Lander University Lecturer of Chemistry Dr. Ashton Davis, the winner of this year’s Young Faculty Teaching Award, specializes in making general education chemistry courses more accessible for students.
Before beginning work at Lander in 2020, she was a chemistry learning specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a role in which she served as both an academic coach and leader of CHEMpossible, a learning group for students in introductory chemistry courses.
She has continued teaching general education chemistry courses since arriving at Lander. In 2021, she became coordinator of the Chemistry 105/106 sequence, a position that involves working with instructors to standardize curriculum and policies among different sections. Davis developed course-specific materials for the Chemistry 105 lab, including a recitation assignment, a recitation activity PowerPoint for instructors, quizzes and grading rubrics.
“Recitation takes place during the first 45 minutes of lab and includes a few select problems from the previous week’s content. The instructor can go over the problems at a slower pace and answer questions from students,” she said.
Students need all the help they can get, according to Davis, who earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Florida.
“Most students taking CHEM 105 are first-semester freshmen, and the transition from high school classes to college classes is a big one,” she said.
She helps students in the classes she teaches by giving them “low-stakes opportunities to test their knowledge. We have frequent quizzes and clicker-type questions so students can see what they know and what they don’t know. The exam is not the time for students to realize they didn’t actually know the information.”
She devotes classtime to “working problems together, developing those critical- thinking skills, and shifting from passive memorization. It is important that students learn how to think instead of what to think.”
Davis said she has enjoyed her time at Lander.
“The small classroom size allows me to interact with all the students and learn their names, and lends itself to more group activities in class. I appreciate the support given by my dean and chair to try new things in the classroom and coordinate the CHEM 105/106 lecture and lab courses,” she said.