Panelist: Stephanie Dingwall



Assistant Professor of Teaching


Research Area (or Specialization): Enzymology, Physical Biochemistry, Biochemical Education

Relevant course(s) name/number, approx. number of students, and short descriptionBCH 100 – Elementary Biochemistry (~800 students/yr).  Graduation requirement for most life-science majors, non-majors course, mostly juniors, some sophomores and seniors

BCH 110B – General Biochemistry (~150-180 students/yr), majors course, often the most difficulty of the 110ABC series, encompasses intermediary metabolism, mainly juniors

BCH 015 – Introductory Biochemistry Lab (~200 students/yr, 30+/lab section), sophomores/juniors, some seniors


Teaching or learning problem/challenge that made you rethink your learning model or approach or try something new

  • The “Elementary” moniker is misleading: it is a rigorous 10-week sprint through the year-long majors’ series.  Due to this condensed format, many students struggle with the sheer amount of material in such a short period. In addition, it is a survey course where students cover many different topics, and so must learn different approaches to each topic.
  • Frequently, students don’t know where to start, how to study, or have difficulty transitioning quickly from one topic to another.
  • Biochemistry has an infamous reputation of being one of the hardest classes at the university (previous fail rates – before me – were quite high).
  • Retention of course content was low: memorization/regurgitation, little to no concept connection
How you addressed that challenge (if applicable, what technology, learning strategy, etc. you integrated to do so)

  • I created blank templates for metabolic pathways to show students how to study, understand, and retain the material – active learning IN class, as I drew the pathways with them on the document camera
  • We use Piazza as a discussion forum.  Students have a more robust (and no-stakes, as questions and answers are anonymous) way to participate in the course by not only posing but answering each others’ inquiries.  This allows students and instructors to gauge their understanding and performance in the course.
  • Perhaps one of the most effective methods used thus far is online office hours using the web-conferencing platform.  Students type out their questions via the chat function, and the instructor responds by means of microphone and the whiteboard feature in Zoom.
  • I started recording weekly vignettes (~2 minutes long) to preview what we would cover that week.  This precluded announcements – and thus precious time taken away – in class. These vignettes often included study tips, exam information, and anything else that might be course-relevant.
How students responded, any challenges, and lessons learned

  • Students have openly accepted the implementations, raving about the templates. This type of active learning shows students not only what to study but how and why
  • The Piazza discussion board is a great way for shyer students to ask questions. It is anonymous if they choose, so they can ask as much as they want. In addition, students appreciate others asking questions they themselves may not have thought of, so they can see how others are thinking.
  • Students who attend online office hours are very appreciative of time outside typical school hours, during their “study time,” where they can ask questions and get immediate feedback.
  • Students were very appreciative of the weekly vignettes, because they knew what to expect.
    I have several pre-recorded videos using the UCR Learning Glass, and students have indicated that they would like more, perhaps on a weekly basis

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