Thursday, September 30, 2021
By Jennifer Keefe
When Professor of Biology Hemangi Patil saw her students were having trouble understanding how much time they needed to commit to her class to do well, she decided to do something about it. Hemangi, who earned tenure in April, used her action research project to create a way for students to help one another to be successful in her classes. It starts with creating a sense of accountability.
“I needed to do something that would help everyone,” she says.
Hemangi implemented her early intervention project on her BSC 1010C students. It was so successful that she’s been using it ever since.
First, she has each of her students complete a biology readiness tool. Once she gets the results, she divides her students into two groups, high and low achievers, based on their scores on the readiness tool. Then, she pairs a high achiever and a low achiever in the lab and the classroom for a period of six weeks.
“My hypothesis was that high achievers could teach the low achievers, raising the bar on how they were doing their work,” she says. “The low achievers would help the high achievers by giving them a chance to review the material.”
Both partners had lists of activities to complete, including meeting outside of class. Over the course of the six weeks, they had to report on their to-do list activities and on the progress of their partner on their list.
The first semester Hemangi implemented her early intervention in four of her mixed-mode classes. Then, she surveyed her students on their experiences in the class.
“Students were more confident to take assessments. Their task completion and test scores were significantly higher,” she says. “Also, final class grades were significantly higher and retention in my courses improved.”
Hemangi says she’s really glad she implemented her early intervention project, because it has been so successful.
“I wanted students to feed off each other to see what study skills really work.”
She says she teaches study skills to her students but they “stick more” when the ideas come from their peers. “They learn from each other really well,” she says.
Another best practice Hemangi often uses is the implementation of active learning techniques. She uses the flipped classroom environment, where students watch lectures at home and come to class for discussions and activities. Coupled with her action research project, she found that her students asked more questions and were more engaged and prepared.
“My classroom was more like solving, applying and using critical thinking, than reading a presentation from PowerPoint,” Hemangi says.
Her action research also fit her overall teaching philosophy, which is, “I cannot teach you every single point. Self-learning is important. You are in the driver’s seat.”
Hemangi also connects with students through personalized feedback and praise while giving students room to improve. She also considers herself a mentor to her students seeking careers in the sciences and even lets her students put on their “professor hats” to grade one another’s presentations.
“Peer review and peer interaction are really the ways they learn best,” Hemangi says.
Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.