Instructional Strategies in Organic Chemistry Teaching: Perception of Science and Agriculture Undergraduate Students in Botswana

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Effective teaching and learning in any subject at any institution are dependent on the instructional strategies used. This is a major factor responsible for the level of performance in any subject by the students. Learning difficulties can be solved to a great extent by using appropriate teaching methods. Different approaches can be adopted for instruction in order to induce, promote and direct learning. The instructors can impart knowledge by lecture method, team teaching method, demonstration method, discussion method, audio-visual instruction, activity method, tutoring method and complementary method etc (Subair, 2001).

Different methods of instruction have been implemented in Chemistry classrooms. Abraham's (1989) research on instructional strategies reported that students exposed to the laboratory/discussion had higher test scores than those in the lecture or reading groups. The study at the Wayne State University, Detroit involved integration of multiple teaching methods into a General Chemistry classroom that enhanced students' participation and aided mastery of the material (Francisco, Nicoll and Trautmann, 1998). The introduction of multiple teaching strategies promoted active learning in Organic Chemistry. The study suggested reading worksheets, dialogues, in-class worksheets, and role-playing when used in a consistent fashion in conjunction with interactive lecturing, provide a broad base to facilitate student learning and could also aid in the development of higher order thinking skills (Harvey and Hodges, 1999). Coppala and coworkers (1997) identified five principles that were giving out the implicit rules, using Socratic instruction, creating alternative metaphors for learning, using authentic problems to elicit authentic skills and making examination reflect the goals. These principles guide their instructional design and help students develop their higher order skills. A different approach to the sophomore Organic Chemistry course in which the lecture was replaced by small-group problem-solving sessions at the Princeton University has been described (Bradley, Ulrich, Jones and Jones, 2002). Kovac (1999) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville introduced student active learning methods in his Chemistry teaching such as Concept Tests, Cooperative Learning Workshops and was encouraged by creating a successful learning environment. Wilson (1994) introduced weekly writing assignments in his Organic Chemistry course. This writing-to-learn experiment has been a success and has also been recommended by his students at University of Kentucky, Lexington. Teaching Organic Chemistry with student-generated information, an indirect approach provided greater opportunity for learning for students at the College of Holy Cross, Worcester (Jarret and McMaster, 1994). Felder and coworkers (2000) discussed a wide variety of teaching techniques that have been implemented and proved effective in imparting Chemical Engineering Education.

In Botswana, the University of Botswana is the only tertiary level institution where Chemistry is taught to undergraduate students. The lecture method appears to be the most dominant teaching mode in Chemistry classrooms here. It is a process by which the teacher conveys knowledge, ideas and information, through speaking. The instructors use chalk and board and overhead transparencies projector (OHP) for delivering the lecture. Molecular models are used to explain the tetracovalency of carbon, geometry of different hybridized carbon atoms, and the stereochemistry around carbon carbon double bond and chiral carbons. The traditional lecture format however does not actively involve students in the learning process although it does have useful purposes such as covering large amount of material. The performance of students in Organic Chemistry by undergraduate students in Botswana has not been satisfactory and the teaching methodology has been a subject of discussion among the educators. …


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