Director of first-year chemistry shares her best practices.
Aug 23, 2016 | Atlanta, GA
The College of Sciences has selected Carrie G. Shepler to receive the 2016 Eric R. Immel Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching. Shepler is the director of first-year chemistry in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
The award recognizes exemplary teaching in a foundational undergraduate course. It is made possible by an endowment created through the generosity of College of Sciences alumnus Charles J. Crawford (B.S. in Applied Mathematics 1971) in recognition of the contributions and accomplishments of the late Georgia Tech School of Mathematics Professor Eric. R. Immel.
“The effective teaching of foundational courses is critical to Georgia Tech’s mission to educate and train the next generation of scientists and engineers,” says College of Sciences Dean Paul M. Goldbart. “We are delighted to recognize Carrie, and thank her, for the tremendous difference she makes, including via her teaching of foundational chemistry.”
Here’s how Shepler makes a difference, in her own words:
“It’s less about trying to make a big impact and more about recognizing that I do impact individual students. We make impressions and affect others whether it’s intentional or not, so I try to be intentional about it. My goal is to set a good example – in treating others with respect, being passionate about my job, and enjoying life. I remind myself that students have so much more going on than my one class, and I remind them that they are part of a community at Tech that is full of people who can and want to help inside and outside the classroom.
“I’m a big believer in best practices for the individual. What works best for me in the classroom may not be the right fit for another educator. If you’re going to stand in front of students and get them to buy into what you’re doing in the classroom, then you have to believe in your technique.
“For example, I’ve been doing a lot of ‘flipping’ in the classroom over the past year. I deliver some content in class in a fairly traditional lecture, and I assign videos for students to watch outside of class for other material in order to free up class time to work problems. This method worked really well for me last year. It was new and exciting for me, and I believed that it was a good way for my students to learn. Because I was enthusiastic about it and could explain why I thought it was good for students, I was able to get them on board. However, I don't think it’s right for everyone.
“My best practice is to be thoughtful about what I do in the classroom and then communicate my deliberateness and intent to my students. If I explain that I ask ‘tricky’ questions because they examine important details, then students begin to understand that I’m serious about making sure that they learn the appropriate material to best prepare them for their future courses and careers. Otherwise, they could assume that I’m just a mean teacher determined to see them fail. Even when they don’t agree with my approach, the vast majority of Tech students appreciates that I’ve given my methods serious thought and that I have their best interest in mind.”