Rather than diving straight into material

Rather than diving straight into material

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Rather than diving straight into material, The latest version is at JBC Papers in Press. Published on October 2, 2019 as Manuscript AW119.008141 by guest on January 16, 2020 Downloaded from
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2 Professor Yorke Rhodes, III, spent the entire first lecture giving us a pep talk. “Don’t try to memorize and regurgitate information” and “this class is all about critical thinking”, are the messages he conveyed. I remember leaving class thinking that this class would be different from all of the other sciences classes I had taken so far and I was excited. Despite how good it all sounded, the pace of the course picked up considerably over the next few weeks. With our first midterm around the corner, I began to panic. Rather than trying to truly understand the course content and use it as a vehicle to solve problems, I resorted to what I had become quite good at: brute-force memorization. I do not remember anything about the exam itself. What I do recall is that I thought I scored better than my close friends in the class, based on our conversations and viewing the exam answer key. I ultimately scored something on the order of 55%, which I thought was awesome, given that the exam average was roughly 25%. Professor Rhodes happened to notice that I was ‘celebrating’ my grade of 55%. With a serious squint, he turned to me and said (paraphrased): “Neil, that's a good score, but you can do better.” My first reaction was to be defensive and wonder why Professor Rhodes would be critical after I had done so much better than the class average. However, I soon began to realize that this common pre-med mentality of just wanting to beat class averages and celebrating a grade of 55% made no sense. I began studying more seriously, both independently and in groups, building a relationship with Professor Rhodes, and working diligently to improve my problem- solving skills. I ultimately mastered the course material and properly earned the A grade I was striving for. Overall, the experience changed my perspective on learning in general, but also set me on a path toward studying and practicing organic chemistry for the long haul. Several important lessons can be gleaned from the aforementioned anecdote. One is the simple reminder that the student path of study is not straightforward. At least seventy-five percent of students will change their major at least one time during their time in college. The other takeaways, which will be discussed in more detail herein, center around topics in education. We should never underestimate the importance of how a subject is taught. For example, whether a class requires brute-force memorization or focuses on critical thinking skills has a profound impact on the student educational experience and what students ultimately learn. In addition we should be aware of the incredible influence our teachers have. Just a few words of encouragement or inspiration can change the student mentality, as it did when Professor Rhodes changed my life with a single sentence and a facial expression.
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