Roger Geise is a professor of Chemistry and Biomedical Science at Northeastern University. One fine day, he had asked his students to write him a note on the back of their quizzes during lectures, as a way of communication between him and his students. Surprisingly, a few students turned in drawings. Here, he came up with an idea. These doodles inspired him to encourage their creativity in order to better understand advanced coursework. Thus, he asked them to explain the concepts through cartoons.
According to Giese, asking his students to draw cartoons for homework instead is a more memorable way to master complex concepts. It is better than writing traditional responses for assignment. He was immediately impressed with the effort students put into their drawings. He would assign reading to the students and then assign them each to create a cartoon related to the overall theme of the article they read. Then, these students get their grades according to how well they understand and communicate the concept rather than their artistic ability. They can redo the cartoons until they come up to full credit. When the first assignments came in, Giese was impressed with the energy his students put into the activity. The cartoons vary in style but are always filled with creativity. An example of a beautiful illustration was a scene of a box too large for a delivery truck, showing how CRISPR gene-editing tools can be difficult to use because the key molecules are too big for the body to transport.
Some of these illustrations or doodles were so remarkable that Giese printed them in a larger size to hang on a bulletin board near his office so more people could see them. Most of Giese’s biochemistry students are studying pharmacy. Hence, he wanted a way to bring in some pharmacy topics with this assignment.
Giese says that the strategy was to bring in current pharmacy concepts that were “over the students’ heads to some degree” that could keep them up to date with the industry. It also helps give students a general understanding of biochemistry that they can draw on later in their careers.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman