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Faculty - Dr. Rebecca Rowe


Since my position here at the University of Maine is primarily a teaching position, I spend most of my time trying to improve the way I present the material to my students and to change the way students feel about chemistry and the sciences. Therefore, my teaching philosophy encourages the students to become proactive in their learning process.  Rather than teaching exclusively in a didactic manner, I encourage the students to become critical independent thinkers by using innovative teaching approaches.  Additionally, I believe facilitating a mastery of the subject of chemistry is but one piece of the preparation the students need for the eventual task of life after the college experience.  Thus, I also see my role as that of a mentor for the students.

I have found that the use of unique problem sets and quizzes promotes critical independent thinking by the students because it requires them to constructively apply the recently learned concept or idea.  These problem sets and quizzes help the students to master these concepts or ideas rather than trying to memorize them.  The problem sets and quizzes also serve as a gauge as to how well the students have understood the material and inform me if I need to review the material during a study session.

I try to use different innovative teaching approaches that encourage the students to use all of the different modes of learning.  This is accomplished in two ways.  First, I use   Molecular Models during my lecture.  Molecular models allow the students to see and touch the properties of a certain compound, such as the different conformations of butane or cyclohexane, or the stereochemistry of cis/trans isomers.  Secondly, I incorporate Mazur’s “Concept Tests” into my lectures.  Concept Tests are conceptual questions that are posed in the lecture along with a few possible answers.  Students vote on possible answers and are encouraged to talk over the possible answers with their classmates, and try to persuade their neighbors that they are right, and finally vote again.  Concept Tests encourage the students to think about, talk about, and master a concept in class rather than trying to figure it out alone.  This form of peer instruction is a very effective pedagogical method, and it provides me with immediate feedback as to how well the class is following the lecture.

Another approach I use to get across an important topic or concept is Demonstrations, or Demos.  Demos get the students excited about the chemistry they are learning about and helps to cement the concept in their minds so that they can recall it later back in their rooms.  Examples of some demos that my students have found to be quite fun are colored precipitation reaction involving metal ions, reduction-oxidation reactions, reactions of metals with acids, and reactions involving Le Châtelier’s Principle.  These demos and others have proven to be very effective teaching tools, which aid in the students comprehension of difficult subject matter.

Lastly, I believe that the role of the professor for individuals at this developmental stage in their life is about more than the teaching of the subject matter.  Therefore, I see myself as an advocate for the students.  This includes treating each student as an individual and being sensitive to the student who may be experiencing problems outside the subject of chemistry.  I feel it is important to become familiar with the services of the other departments in the college in order to be a better-informed advocate for the students.

Courses I teach are General Chemistry I and II (CHY 121, 122) Organic Chemistry I and II (CHY 251, 252) and Chemistry for Everyday Living with laboratory (CHY 101, 102), which is a course designed for non-science majors.

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