Faculty Spotlight: Annaliese Franz

Dr. Annaliese Franz, assistant professor of chemistry at UC Davis, explains that she uses educational technology tools to “engage students and bring real-life case studies into the classroom that highlight the ways that chemistry relates to daily life.” At least once a week, Franz shows video clips of news reports or product applications, as well as other news articles, to “help set the stage” with case studies that connect to the equations and molecular structures discussed in the course.

Additionally, Franz developed a project where the students select a chemistry concept of their choice and “find a creative way to ‘teach’ the rest of the class about their concept” by creating their own YouTube videos! Students also submit a written component of the assignment that includes a full description of the concept (including molecular structures) and a script for the video.

Franz structures the project so that there is time at the end of the quarter for a peer-review component, which ensures that the students learn from their classmates’ work while critically analyzing the video content. “This year,” Franz explains, “we used the chemistry department Facebook page to share the videos more easily. The students watched and critiqued their classmates’ videos for factual information and the overall value of the video to communicate the concept and capture the viewer’s attention.”

Examples of student YouTube projects include:

  • a zombie cartoon about hydrogen bonding,
  • a music video parody about acids and bases,
  • a film noir who-dun-it about the type of chemical reactions involved in the synthesis of heroin,
  • a guinea pig who had to learn about cyclohexane ring structure to lower his cholesterol and get scuba-certified, antioxidant super-hero stories,
  • a Lego animation about catalysts,
  • a gummy-bear animation about the mechanisms of substitution reactions, and
  • infomercials about antioxidants in wine and beer.

Franz reports that the students are “very enthusiastic” about this project, which she suspects is partly because “they do not expect a large lecture-format science class to require creativity and use so much technology for assignments.” In particular, the students are excited “to see what concepts their classmates picked and the different creative formats.”

“The idea for this assignment,” Franz further notes, “is based on recent reports that have described the value of self- and peer-explanation strategies to enhance learning and conceptual understanding.” For more information, check out the following articles: 

  1. Smith, M. K.; Wood, W. B.; Adams, W. K.; Wieman, C.; Knight, J. K.; Guild, N.; Su, T. T. Why Peer Discussion Improves Student Performance on In-class Concept Questions. Science, 2009, 323, 122.
  2. Tanner, K. D. Talking to Learn: Why Biology Students Should be Talking in Classrooms and How to Make it Happen. CBE Life Sci. Educ., 2009, 8, 89.
  3. Ablin, L. Student Perceptions of the Benefits of a Learner-Based Writing Assignment in Organic Chemistry, J. Chem. Educ. 2008, 85, 237.
  4. Chi, M.T.H.; de Leeuw, N.; Chiu, M. H.; LaVancher, C. Eliciting Self Explanations Improves Understanding. Cogn. Sci., 1994, 18, 439.
  5. Paulson, D. R. Active Learning and Cooperative Learning in the Organic Chemistry Lecture Class, J. Chem. Educ. 1999, 76, 1136.

You may also enjoy an article Franz published in the Journal of Chemical Education last year: Organic Chemistry YouTube Writing Assignment for Large Lecture Classes.

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