Our latest monthly post from the Forum committee, Dr Glenn Hurst from the Department of Chemistry reflects on working collaboratively to facilitate active learning.
Following their FORUM workshop on active learning, Glenn Hurst and Jill Webb, from the York Management School worked together once again to facilitate a component of the new summer activity for students studying Natural Sciences in Chemistry. Glenn and Jill specifically designed this activity to help students to apply their understanding of first year chemistry to establish and run a sustainable chemical company.
The half-day activity challenged students to work effectively in small groups (4-5) to build a business case that they pitched to the “dragons” in the hope of gaining an investment. Students had to manage their time very effectively in order to choose their product, design a synthetic route that was both green and scalable, consider costs and advertise the product to their target audience. Students even took the initiative to collaborate with other companies (other groups) to combine their expertise.
In order to further enhance their personal development skills, all communication between other groups and the instructors had to be made via a telephone call. Students identified that making telephone calls was “the most daunting form of communication; even more than doing presentations”. Being able to effectively communicate on the telephone is an essential skill for most forms of employment and we took this as a perfect opportunity to develop this further.
After the groups of students had formulated their business strategy, they prepared a short (10 min) presentation, which they then pitched to the dragons (to include Dr Brian Grievson, senior lecturer specialising in industrial placements for chemists). This proved to be an excellent opportunity for students to practise how to deliver presentations and communicate science to their peers in a fun and low-pressure environment, for which will form part of their summative assessment in second year.
Further to enhancing their personal development skills by working in groups and communicating effectively, the activity allowed students to contextualise their knowledge in the “real world” incorporating a strong business element to improve their commercial awareness. This activity was designed based on the requirements of companies wishing to recruit graduates. We hope that in completing this activity, it will contribute towards developing the employability skills of our students whilst enhancing the degree of constructive alignment within our degree programme.
A more detailed account of this component of the summer activity together with a discussion of the other constituents will be provided in the upcoming Autumn 2016 edition of our institutional FORUM magazine.
Glenn Hurst, Department of Chemistry