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Observation of Andy Ryans Chemistry class, Friday, January 24, 2014, room 209, 10:30-1:25, room 209, 11 students

As I arrived in class a minute late, students were settling in and had taken out the sheet with problems that would be main focus of todays class. They were seated in the u-shaped tables, with a block of five boys nearest the door, a block of five girls next to them, and Adam Branovan at the end. Students were preparing their notes, talking comfortably, and cheerful. You began with a brief review of homework and mentioned some of the key topics (proportionalities, the combined gas law) of the days lesson. You initially led the problem-solving at the white board, narrating and explaining what you were doing and asking students questions. Students were focused on you, paying attention, and some were writing what you noted on the white board. The next exercise involved several groups of three students who came to the board to write solutions to problems. This worked well and succeeded in directly involving 9 students. However, the ones not writing at the board were less engaged. Later you (re)introduced the work of Avogrado on molar volume and led the students through several other problems, all of which were focused on what I would describe as algebraic approaches to constructing and simplifying problems. These were challenging to students, and although they understood and followed your explanations, I did not sense that they had gained the confidence to succeed on their own. The overall atmosphere of the class was positive. At times, the exuberance of certain students became silly and sophomoric, especially the block of boys. They are at ease with you and eager to have you join in the banter, which you generally resist. There is clear respect for your knowledge and expertise in the discipline, and students listen and take notes when you identify important material. One concern is that the group self-identifies as not especially strong in chemistry/science, and you may unwittingly perpetuate that self-perception with comments like, for those of you with aspirations of moving on to physics. Believing that they are capable of success is an important ingredient for a students success.

At certain times your tone was difficult for me to pinpoint. You clearly are both very knowledgeable about chemistry and devoted to your students, but the transition from moments of levity to serious work was sometimes abrupt and hard to follow. (I suggest that you might have a few of your classes videotaped to study students reactions to these shifts in tone). Overall this was a well taught and successful class. Thank you for many contributions to Newark Academy. I look forward to your upcoming substantial.