Shaking things up

(Edmonton) As he prepared material for his Festival of Teaching class, University of Alberta geochemist Kurt Konhauser compared his education to the schooling his current Science 100 students receive.

“I got my undergrad education at the University of Toronto, where it was old-school, hands-off teaching,” said Konhauser. “Only in my fourth year could I put the content of all my science courses into a big picture of what science is. But first-year science students here get a cohesive picture of all the science right from the get-go.”

For his FoT class in Earth Science on March 15, Konhauser will take his 30 Science 100 students back to the earliest days of this planet. “My Science 100 course looks at the environment when life first arose—the chemistry of the oceans to the physics at play with meteorites bombarding the planet,” said Konhauser. “It ties together a lot of disciplines.”

Konhauser is a great believer in PowerPoint presentations, which he says give students the best visual representation of the concepts and allows them time to listen rather than transcribing notes off a whiteboard. His teaching style has evolved since his first class in front of first-year students a few years ago.

“I sat in on other lectures and took in visiting speakers to get a feeling for how others transfer their knowledge,” said Konhauser, adding that research helped shape his teaching goals.

“Instead of just teaching for the entire 50 minutes, we have discussions, and my focus for the students is that they take away concepts of Earth science, not just bullet points of facts.”

Konhauser’s FoT lecture is this Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Biological Sciences building, Room CW 410.