What do we hope to accomplish when we are teaching? Students will learn the material, become excited about the material, learn to think critically? Ultimately, I think most of us are hoping that our students will connect, or engage, with the material. There is evidence that getting students to engage with the material is an important process in the learning experience (e.g., Umbach & Wawrzynski, 2005). I recently tried something new in an attempt to help my students make that connection. This is my story of an assignment that successfully helped my students connect with the material.
Now here’s a good idea—developed and used in a large, nonmajors chemistry course. In groups of four, students worked on the development of “a current or historical idea in the field of chemistry.” (p.35) The teacher helped by suggesting potential topics such as chemical bonding and the law of the conversion of matter. Based on