Observation: Introductory Biochemistry on Nitrogen Catabolism

Something that stood out to me in my mentor’s 8am 3rd year introductory biochemistry class was the format of delivery – he framed the lecture through a series of question and answer and scribed everything in real-time on the doc-cam.

It provided a logical flow and leveraged astudents’ previous knowledge (assuming from his frequent reference to previous lectures and problem sets) throughout the lecture – I think he hoped to convey how scientific inquiry is heavily based on relentlessly asking increasingly complex questions and continually connecting dots within your current network of knowledge. It also helped to pace the lecture and encouraged students to take notes while in class. He was very energetic and owned his space in his confident movement around the classroom. He even used a relevant and appropriate bathroom humour narrative throughout the lecture (e.g., how does toxic ammonia end up in the toilet) to motivate his students. He also incorporated normal physiology to explain why the biochemical reactions are proceeding in one direction, despite most of them being reversible – which I thought was powerful to emphasize to always zoom out and see the bigger context.

Given the large classroom and the tight time budget, he only pitched a few questions to the class throughout the lecture. He acknowledged each student response and elaborated on them as needed.

Overall, the delivery really seem to reward students’ ability to recall relevant information. The question that lingered for me after the observation is: how would he assess students’ level of competency and critical thinking in final exams?


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