Chemistry Blog Series: Dr. Kandace Hurst

by Gretchen Schneider | October 29, 2020


A native of Baton Rouge, Dr. Kandace Hurst attended Scotlandville Magnet High School.  She received her B.S. from Southern University and A&M College and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Louisiana State University. Dr. Hurst is currently a senior instructor for the LSU Department of Chemistry. 

Dr. Kandace Hurst
Dr. Kandace Hurst, Senior Instructor

Dr. Kandace Hurst joined the department in 2014 as an instructor and has rapidly become a vital member of the faculty. Annually, Dr. Hurst teaches close to 1,000 undergraduates. In a fall semester, she teaches two sections of CHEM1201 (~500 students) and a large section of SCI1001 (~50 students from the science residential dormitory). In a spring semester, she teaches one or two sections of CHEM1202 (~265-500 students) and supervises teaching assistants in nine sections of CHEM1212 chemistry laboratory.

Dr. Hurst’s extraordinary strength is her ability to communicate chemical concepts at a level the students can understand. As a trained educator through the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators (LRCE) and an experienced high school science teacher, Dr. Hurst applies effective instructional design models when teaching chemistry fundamentals. She values the importance of building trust early in the semester and utilizes student-centered instruction, in which learning is cooperative and conducted in a positive classroom climate.

What do you love most about being a college instructor?

I most love helping students to learn and make connections to their prior knowledge. I simply thrive on getting those "light bulb" moments.

As a certified secondary teacher, has your formal training helped you in being an effective instructor in a college classroom? If so, how?

Yes, it definitely helped. I taught general chemistry both before and after becoming a certified secondary educator. The contrast in my teaching style and how I interact with students was stark.

During the certification process, I learned about how students learn and retain information, how to make the information digestible, and the gaps in knowledge students will commonly have based on how courses are taught at the high school level.

"Above all, I believe that learning how students think has helped the most."

Teaching in secondary education requires a constant dialogue between the teacher and all kinds of students at various levels with different learning styles. I learned how to explain each specific concept several different ways, and which methods gave the most positive and reproducible results.

At the high school level, I had the ability to complete a trial and error cycle 4 times per day for a given topic and get immediate and direct feedback from 120 students. I can now broadly apply these methods so that I am targeting a larger swath of students in my course.

The Covid-19 pandemic sparked an urgent and unexpected request for previously face-to-face university courses to be taught online. What changes to your teaching methods, course design and organization have you found helpful in establishing an impactful distant learning experience for students?

I wanted to keep the content delivery and course format the same. Since my son was at home with me and learning remotely, I decided to utilize pre-recorded lecture videos where I annotate the lecture templates. I love to use color as a visual aid, and I like to write during lectures to encourage the students to do the same. Students can watch, pause, and re-watch as much as they'd like, and I make myself available for questions during office hours, appointments, or via email.

In addition to providing a course tentative schedule, I think that students have benefitted from having the content schedule embedded into Moodle using the "completion deadline" feature, which helps them to stay on track with the pacing of the course.

I also communicate a lot more with students. I send course updates, "how to" emails, and other important information that may not be directly related to the course or content.

What advice would you give college students that may feel disconnected to the college experience and/or struggling with online/remote learning?

"I would advise them to first make a daily, weekly, and monthly plan. Planning will make things tangible and help to provide a realistic picture of what their student workday should look like."

The transition from high school to college is difficult in normal times. That difficulty has been exacerbated by online/remote learning. In face to face classes, at minimum, there was a place to be on a given day and time. For remote learning, there exists the "option" to attend/engage or to watch the lecture video later. This makes it even more difficult for students to adopt a regular schedule of course activity.

What song do you know all the lyrics to? "

"Drops of Jupiter" by Train

Pumpkin spice: Love it or hate it?

I hate pumpkin spice flavored beverages, but love it in baked goods/confections.

Gretchen Schneider
LSU Department of Chemistry