Teaching is my opportunity to share the wonder of biology with students. I believe that teaching is really facilitated learning, where students engage actively and responsibly in the construction of their own scholarship. It is a student-centered activity that fosters creativity and innovation.
My teaching is strongly influenced by the principles of active learning created by Diane Ebert-May and concepts of scientific teaching developed by Jo Handelsman and colleagues.
In both the classroom and laboratory, my students practice asking questions, collaborating with each other, proposing hypotheses, generating and interpreting data, and integrating knowledge from different disciplines to synthesize a coherent and complex understanding of biology. I help students develop higher order thinking skills by asking them to identify links between apparently separate course topics. Together, we revisit concept fundamentals as they appear repeatedly in different contexts. In addition to active learning exercises, I include science-in-the-news, student presentations, case studies, and experiential learning in my courses.
In some courses, I employ project and problem-based learning (PBL) to create opportunities for active discovery. PBL gives students hands-on experience integrating concepts with big picture questions. To fulfill PBL objectives, students practice finding, synthesizing, critiquing, and presenting information in a useful way. Students use video, writing, webpages, oral presentations, posters, plays, and artistic constructs to effectively convey the complexity and excitement of their findings.
In concert with guiding students in their development as innovative, responsible learners, it is important to me to nurture an atmosphere of mutual respect that values diversity in its many forms. Diversity refers to variation in culture, knowledge, phenotype, perspective, experience, childhood, economics, country of origin, ability, religious and political views, personal identity, personality, learning styles, life experiences, and life goals. In addition to creating a nurturing atmosphere, I foster diversity by creating different kinds of assignments with ample opportunities for students with variable strengths to demonstrate learning gains. It is important to me to get to know my students and discover what is important to them.