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Bringing Reality into Classroom

This is an overview of my typical experience of teaching at undergraduate level.

After developing my teaching methods in graduate courses, I was in a position to teach an undergraduate course in Physical Chemistry I; however, it is hard to apply a discussion-based method in a crowded undergraduate classroom. Almost all students in different disciplines in the realms of science and engineering have thermodynamics in their academic programs, and chemistry students usually believe it is boring and useless. In fact, they generally find physical chemistry difficult (due to the need for mathematics and physics backgrounds), and different from other branches of chemistry. In our time, a textbook like Physical Chemistry by P.W. Atkins was the main reference, and it is still, after several revisions. Thus, the subject is straightforward, and the students can easily capture the scientific content from their textbooks. In every class, it was assumed that all students had read the class topic according to the syllabus. The first 15min was to answer any question about any vague point they have encountered while reading the textbook. Then 30min was to assist the students to imagine the physical meaning of the mathematical equations (otherwise, mathematics is just a source of misleading; this is the reason that students make big mistakes in math). Another 30min was to introduce applications of thermodynamics not only in chemistry but also in social sciences (few examples for better imagination about the theories). The remaining of the class was open discussions about how these theories have been evolved and how to connect them to other subjects (mainly other branches of chemistry). As stated by the students, the course was so interesting, contrary to their expectation; I have no strict statistics, but many of those students continued their study in physical chemistry at master level (more than normal ratio among chemistry branches).
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