Benjamin Turnpenny

Ben Turnpenny
Benjamin Turnpenny Photography: Binghamton University.


If you could choose one word or phrase to describe how you work, what would that word be and why?

Adaptable. Having over 900 students a semester means that I have students from all different chemistry backgrounds and they learn in different ways. For me to be effective as a teacher, I have to try various techniques in relaying the information to the students.

I like to have my lecture seem as small as possible, which is difficult with each lecture section holding around 200 students. Instead of just talking at my students, I like to interact with them as much as possible by having them participate. I know that chemistry is not an easy topic to learn, so I try to keep a laid back and approachable attitude in class.  

How do you keep track of all of your work? Do you use any apps? Gadgets? Other solutions?

I use MS powerpoint for my lecture slides, MS word for my quizzes and exams, and MS excel for tracking the student assessments. I team teach my course with other faculty as well, so to share the information, we post on google drive and dropbox. For online homework, labs and quizzes, we use LON-CAPA, which is free for students to use. I also have a team of 20-24 grad students to teach my labs, and 30 undergraduate TAs to help with proctoring, facilitating, and grading of individual assessments, although I guess those do not count as apps or gadgets.

For my lecture, I use a tablet to move around the classroom while I am teaching and interact with the students and I can draw on the slides to highlight the material. I also use iclickers, not only for attendance, but to break up the lecture and get instant feedback if the material I'm teaching is making sense, or if I have to go further into detail. To see how the students are receiving the class, I use mid and end of the semester surveys, in addition to the university's surveys, through google forms, and use the feedback to evaluate what is working and what needs to be changed.

With the large lecture, I use the Center for Learning and Teaching's Learning Studio for a special set of office hours that I host, where students can physically attend, or they can live stream online through WebEx if that is more comfortable for them. There, using OneNote, I post some practice problems, and the students help me to work through the problem and come up with a solution. I can answer any questions for the students that are there in person, and for the ones watching the stream, they can also send in questions through the live chat to my moderator. For those who cannot make it during that time, I have the session recorded and post up to Panopto through MyCourses after. This allows me to track what videos the students watch, and how many of the students are participating, and how that relates to their overall performance in my class. I can also build a library of these videos, so each year I can post new practice problems for more help to the students.

Are you an Apple person or a PC person? Both? Why?

PC, I tried an apple computer once, but because I use Microsoft products so heavily, it is much easier with a PC.

Describe your workspace, either at home, work, or both. What is it like?

Internally organized, externally controlled chaos - I'm working to improve the external part.

How do you recharge yourself when you’ve been doing a lot of work?

Sports, either watching or playing - Binghamton Rumble Ponies games are always good for that.

Are you a night owl or an early riser?

With a one year old son, I can be either one.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Is there something in everyday life that you find yourself being the go-to person for?

Spelling, which helps me with crossword puzzles, but I am terrible when it comes to definitions.

What are you currently reading?

A Dance with Dragons (GoT)

What is the best advice you’ve ever received about learning and teaching?

Remember what its like to learn.