At our school, Concordia College, everyone is required to take a capstone course before they graduate. It does not necessarily have to be in your own field of study but each capstone has the same goals of integrating interdisciplinary, experiential, and liberal arts learning. I (in my opinion) lucked out and there was one related to my chemistry major. So I found myself in early September walking into neurochemistry having no idea what I was in for. Looking back on the whole experience now, I realize what a special class it was.
In my opinion, the basic premise and goal was to make us students take on the teaching with our professor. You could also look at it like our professor was taking on the learning with us. We did not sit in class Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and watch Dr. Mach speak at us for an hour and forty minutes. Rather we sat in a circle and struggled to decipher the topic for that week. See, Dr. Mach would give us a topic and journal article at the beginning of the week. Everyone read the article before class on Monday and came with lots of questions, and believe you me, we sometimes had no idea what anything was. But we were just beginning. Then we each took a topic and came back on Wednesday as ‘experts’ in that little area and taught the rest of the class what we knew. And finally on Friday, outside the confines of a classroom, we would break up into two groups and discuss based on the topic. Most of the time we would end up exploring the social implications of this hard science that we had been weeding through. It gave us lots to think about. It seems to be a daunting task to find a way to show the public how these little things in your brain can affect so much of your life and well being. But we haven’t solved all of those problems…yet!
As you can probably tell, this class was not the most rigid class ever. We as students needed some modifications for how we were doing things. Standing up in front of everyone on Wednesday was not fully getting our points across to each other so it changed. Be began ‘speed dating’ and instantly fell for it! We learned the topics better when two people tackled each topic and then we got to speak on our subject, one on one, with each of the other classmates. This solidified our topic in our own minds and allowed us to freely ask questions of others. I really feel like I learned more this way and concepts stuck with me better. I’m glad this way of learning afforded us the option to adapt.
For me personally, this unique course taught me something very useful and exciting beyond simply mixing the biology and chemistry of the brain and learning about different diseases that plague people. This course taught me, and this may sound silly to some of you, but it taught me how to really truly dig through a scientific journal article that is thick with science jargon that I may not know. I am so much more confident in this area than ever before. I really didn’t have to do it very much my first three years of college, but having to do it every week and spending ours deciphering take home exam articles really taught me what I think is a valuable skill. Don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating at times learning about all the repercussions of concussions and the beast that is obesity but what truly stands out to me is this skill that I was not even looking to get better at. I didn’t even know I needed to improve in this area and that makes it even cooler. This course taught me the unexpected. I really do appreciate the new skills it has taught me as a senior in college.