Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bad Vs Good Chemistry Education

When I enrolled in college, I was pretty sure I wanted to major in biology and absolutely sure that I didn't want to go into a medical profession. In fact, I selected my college partly based on the number of biology classes offered that were not pre-medical in nature. Thus, I found it particularly ironic (and painful) when I was required to jump through a variety of hoops designed to eliminate individuals on the pre-med track who were not serious enough to actually be accepted to medical school. The most significant of these hurdles was chemistry. While I didn't learn much chemistry as an undergraduate I did learn a lot about education (and how it shouldn't work). The flaws in my undergraduate chemistry education became all the more apparent when I took many truly fabulous and truly educational chemistry classes in graduate school (courtesy of Professor Pam Mills, at Hunter College).

As an undergraduate biology major, I was required to take 18 credits of chemistry (8 credits of inorganic chemistry and 10 credits of organic chemistry). This is a good and reasonable requirement for a biology major since a solid understanding of chemistry is undoubtedly helpful for understanding the biological world. Sadly, the chemistry classes weren't designed to be educational. In fact, on the first day of class, the chemistry professor stood up in front of the lecture hall and told all 600 students that the primary goal of the class was to weed out people who couldn't get into medical school. Thus, the university would consider the class a success if it caused everyone who couldn't hack the medical school admissions process to change majors, transfer to a different school, or even drop out of college altogether. The professor seemed like a nice guy; I suspect that he wasn't comfortable being involved with a chemistry class that was designed to be an ordeal in the medieval sense of the word and the one thing he felt he could do about it was to describe the situation openly.

By the standards that the university set for the class, it was a success. When I began my second year of chemistry, there were only 200 students left. By any other measure, I'm afraid that the class was a failure. One semester my average was 55%, but, thanks to the curve, I received a B+. Obviously, most people were learning even less than I was. (This is something I try very hard not to dwell on when I need to see a doctor.)

But what made these classes so bad? As an educator, this is a question that I have spent a lot of time considering.

On the surface, the chemistry classes appeared to be run in a professional and reasonable manner. If the designer of the chemistry sequence was asked to explain the pedagogy, undoubtedly there would have been three or four learning tools mentioned. Information was supposed to enter the students' brains during the lecture periods and from reading the textbook. That information was supposed to be consolidated by completing problem sets for homework. Finally, there were the chemistry exams, which were intended to measure learning. Unfortunately, at no point was there any opportunity discuss ideas, ask questions, or get real-time feedback. This lack of opportunity to talk things through and have questions answered was, I believe, the single biggest problem.

There have been many, many research studies that demonstrate that learning must be active in order to be effective. It is absolutely essential for students to be able to take in information, manipulate it in their minds, put it out in a new format, and receive feedback to ensure that their understanding is accurate. Exams are not particularly useful feedback; by the time a test is given and graded, it is rather late to be telling a student for the first time that his or her ideas aren't quite right. Instead, the real function of exams in chemistry, or any other subject, are to motivate students to study and to provide a relatively objective method of certifying that learning has taken place.

Fortunately, chemistry tutoring is almost the exact opposite of the classes I endured as an undergraduate. In a tutoring session there is nearly constant discussion, questioning, and feedback. This allows students to explore ideas and create understanding. It is a very effective way of developing a real understanding of challenging content and learning how to solve problems.

It's true that private tutoring is generally one-on-one and is therefore very difficult to compare to large college classes. However, there is evidence that a properly structured large class can be quite effective. Indeed, there is a great deal of exciting research being done to discover more effective ways of teaching chemistry. Of course, that research is utterly useless if chemistry classes are mis-used as filtering devices. I do hope that my experience in undergraduate chemistry was the exception to the rule.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Advantages Does A Private High School Offer Students?

If you are thinking of putting your child in a private high school instead of a public one, you should do some research on the features to look for. You will find that most private schools offer some advantages that you cannot get just anywhere, but you need to sift through them to narrow down your search. You should learn about a few of the top benefits that you may find at schools of this type, and then you can decide if they are important to you. You can then look for schools with these features.

One of the most important details of a good high school is small class size. Many public schools are overflowing with kids, as each class might have upwards of 30 or even 35 students. However, many private institutions limit the size to about 15 to 20 kids per class. This is a good thing because it allows each teacher to offer every student more attention, which tends to improve the ability to learn. Therefore, you should keep this in mind when looking for schools for your child.

Another feature to look for is a range of interesting classes. For example, while the typical high school might only offer Spanish and French as foreign languages, private schools often have several other languages to choose from. This is especially important if your child is actually interested in studying a particular language that is not usually offered. Of course, many colleges tend to look at a wide range of classes as a good thing, since they can teach students more varied subjects than usual. If you want your child to have a chance to take unique courses, you should find a high school with several classes to choose from.

In addition, some colleges actually work closely with schools to make sure students are prepared to get an advanced education. This means that teachers are careful to teach skills that can be used in college, along with advanced coursework when appropriate. Also, college counselors may be on-hand to talk to students and give them advice. If you think your child could use some help of this kind, which would likely help prepare him or her for college, you should look into schools offering these features.

