ASM events
This conference is managed by the American Society for Microbiology
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Teaching Responsibilities:

Class Class period length Classes per week Hours per week Hours per semester Semester taught Lab?
BIOL110: Human Biology
110 minutes
3
5.5
82.5
Fall '11, Spring '12
Yes
BIOL141: Microbiology
110 minutes
3
5.5
82.5
Fall'11, Spring '13
Yes
BIOL215: Emerging Diseases
110 minutes
3
5.5
82.5
Spring '12
Yes
BIOL289: Genetics
65 minutes
3
6.25
93.75
Fall '12 (2 sections)
Yes (separate 3 hour lab)
BIOL237: Cell and Dev Bio
65 minutes
3
6.25
93.75
Spring '13
Yes (separate 3 hour lab)

  

Student Learning Challenge or Problem:

Having taught one and a half semesters of biology courses at Beloit College, there are already a number of student learning challenges and problems that I am interested in addressing. However, it seems to me that many of these challenges share three common, over-arching questions:

1) How can I better design both formative and summative assessments to demonstrate long-term knowledge retention and learning? A typical day in a biology class of mine usually involves a short introductory mini-lecture followed by a variety of discussions, case studies, peer presentations, and other active learning exercises such as concept maps. The problem-based summative assessments I then use test higher-order cognitive functions, and I can use student performance on these assessments to demonstrate short-term learning gains at the end of a semester, but I am much more interested in the effect of my classroom activities longer term—if the case studies, concept maps, and discussions are in fact helping them learn the skills and concepts so that they can draw upon them in the future.
 

2) How can I design more useful pre- and post-tests that can be used to quantify learning gains in skillsets (such as problem-solving and critical thinking) rather than specific knowledge, but without relying on self-efficacy-type questions?
The learning goals for my courses address developing skills such as designing experiments, analyzing data, and developing and defending a position based upon data. But I am unsure whether my assignments and assessments are in fact helping students meet those goals, or more superficially just helping them learn the content required to demonstrate those skills only in the context of the specific course being taught. For example, at the end of the semester, I knew that my Microbiology students could look at data from a set of bacterial growth curves under different growing conditions and come to a conclusion about the metabolic requirements of that microbe, but I do not know if they are actually connecting the data in the graphs to the basic metabolic concepts they studied in class, or if they have merely memorized other forms of such data that we examined in class.

 

3) Is it more beneficial to student learning gains to use a larger variety of active learning methods, or, conversely, to use just a few methods with which the students can become very familiar and comfortable?
I often find that I return to certain active learning methods—usually concept maps—time and time again, because they seem to really engage my students, and it seems (at least from my casual observations as I walk around the room) that the students are “getting” the material better when they work on concept maps. But I sometimes worry that by having them learn different material using the same methods over and over again, I am just presenting them with a new method of memorizing information, or that after a while, since the active learning method is no longer new, that they are not in fact challenged to learn the material as comprehensively as when the method was new to them. And so I would like to design and implement a set of formative and summative assessments that could help me address this question.


Related Professional Development:

I have taken advantage of many opportunities to become a better educator. I studied scientific teaching principles in multiple University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Delta Program classes that included such topics as: mentoring undergraduate researchers, teaching and learning in an international classroom, and creating a collaborative learning environment. I also participated in and lead community outreach activities in the greater Dane County area for both adult and K-12 target audiences, such as leading an after school science club, designing activities for Microbial Safari days at UW-Madison, and presenting my research to an elderly community club. These opportunities helped me re-connect with the core, fundamental principles of my discipline and helped me improve my ability to communicate about science.

More recently, as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) teaching fellow in the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching (WPST), I expanded my knowledge while practicing the core principles of scientific teaching: active learning, assessment, and diversity. As part of this fellowship, I worked with other teaching fellows to design and teach a curriculum for a brand new introduction to biology research class, created and implemented a teachable unit, and quantified its effectiveness. Having completed the HHMI Fellows program, I began the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching Post-doctoral Program, which included serving as a facilitator for the 2011 National Academies Summer Institute for Undergraduate Education in Madison, WI. At the Institute, I further refined my knowledge and skills, as I was able to practice those skills learned in the Fellows program, facilitating a small group of biology faculty as they worked to build a teachable unit and learn the core principles of scientific teaching. This past fall I then lead a Scientific Teaching faculty development workshop at Beloit College, where I presented the core principles of Scientific Teaching to a wider, cross-disciplinary audience. Since August 2011, I have been a visiting assistant professor of biology at Beloit College, and I consider my teaching experience here to be my most important professional development of all. I have been able to put into practice all those principles, methods, and mindsets that I have learned so much about over the past few years, and am finally able to start analyzing their effectiveness in the context of my own courses.

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I really like your question #3 there. I often wonder that myself. Should i use think-pair-share often (do they gain proficency in it), or should I mix and match numerous methods to keep them thinking?
Posted 14:02, 19 Jun 2012
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