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Luke McDermott ALS 6015 Teaching Philosophy Statement Chemistry has often been called the central science, because chemistry underpins many other sciences (Biology, Physics, Chemical Engineering, Material Science) and spans the gaps between microscopic and macroscopic views of the world. This necessity is a blessing and a curse. Chemistry is incredibly powerful in explaining huge pieces of nature, but the enormous diversity presents challenges in covering necessary topics and connecting chemistry to the needs of each specific discipline. My teaching philosophy addresses this incredible breadth and depth of subject and audience. Goals for Student Learning The position of chemistry as the central science causes a diversity of students to take its courses; undergraduates from chemistry, biology, physics, pre-medicine, pre-dental, chemical engineering, material science, and more all attend chemistry courses with different backgrounds and goals. My goal is that they will walk away from my courses with passion for knowledge, confidence in their abilities, deeper critical thinking processes, advanced problem-solving techniques, a broader support network, and specific knowledge. I believe these techniques will fight what Lee Shulman calls the pathologies of learning: amnesia, fantasia, and inertia. Amnesia is forgetting what was previously known. Fantasia is misunderstanding but not being aware of the misunderstanding. Inertia is being unable to apply knowledge to problems. In my own undergraduate career, I struggled with all of these pathologies of learning in a chemistry curriculum full of large lecture-based classes and grueling laboratories. Outside of the chemistry department, I found learning a joy as a German Teaching major, International Studies major, and Chinese Language minor. In these subjects, I was consistently placed in live situations that required my classroom knowledge. This made all the difference. Fortunately, my chemistry career was not stifled by this. In graduate school for physical chemistry, an entirely different view of chemistry surprised me. The culture shock was palpable. Instead of sitting through anonymous lectures, I found myself in group meetings, seminars, and laboratories working closely with others trying to solve problems and communally understand difficult concepts. Previously I had difficulty staying awake in lecture classes, because my only task in class was to copy what the teacher said or wrote. But in graduate school, I found out that chemistry was more than books and was actually essential to solving problems in my research group. Graduate school left medeeply convicted that chemistry is fundamental to humanitys understanding and manipulation of nature

Teaching Method As chemistry is the central science, chemistry must also be the center of the classroom. When the teacher becomes the focus of the classroom, students can fall prey to inertia and become unable to relate previous knowledge to the class. When the student becomes the focus of the classroom, students struggle to battle fantasia and recognize the differences between their own understandings and the subjects reality. My teaching methods must allow chemistry to come alive as the center of the classroom. Especially because of my transformative experiences of chemistry in graduate school, I strongly emphasize group-work in my teaching. After I introduce concepts, students are given time to consider a related problem individually. Then, they work in groups towards a final answer. This cycle is repeated several times per lecture. The focus on the problem allows thesubject to dominate the classroom. This style heals learning pathologies. Group discussion battles fantasia by forcing students to articulate misunderstanding. Problem-solving overcomes inertia by students applying knowledge immediately.Group dynamics cure amnesia by attaching context to concepts. Additionally,in-class problems break up lectures and give time to digest new information. The immediacy gives useful feedback to students and teacher. And working together is a realistic approximation of life outside undergraduate education. Assessment of outcomes The ungraded in-class group-work allows me to accustom students to my assessment techniques. Graded assignments include biweekly quizzes, problem sets and exams. In-class group-work, quizzes, problem sets and exams all feature similar question formats. The similarities lead to perceived fairness among the students and give me feedback on questions before assigning problem sets and exams. The goal of quizzes is to prepare the students for the high-pressure, individual work of exams. The goal of problem sets is to continue the learning processes started in class with the help of other students, teaching assistants, and the professor. The goal of the exams is to fairly assess individual learning. Professional Development The Center for Teaching Excellence at Cornell provided a lot of essential information to help me grow as a Teaching Assistant and future faculty. At other universities, such centers will also play a great role in my own desire to improve as a teacher. More importantly, faculty mentors have and do play key roles in helping my teaching improve. Having a mentor sit in on a class gives a safe way to obtain peer feedback.

Inclusive Learning Environments The deep individualism of modern society and technology offers obstacles to inclusive learning environment. By emphasizing group-work, my classroom offers a subject-based community that cannot be found online or within an individual. Bringing chemistry to the center of the classroom allows the teacher to become not merely a lecturer and grader, but also a guide and resource to open up the world through the central science.