Below is an overview of the General Chemistry Teaching Internship Program [Chem-493/494]. This program is by invitation-only, offered to students who perform at the top of their class in 161 and 162. Students may choose to become a teaching intern (TI) as a part of the Certificate in Chemistry Education program, or independently.
The purpose of this course is to train students to be effective peer instructors, and provide them with experience in helping students in General Chemistry. Being a good instructor requires skills such as patience, creativity, good communication, and empathy. All of these skills are essential, regardless of one’s chosen academic or career path. While teaching interns are not content experts in the same way as a professor, they are more relatable to students. There are two components to this program:
- Weekly training with fellow TIs
- Learning sessions with General chemistry students
It is important to note that teaching interns are not lecturers, tutors, or teachers, but rather facilitators, helping students in general chemistry construct their own knowledge and make it meaningful.
Teachers are not the only ones who teach. In fact, the overwhelming majority of TIs do not aim to pursue careers in education or teaching. Most TIs are future doctors, pharmacists, engineers, and scientists. However, in all of these fields – you will teach. You will teach yourself, your colleagues, outside interests, perhaps even your own children one day. You will always be explaining and showing new ideas to others. Knowing how to communicate your ideas and recognize when a person understands you are important skills that everyone will need. In the process, you should become more aware of your own learning and studying habits as well.
Professors are the experts in chemistry. This raises the question of the usefulness of having non-experts help students in their studying. Many studies have shown that peer mentors are invaluable resources due to their ability to connect with students. Peer instructors remember clearly what it was like to study General Chemistry, to struggle, to take exams, etc. They are very much in-tune with the needs of students, and are able to focus on individual needs while the professors concern themselves with the entirety of the course.
This course is by invitation only. Invitations are made based on success in General Chemistry I and II, 161 and 162.
Students may choose to take the TI program for 1 or 2 credits; however, if they wish to take 2 credits, they should speak with the intern coordinator ahead of time to ensure that the courseload will be manageable. The requirements are as follows:
- Weekly training: Each intern must attend one TI meeting each week. There will usually be approximately 3 different slots to choose from, but TIs must commit to the same meeting each week. TIs are asked to be flexible when listing their availabilities
- Learning sessions: Each intern will choose two learning sessions per credit.
- Interns are expected to keep up with lecture material and be able to solve General Chemistry questions from old exams, practice problems, etc. Weekly meetings will offer a quick overview for the week, but it is the responsibility of the individual intern to be sure they have adequate knowledge to conduct their learning sessions. This requires strong conceptual understanding of the material, as opposed to simple rote problem-solving methods.
The most important thing to remember is that this program is very dynamic. Our policies, tasks, and methods may have to change based on the needs of the students, the instructors, and anything else beyond our control.
Below is a short description of the different types of learning sessions interns may choose to conduct. Please note that these are the standard options, and are subject to change each semester depending on the needs of the course. For example, walk-in office hours and workshops are offered every semester, but virtual office hours are not.
Walk-in Office Hours
Walk-in Office Hours (WOHs) are intended for students to attend without any appointment, but with the guarantee that they will find someone to help them. Walk-in office hours will be held on Busch Campus, usually during the daytime hours. Interns will hold the same office hour every week in which there are classes.
Throughout the semester, there will be a series of workshops held at various times and days of the week. Each one will have a specific theme, so TIs should create problems that fit that theme. Two TIs will run a single workshop, and it will require a great deal of confidence and preparation. Special training will be given. Interns do not hold a workshop every week, but will hold one for about half of the weeks in a given semester.
Active Learning Recitations
Active Learning Recitations (ALRs) are in-person recitations for General Chemistry students. Students work in groups to solve activities pertinent to recent lecture material. TIs meet with the same students each week, and facilitate their understanding of the materials. These ALRs are located in the Academic Building on College Ave, at designated times. There are typically 1-2 instructors present during these recitations as well. In addition to the recitation itself, ALR TIs will also need to attend weekly staff meetings to discuss and complete the recitation activity beforehand. As such, ALRs constitute TWO (2) learning sessions.
Before each exam we will typically host one in-person review session for each class (161 and 162). Each midterm review will be two hours long, while the final will be 3 hours long, and the times/locations will be determined. TIs should come prepared with problems to present to students, but should encourage students to ask their own questions. These will be large review sessions, typically in a lecture hall; however, interns should make these sessions as interactive as possible. Special preparation will be required, such as preparing notes and securing a room. Two TIs will hold a single review session together, and will be responsible for all of the in-person review sessions for the entire semester for either 161 or 162.
Virtual Office Hours
Virtual Office Hours (VOHs) are conducted using the same online instructional technology that offers our recitations. They are held at the same time each week, usually during the evening hours to accommodate commuters and non-traditional students. Students may log in at any point during the office hour to ask questions. However, TIs should also come prepared to present some practice problems. Special training to use the system will be offered. Interns will hold the same office hour every week in which there are classes.
There are Facebook groups for 161 and 162. Monitors will spend their time checking in on both of these groups and answering student’s chemistry questions. TIs should check on the groups sporadically throughout the week, at least once daily, to make sure all questions are addressed.
A Head TI helps the coordinator with the planning of the program, such as with workshop schedules, arranging sign-ups, communication with students, etc. They may also work with the coordinator to develop materials for weekly meetings. Usually Head TIs have had previous experience in the program; however, this is not necessarily required. They typically meet with the TI coordinator once weekly.