UD Education News: HHMI Award Supports Undergraduate Discovery

us medical research organization.

Active Learning at Delaware

On a blackboard in UD's Brown Laboratory, Harold B. White III, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and program director for the new HHMI grant, has written a Chinese proverb:"I hear, and I will forget. I see, and I may remember. I do, and I will understand." The words are a reminder, he says, that learning takes place faster and more effectively "when lessons are delivered in story form, and students participate in an active way."

Student Dennis Yoon of Park Ridge, N.J., agrees. Confronted with a photosynthesis problem-the process by which green plants transform carbon dioxide into biomolecules in the presence of sunlight-Yoon shakes his head. He learned about photosynthesis years ago, he says, by listening to traditional lectures. "I remember memorizing the entire process, step by step," he says. "Now, I don't remember any of it."

In contrast, Yoon and other students in White's biochemistry classes retain much of what they learn by investigating real problems presented in a story-like format. To prove this point, White surprised his students last week with an impromptu pop quiz, questioning them about a story he told in a previous PBL lesson.

"How old was Albert Szent-Gyorgyi when he died?" White asks.

"Was he 93?" a student responds immediately.

White nods, smiling. "Why did he win the Nobel Prize?"

"Vitamin C," someone else responds, correctly.

"Where and when did I meet him?" White queries.

"Uh, somewhere in Massachusetts."

White says that he did, indeed, meet the Nobel Prize winner at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, located in Massachusetts.

His quiz continues, including questions about how many times Szent-Gyorgi married (four) and the age of his last wife when he married her (19). His students can't be stumped. "While this was just a trivia quiz," White notes, "it shows how well information can be retained when it's presented

Contact: Ginger Pinholster
(302) 831-6408
University of Delaware

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