity due to rusting of iron. Since all 351 students in the course attend the same lectures, the basic course content is the same for all students. However, having a variety of relevant lecture activities makes Chem 101 more personal for each student.