Devon Haugh ‘18, a chemistry tutor, noticed a pattern—and a dilemma—in her work. Her tutoring sessions were completely booked by Chemical Principles students who typically worked on the same homework and asked the same questions, leaving little time for students from the other classes she tutors—Physics, Calculus, and Organic Chemistry. Her solution? Haugh initiated an effort to create an environment for Chemical Principles students to come together, ask their questions and learn from each other in a clinic sponsored by the Quantitative Reasoning Center (QRC).
Haugh’s idea came from her own experience visiting physics clinics to get help with her studies. “Why don’t we do the same sort of thing where we can help students work on the same sorts of problems together, and then we can also help them along the way?” she questioned. While one-on-one sessions can be beneficial, working in a group with students who are all trying to grasp the material may be more effective. “It can be better for students to work together in a group because they are actually working on the problems and struggling through the material and bouncing ideas off of people who are also struggling through it,” she explains. “In this way, they figure out ways that work for them to do it. In clinics, you go at your own pace, and you can figure out ways that help you solve problems.”
With the help of three other Chemical Principles tutors who encountered the same scheduling dilemma, Haugh approached Emily Hanstch, Director of the QRC, about setting up a chemistry clinic to help students review for finals. Both review sessions were packed with students, leading Haugh and her fellow tutors— Rosario Giufré ‘18, Sarah Abbott ‘17, and Colleen Adler ‘18—to organize clinics throughout the next semester. Currently, they offer two-hour clinics on Sunday and Tuesday nights.
For students who may feel that they still need the one-on-one setting, but might benefit from the clinic, Haugh’s suggestion is simple: Come to both. “For people who might really need the one-on-one help, we might say ‘You might want to go to tutoring so that you can get a foundation, and then come here,’” she explains. “There are four of us who do the clinics, and we’re all the Chemical Principles tutors too, so we always say, ‘I’m free at this time, or another tutor is free at this time.’”
For clinic leaders like Haugh, an influx of students participating in clinics might mean more students to help, but also means more lessons learned. “One student who knows the topic a little bit better may be able to help the others out,” she explains, putting the responsibility of learning back on the students. “The students are the ones actually working on the problems, going through the notes, and—at the end of it— the ones who ask, “Okay, is this right?”
With students taking the initiative to teach and work with one another, Haugh’s role in developing the chemistry clinic has put her more behind the scenes, helping when she can, but ultimately letting students come up with their own solutions for working through their problems. “I think that the role of clinic leaders is to facilitate an environment where students can come and better their understanding of the things around them,” she says. “Even if they never use chemistry again, I think it’s important that everyone learns how to work through problems. You’re always going to have things that you are going to need to work through and you will need to figure out a way to get through them.”