As I look back on my capstone in chemistry experience, I am glad that I was able to take part in this class. Capstone courses are meant to tie several disciplines together while encouraging engagement in the world, and I think we achieved these goals throughout the course of the semester. This blog is one way in which we have been able to express our thoughts about the topics covered in our class discussions. Writing about science in this style has been a unique experience. As a chemistry major, I have been accustomed to writing in a style that is usually a little more formal and quite a bit more structured. Being able to communicate scientific knowledge with others is one of the hallmarks of being an effective scientist. If one possesses knowledge but cannot express it in a way that is meaningful to others, one may just as well not possess this knowledge at all. After reading an article each week, discovering more about the contents of the paper on my own and with the help of my classmates, and discussing the topic at the end of the week, this blog was another way to capture my thoughts. The things I enjoyed most were the class discussions that we had each week and how we, as students, were responsible for a large portion of the class.
To me, the role that we, as students, took in this class made it a class that could only be undertaken by students that are ready for a capstone experience. This class most likely would not have been as successful if taken by a group of underclassmen. From the beginning of the semester, we were responsible for discovering things on our own, using resources of our choosing. Not only were we responsible for finding this information, we then were charged with explaining this information and teaching it to our classmates. Once we started discussing academic articles each week, we had a large amount of input as to which topics needed further investigation, each person reported to the class on these topics, and took turns drafting questions that would serve as a guide for an engaging discussion with our classmates.
Class discussions can be very helpful and productive when done in the right way. As a student, and in life in general, it is easy to think of discussions that are neither helpful nor productive. Many students dislike group activities in classes, for a variety of reasons. Some of the chief complaints are that their fellow students don’t participate, participate to the point of dominating the discussion, are unwilling or unable to listen to or validate their classmates’ thoughts and ideas, aren’t prepared, or take comments made by others too personally. None of these complaints seemed, to me, to be an issue during this class. Each of us took turns acting as discussion leaders, so we had a mutual appreciation for the amount of extra work put into preparing for class. After spending time researching and learning about the deeply scientific, academic facets of each topic, it was nice to have time in which we could explore the effects that recent developments and further research might have on society. We were able to engage in dynamic conversations each week, because we entered the discussions with similar intentions.