Learner Centered Approaches for My Curriculum

I have recently looked at three Learner Centered approaches to be used with my curriculum. All three start with a form of a Webquest where the students will seek out important information related to a specific topic. The three topics I have looked at for the Learner Centered approaches are Green Chemistry, Environmental Issues Debate, and Designing a Cell Culture Media.

For the vast topic of Green Chemistry where does one start as an Instructor. Rather than struggling with this decision I will let the students look up the topic of Green Chemistry and then find three examples of Green Chemistry that are of interest to them. During this process the students will also discover the twelve principles of Green Chemistry and if any of them are applicable to their examples. My hope is that by having the students look up examples of interest they will be come more engaged in the topic. After the students have had a chance to do their own research we will follow up with a set of in class activities and discussions.

The Environmental issues debate will teach the students how to research a topic but also formulate an argument on that same topic. The debates evaluations will consist of a peer and self evaluation. For this task the students will be given a key environmental issue as a topic (eg. Climate Change) and assigned to either the “pro” side or “opposing” side. The students will work in groups to gather evidence supporting their side of the debate. Students won’t be given any information other than the topic so they will seek out their own information. From there the students will begin formulating their argument in the form of a visual presentation. The debates will be  conducted in the classroom with peers evaluating the debates. The participants will also have a chance to reflect and evaluate their own performance.

The last topic, Designing a Cell Culture media will be delivered using a version of a Webquest. Since it is a topic within a specialty field some resources will be given to guide the students to the correct websites or online catalogues. Rather than doing a traditional lecture on all aspects of a Cell Culture media and the different components the students will research this information. I will give them a Webquest that says with the use of the following sites and resources design a media for your specific mammalian cell line. From there the students will learn about what types of media are available and what the specific components are. They can progress into answering more complicated questions about the media and the purposes (functions) of the specific components. I think this approach will give the student more understanding of “why” these components are present as opposed to just memorizing that they are present.


Flipping the Classroom

After reflecting on the courses that I teach I have come to the realization that opportunities to flip the classroom can be achieved more frequently. I have taken some chances to flip the classroom in a recent course and was pleased with the results. I feel that I need to use this strategy more in other courses to break up or reduce the amount of time spent using traditional lectures.

I feel there are two important processes in flipping the classroom that I need to focus on in order to make sure the students experience productive learning. I need to ensure that I scaffold (or guide) to students while still giving them some control while seeking out information. This will allow appropriate coverage of the topics. The second process is to allow sufficient time for discussion and reflection. This will also allow me to ensure the learning takes place.

One of my biggest fears about flipping the classroom has always been whether or not the students will actively participate in seeking the information and the subsequent discussion. However, after seeing the results in one of my recent courses I came to the realization that the students who want to succeed and are motivated to succeed will participate. They also did an excellent job on the assignments. I realized the students that didn’t participate and didn’t complete the tasks also performed poorly in the traditional lecture component. For me, this validated the flipping the classroom activities.

This has encouraged me to explore flipping the classroom more in my future courses. I don’t have to be the single source of information for my students. There are resources already out there that students can learn from. I will pursue flipping the classroom in my more traditional lecture style classes such as Chemistry and Workplace Safety.


Chemistry Webquests

Link to Webquest: http://zunal.com/webquest.php?w=67431

While I was able to find one or two Chemistry Webquests intended for adult learners I couldn’t help be surprised by the limited number Chemistry Webquests compared to other science related topics.

I feel that Chemistry classes tend to rely heavily on traditional lectures and for this reason I am very interested in exploring the potential use of Webquests. These Webquests could be used to introduce key topics in Chemistry such as Chemical Kinetics, Chemical Equilibrium, and Chemical Analysis (Titrations).

I could develop Webquests for one of my courses that would cover Chemical Kinetics and Chemical Equilibrium. There are two excellent web sites that I came across that could be used for the Webquests. Purdue University covers the Kinetics topic very well and the web site Chemguide based in the UK covers Equilibria. Instead of traditional lectures to start the topic the students can be guided to these sites to learn the topics of Kinetics and Equilibria.

A third site, form Davidson University can also be used to further learning through the Webquest. This site allows the users to do virtual experiments using the built in tools on the site. After students have read up on the concepts then can do examples and simulations using the virtual experiments. After a student has had time to practice problems or examples with the virtual experiments then they can proceed to more complex examples. I could still follow up with the students in class by discussing and reinforcing key points on the topics after the Webquest is complete. I am going to explore using a Webquest like this in future Chemistry classes.

Link to Purdue University Chemical Kinetics page: http://chemed.chem.purdue.edu/genchem/topicreview/bp/ch22/rateframe.html

Link to Chemguide Webiste (based in the UK): http://www.chemguide.co.uk/physical/equilibria/introduction.html#top

Link to Davidson University Virtual Experiments: http://www.chm.davidson.edu/vce/index.html






Student Centered Approach

Link to my article

After reading the findings by Stanford University in the article I had a couple initial thoughts to share. It was very alarming to see the significant difference in performance for the programs that used the student centered approach models vs. the schools that didn’t. In one instance there was 100% completion of university entrance requirement courses in the student centered program vs. 34 – 39% state wide not in the program. Its hard to argue the effectiveness of a student centered approach went results such as this study are achieved.


It was interesting to read how these results were achieved and the foundation of the program. The students were challenged but it allowed them to develop grit and determination. The programs committed to personalized learning and building positive teacher-student relationships. The students were also taught reflection and revision which allowed them to practice, improve, and reflect.


The students commented on how they had to reflect and speak out which built their communication skills. They experienced applied learning which allowed them to internalize and process information better. They were guided beyond what they thought they could do. I can see how this program built confidence within the learners and allowed them to progress through the program and successfully complete the university entrance courses. It is hard to imagine that a shift in learning strategy could such a profound impact. Based on the averages many of the students would not have been successful in a traditional learning model. It is amazing what can happen if people are put in the right situation and/or environment.