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My Teaching Responsibilities

I teach at both ends of our curricular spectrum; I teach a 300+ student introductory biology lecture course in the fall term, A senior level writing seminar in the spring term (14-15 students) and the Junior and Seniors in Biochemistry during the 6 week summer term.

Teaching Challenges

 Ther are many but I believe that my greatest teaching challenges involve the first year students. The University of Pittsburgh over the past 10 years has made a huge effort to recruit high achieving students mostly from the local area (eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Western PA) so the incoming students are much more likely to have taken multiple biology and chemistry courses in high school or AP classes. You would think that having all these well-prepared students would be a teaching dream and it would be if their high school grades truly reflected some learning but every fall I have at least 10-30 students tell me that they got a 5 on the AP test and don't understand why they are doing so poorly in this introductory class.The sincere ones, the ones that really do want to learn will start coming to office hours (mine or the TAs) and get help.The vast majority will remain quiet and at the end of the term I will be getting students pleading for extra credit assignments. 

I'm sure I am not telling you all anything new -- these stars of their high schools come in believing that study habits that worked in high school will work fine in college ( I remember being one of those students). But it frustrates me because I see this pattern every fall and want desperately to break it.  I'm thinking of borrowing a technique from Bill and Sheri Wischusen at LSU.--During the first recitation of my fall intro bio course I will give the students a test, one of the exams from last year, and see how they do. My exams emphasize application questions, so this should be a shock to them and I hope it will give them a clearer idea about my expectations.

Of course, having students perform well on higher order thinking assessments means that I need to provide them with lots of authentic practice, which is going to be a big challenge for me since I will not have much time in the summer to develop new materials.

My professional development goals

1. Become competent in Backward design so  can align class assignments, materials, content and assessment

2. Figure out how to facilitate student learning and retention--I want to run a class wherin the students study to learn and not just to pass an exam.

3. Collect data on the efficacy of the structural changes that I have made in the intro course and publish (I know that is another residency one that I've had colleagues attend.)

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