College of Sciences and Arts Dean David Hemmer has tapped Paul Charlesworth, Associate Professor of Chemistry, as this week’s showcase member.
Chemistry Interim Chair John Jaszczak, says Charlesworth “has been teaching and innovating in CH 1150 (University Chemistry I) so long that he is likely to be the “Doc Berry” to scores of Michigan Tech alumni when they think back to their days in chemistry as undergraduates.”
Charlesworth often teaches “U-chem 1”, which includes some of the very largest sections on campus with fall enrollments of more than 700 students. The large scale, however, doesn’t keep him from trying new ways to meet the instructional challenges of engaging, challenging, and assisting students in learning chemistry. Charlesworth’s lectures have multiple components that help keep the students engaged and actively learning by interspersing lectures with opportunities to work out short problems, collaborate with neighbors, respond with iClickers and contextualize concepts with live demonstrations.
After visiting one of Charlesworth’s classes for peer evaluation last fall, a fellow faculty member found himself inspired by what he saw, writing: “I found Dr. Charlesworth’s teaching method simple, gimmick-free, effective and easy to follow. The level of classroom engagement was evident from the high number of students answering his [iClicker] questions…..After visiting Dr. Charlesworth’s class I now believe that dissemination of knowledge is possible is an extra‐large classroom.”
Since CH1150 students are usually first‐semester, first‐year students, it’s important to Charlesworth to help students develop broader academic skills for their subsequent academic experiences at Michigan Tech. According to Jaszcak, Charlesworth provides “a very clearly structured curriculum and a wide variety of different opportunities for engagement in learning, including making them easily available on Canvas.”
In fact, Charlesworth was an early adopter and champion of Learning Management Systems like WebCT and Canvas and has been known to experiment with a wide variety of technologies and collaborate with others to organize and ensure diverse learning opportunities are available to students.
But innovation for its own sake is not Charlesworth’s goal. He works toward improved student learning in chemistry. Thus, he routinely assesses student learning through a variety of means, including participating with the University’s outcome assessment for his students in regard to Undergraduate Student Learning Goal 2: Knowledge of the Physical and Natural World.
He also realizes that not all course innovations work out as he might have hoped. Many students, for example, are able to score well on iClicker questions and online homework, and yet score poorly on exams. Humbly. Charlesworth continues to make changes, saying “It looks like there is still plenty of work to be done.”
But it’s clear that this constant examination is paying off. Hemmer summarizes Charlesworth’s contribution when he says
Placing outstanding instructors in introductory science classes is critical for Tech’s effort to improve student retention. Paul’s dedication and engagement in the classroom is reflected in the impressive outcomes for his students over many years. He is an incredible asset to Michigan Tech.
Charlesworth will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with the other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.