A simple visit to the website or campus of a local private high school could give you the answers you are looking for. If you think your child would benefit from and appreciate these advantages, you should start researching. You are sure to find at least one location that offers these benefits.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Best Schools - Resources To Help You Find The Ideal School For Your Kids

If you are looking for the best schools for your children, you have several resources to check out. Whether you plan to send your kids to a public, private, or charter school, you should take a look at the ratings and reviews given to local options. Find out where to learn the information you need in order to make a good decision.

You should first talk to other parents in your area and find out where they send their children. Ask them if they are happy with their choice, and if so, why? Most parents have a few things they like about their child's school, and a few things they would change if possible. Get to know all of the details, and then ask if they would recommend their child's school overall. You can also ask your kids to find out from their friends what the best schools are, since they have likely heard both rumors and facts from others in your city. All the information you gather will help you make a decision, so do not count anything out.

You should also check official ratings to find out the best schools. There are many magazines and websites that focus on ranking several of the best educational institutions at all grade levels. Rankings can give you a good idea of where each school stands according to the experts, but you should also find out why exactly each educational institution received its rank. Make sure the top programs and most impressive details apply to your kids, since otherwise you may end up picking the wrong option for your children. Just because a school is the top ranked for most students does not mean it is the ideal pick for your family.

Finally, you should find out for yourself why the best schools are so highly ranked. Schedule a campus tour so you can get a close look at the property. This also allows you to direct your questions to the tour guide so you can get immediate answers. For most parents, campus tours are enlightening, especially when the kids are brought along to offer their first impression and ask their own questions.

You want your kids to not only get a good education, but also be happy. Finding out about the best schools can help you achieve this goal, and these tips can help you make a decision. So start talking to friends, reading the ratings from websites and magazines, and setting up campus tours as soon as possible.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How to Write at the University Level

A key skill that universities require from students includes writing. Each undergraduate should be able to master this craft with practice.

To accelerate the process, here are some tips:

    References - Avoid plagiarism by citing sources properly.

    Style Guide - Each online college has its own set of rules. Popular style guides include APA, MLA and more. Determine which one is utilized, and then start researching their nature.

    Authority - Write in an authoritative tone. This means choosing sources that are reliable. In an open online atmosphere, anyone can place information on public websites. However, the student's ability to use sources that are trustworthy will separate success in writing from failure. Some examples of credible sources include newspapers, government data and more.

    Outlines - In many instances, the lecturers will supply an outline for theses and research papers. Following this sketch makes writing easier. The student's ability to follow directives will also contribute to the final grade.

    Objective Writing - Rather than writing subjective material, university level writing for an essay, research paper or thesis should be neutral. To accomplish this, students should paint two sides of the story, then create conclusions based on evidence.

    Brainstorm Topics - Create a working session to come up with topics that are interesting, but also practical in terms of finding sufficient resources for the paper or essay.

Additionally, online students are usually able to consult with students and professors through email or an online forum.

Quick Tip: Many top online universities recommend that students break down large writing projects into small tasks - then piece it together in the end. Doing so makes the assignment less overwhelming. This also allows students to spend quality time on each sector verses rushing to complete it in the end.

Quality work shows and is marked by higher grades. Recently, Online Colleges, a comparison site, conducted a study on how procrastination affects grades. In the study, the Ohio State University Research Department revealed that students who put off assignments usually receive inferior grades that average 2.9 out of a 4.0 grade scale.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Work And Get An MBA

Are you currently in the business work force? Have you ever wanted to further your education and get an MBA? It's a common thought of most who have entered the work force recently and are looking to move up in a company. Without an MBA, you can't go too far with just work experience. So how do you get an MBA without leaving work?

Most business people are probably asking this question and the answer is by getting an MBA online. There are more programs online than you would think that offer an MBA online and at an affordable price. It's a great option for those who are looking to further their education and climb the corporate ladder.

Here's how you can get started:

- Start searching for an online MBA program and as you search, start to consider the requirements and details of the program. Are you starting to see how easy it is? It's much easier than people think.

- Read reviews on MBA programs and consider what others are saying about their degree and coursework. It's important to get views from others and know how their experience was. Their insight can help you select the best program.

- Which programs offer the expertise you need? Some programs are more specialized than others and offer specific courses in different fields. Consider getting a more specialized degree or being more general and well rounded in your studies. The degree depends on the field you want to work in and what employers are looking for.

- Consider the amount of hours for completion and the price. You will notice that the price of MBA degrees online are reasonable and not expensive compared to traditional degrees that require you to be on campus.

Are you convinced about getting an MBA online? It's a big decision, so don't try to make up your mind in one day. Carefully plan your decision with plenty of research and insight from others. Online MBA programs are great resources for people in the business world and could be your way to a better and more fulfilling position.

Start by doing basic research of MBA programs and see what is available. At least inform yourself by inquiring and gathering information. Even if you don't want to return to education just yet, it's better to know what's available for the time you need to get an MBA. Star searching, get educated and improve the business world with your knowledge.