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"We teachers are rather good at magic, you know.”"


Continually striving for that magic, getting to know each student,

figuring out the best ways to facilitate their success,

and empowering students to believe in their potential

are what I enjoy most about being a professor!


Teaching is an intensely personal endeavor, for both the teacher and the learner. I thrive on the challenges of helping both the student and the instructor address educational issues and questions based on what is known to best promote learning. Being part of a committed team helping to create a dynamic, exciting learning environment, both directly and indirectly, is how I find the greatest professional satisfaction.


Coaching Learning

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While the instructor as coach of a team of learners may be considered by some as an overused analogy, I nonetheless, find this analogy a clear way to express my passion for teaching. I help students find and organize the information and concepts they are to learn before class through pre-class assignments, we practice using the concepts during class to start learning how to build skills, and then the students do the “workouts” after class to develop and refine their ideas, understanding of the concepts, and thinking skills.

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The idea is that when “game day” comes, be it a grade or a real life situation, the students will have the skills to make decisions that will serve themselves and society. It is exciting and gratifying to have the privilege to witness the determined efforts and ultimate successes of students in my classes. These successes come in both small and large steps, from simply getting students motivated and excited about what they are learning, to their success in helping their team answer a question, to coming up with a unique and innovative answer on a quiz, to earning an A in the course, to graduation.


My Classroom

The main goal of my teaching is to support students as they move from novice to more skilled questioners, to have the ability to ask questions scientifically, to develop their critical thinking and investigative skills, and to have an appreciation and understanding of key issues in life science and society. A critical learning goal is increasing the ability of students to make decisions based on sound evidence. With almost limitless access to information, students need to develop the skills of information literacy. Therefore, I do not use a textbook for the courses I teach. The information found in a biology text is readily and freely available online, with wonderful tutorials, videos, animations, and simulations to help students learn the concepts. At the beginning of the semester, I gather and post these web sites for students to use in a course management system, guiding students to appropriate sites and inviting them to find new ones to share with the class. But as they become more information-savvy, they find their own resources to answer the homework questions.

Instead of lecturing, I developed and implemented group activities and problems to help the students learn the concepts and learn to think scientifically. Lectures are limited to not more than 10-15 minutes of explanation before getting into the group problem solving activities. Prior to almost each class, students are required to read course material and complete a take home Reading Quiz. This prepares the students for the in-class group activities, where I, and my team of undergraduate Learning Assistants, facilitate their work, and conduct inter-team discussions. Student learning is then further assessed through problem based essay test questions, in the form of frequent Concept Quizzes (every 2-3 weeks).

Some semesters I also prep and teach the laboratory course that I redesigned for the Introductory Non-majors Biology course focusing on cell and molecular biology topics. These open-ended, student-designed experiments are not technically complex to carry out and do not require expensive materials or instrumentation. What they do require is that the students think: students come up with, carry out, and analyze their own experiments.

lecture.jpgI am committed to creating a learning environment that provides an opportunity for each student to experience science as relevant, useful, and interesting, and to give each of them an opportunity to discover that science is something they can learn to do. The main approach to my teaching, be it in the lab, the large lecture hall, or the small enrolment classroom, is to utilize teaching strategies that allow me to dialogue with students. Through this dialogue, I can see students as individuals and provide personal feedback to inspire interest and enthusiasm for biology, and help students develop confidence in their investigative and reasoning skills that will served them in all facets of their lives. Every new semester brings a room full of new challenges that I eagerly anticipate and work creatively to meet!




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