As a scientist, I believe it is critically important that all citizens have a basic understanding of the scientific process. This is societally important whether the student will become a research scientist or something completely unrelated. Thus, a common goal I have for my students in any teaching situation is that they learn how to critically assess evidence to form conclusions. Different courses have different specific goals within that framework, but this is what I like to see regardless of the course material or audience. This is fundamental to understanding how science works and the value of basic research in addition to all higher-level scientific concepts.
My experience is that students are most successful in courses where traditional lecture is used sparingly, student engagement and hands-on activities are emphasized, and students are given the opportunity to discover the excitement of scientific discovery themselves. For example, my best teaching experience thus far was as a teaching assistant for an invertebrate zoology course, where students were introduced to material via short lectures and then spent the rest of the day in the field collecting organisms, in the lab dissecting and figuring out how these organisms worked, and designing and implementing their own short-term studies. Providing students with opportunities to teach each other material via group presentations, jigsaw readings, and short presentations is also very effective and can develop skills that students who choose careers in science will need.
I believe students appreciate being told clear learning outcomes before they even sign up for a class, so that the student and instructor both agree what the course is trying to accomplish for the student. Assessments should be tailored to directly reflect learning outcomes, and many students do best when assessments build to allow for reflection and improvement. For example, in a course that aims to give students skills in scientific writing, having several drafts of a scientific paper turned in for peer review and instructor comments before a final, graded draft can help students to build skills gradually over time and identify their personal areas for improvement.
I worked with undergraduate students as a teaching assistant in small, field-based courses (Invertebrate Zoology, Marine Birds and Mammals, Marine Symbiosis, Biological Illustration) at a marine laboratory where hands-on activities and individual research projects were emphasized, and I taught weekly lab sections as a teaching assistant for a core Genetics and Evolution course at a private research university. In addition to undergraduate courses, I have worked extensively with K-12 students doing science outreach and education and mentored two undergraduate students undertaking independent research projects.
As I continue to develop my teaching skills, ongoing reflection and assessment of my own strategies is important to me. I participated in a college teaching certificate program at Duke University, which included formal courses on pedagogy and peer teaching observations and reflections. I also hold joint office hours with other teaching assistants so that we can continually learn from each other’s teaching styles. As a scientist, I expect myself to keep up with the latest literature and consider new evidence in my work; teaching should be no different and I expect my teaching style to evolve over time as pedagogical research continues to narrow in on best-practices for student learning outcomes.
I am equipped to teach large general biology courses such as Ecology or Evolution, as well as field-bases courses in Invertebrate Zoology, Marine Embryology, Marine Ecology, and Deep-Sea Biology. I would also like to emphasize critical assessment of primary scientific literature through small seminar courses in Visual Ecology, Animal Signaling, or Animal Camouflage.