The Teaching Internship in General Chemistry
Course: 01:160:493, 01:160:494
Created by Emily L. Atieh and Darrin M. York
The Teaching Internship in General Chemistry (Chem 493-494) is a near-peer mentorship program that provides undergraduates with experience in helping students in General Chemistry. Taken as a credit-bearing course, the TI program includes weekly training sessions and time spent working with current General Chemistry students.
Being a good mentor 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 in-tune with the needs of students.
This program is by invitation-only and is offered to students who perform well in General Chemistry. Students may choose to become a TI as a part of the requirements for the Certificate in Chemistry Education Program or independently.
Weekly Training Sessions
Teaching Interns participate in training sessions each week under the direction of the Program Coordinator. In addition to learning more about best practices and the theories that underpin them, these sessions allow TIs to work together, share experiences and advice, and ask questions or seek support for any situation that may arise during their learning sessions.
Some topics and skills discussed in the weekly sessions include:
Learning theories (e.g. Meaningful Learning Theory)
Diversity and inclusion in education
Common misconceptions (or alternate conceptions) in General Chemistry
Models in chemistry
TIs will work with General Chemistry students on a regular basis throughout the semester. TIs typically meet with students at least once per week, although the exact schedule depends on the type of learning sessions selected and the number of credits taken. Similarly, these sessions can range from independently-held small-group environments to facilitating large recitations and lectures alongside other TIs and professors.
TIs 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.
See the list of learning sessions below for more details about each opportunity. Keep in mind that the TI program is dynamic: As the needs of the students change, the learning sessions may adjust accordingly.
TIs keep an online reflection blog that is accessible to all others in the course. Each week, TIs submit a short post to their blog about their take-aways from their training and learning sessions, as well as a comment to one of their colleague’s posts.
Each March, students who perform well in General Chemistry I & II receive invitation to apply for the TI Program. The application mainly includes students information and a few short-answer questions. Students selected from this pool are assigned group interviews in late April and receive a decision by mid-June.
Two semesters of General Chemistry serve as a pre-requisite for this course and may not be taken as a co-requisite. TIs may receive AP credits for the first semester of General Chemistry.
BENEFITS AND OUR PHILOSOPHY
Benefits for the TIs
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, all of those fields require teaching. Doctors teach their patients, scientists teach their colleagues, pharmacists may teach their marketing team, etc. Everyone teaches someone, even if it is to convey something to the public or teach a child to tie their shoes. Knowing how to communicate ideas and recognize a person’s understanding are important skills that everyone will need.
In the process of teaching, TIs have stated improvements to their own learning, including their conceptual understanding of chemistry and science, their study habits, and the way they communicate their knowledge to others. Gaining such training and experience demonstrates responsibility, leadership skills, quick-thinking skills, and more to graduate/professional schools and future employers.
In addition, the program promotes networking and collaboration, as TIs meet and work closely with professors, fellow TIs, and other students – all from a variety of backgrounds who share common interests and goals.
Benefits for the Students
Professors are the experts in chemistry. This raises the question of the usefulness of having non-experts help students in their studying. Research supports the idea that peer mentors are valuable resources to their students due to their ability to connect on the same level . Peer mentors remember clearly what it was like to study General Chemistry, to struggle, to take exams, etc. and can offer help through a unique perspective based on their own experiences as a student. Likewise, TIs serve as role models for a diverse group of students, who may look to them for advice on majors, opportunities in their field, or simply their experience as a student thus far. Being more in-tune with the needs of students, the TIs are able to focus on individual needs while the professors focus on the broader scopes of the course
The TI Program is rooted in the theories of Social Constructivism, which states that people gain knowledge and skills through social interactions with others. Teaching interns are not lecturers, tutors, or teachers, but rather facilitators. TIs help students in general chemistry by teaching them to construct their own knowledge and make it meaningful.
Walk-In Office Hours
Walk-in Office Hours are intended for students to seek help on-the-fly, such that students can come in with the guarantee that they will find someone to help them. By reserving large blocks of time each week day and eliminating the need for appointments, these office hours aim to accommodate students' hectic schedules. These office hours are held throughout the day and in community spaces, such as learning centers, to promote accessibility.
Workshops are small-group learning sessions held at various times and days of the week throughout the semester. Each workshop has a specific topic and TIs are in charge of developing activities for students to work on in groups of 3-5. Two TIs run a single workshop in order to provide oversight on activity development and to optimize the student:TI ratio.
Active Learning Recitations
Active Learning Recitations (ALRs) are large, in-person recitations in which General Chemistry students work in small groups to solve activities pertinent to recent lecture material. Each ALR is held by a professor and includes the assistance of 4-6 TIs. TIs work with the same students each week, monitoring their progress and facilitating their understanding of the materials. In addition to the recitation itself, these TIs also attend ALR staff meetings with the professors to complete the recitation activity from a student perspective and to offer feedback for the final draft.
To promote active learning, some lecturers incorporate break-out groups in their classes in which students form small groups with those surrounding them to work on an activity. Similar to the ALRs, multiple TIs facilitate in a single lecture by observing the groups and intervening when needed. These TIs also attend staff meetings with the professors to go through the activities and provide feedback prior to the lecture.
Exam Reviews Sessions
As exams near, TIs hold large review sessions to answer general questions and discuss the relevant topics. TIs prepare some material ahead of time to initiate conversations, but generally encourage students to ask their own questions. Reviews are large sessions, and typically held in a lecture hall; however, TIs still use their pedagogical knowledge to engage the students and make these sessions interactive. Similar to the workshops, these sessions are conducted by two TIs.
Virtual Office Hours
Virtual Office Hours are conducted using the same online instructional technology as the online recitations. They are typically held 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.
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.