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The most memorable teaching session I have participated in.

2 min read

With thanks for Katherine for the open invite to participate.

An undergraduate student was refluxing a solution a solution of molybdenum hexacarbonyl and cyclohepatriene, taking the occassional sample and running the IR spectrum. A faculty demonstrator wandered up to them and asked them what they were doing? "Experiment Y", the student responded. "So why are you running the IR spectrum" the demonstrator asked. "To monitor the reaction" the student replied."How will you know if the reaction has proceeded?", the lecturer enquired. "New peaks?", the student offered hopefully. "How many and how will they differ your starting material?" the teacher persisted. "What has happened to the symmetry of the molecule?", "How does replacing carbonyl ligands with alkene donor effect the electron density?", "How will that change the bonding of the remaining CO ligands?", they coached, never instructing, always constructing a pathway for the student to come to their own understanding. "Now, what's the thermodynamic driving force for this ligand subsititution reaction?" the teacher continued...

This was 27 years ago now, I was the student and Manfred Bochmann was the faculty demonstrator. I've learnt four times from this experience. 27 years ago it was probably the first time I was guided to address a problem like an expert chemistry. 18 years ago I took it as a template for my own laboratory demonstrating style. At some point in the last decade I would have started classifying it as scaffolded constructivism. A few weeks ago I got to practice something similar on a leadership and management course and we termed it coaching. 

Thank you Manfred!