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 Summary of Teaching Responsibilities


Course Name


Enrollment per year

Biology II


BI 106


Sensory Biology


BI 142


Biology Freshmen Seminar


BI 189




BI 339


Invertebrate Biology

Lecture & Lab

BI 350


Animal Behavior

Lecture & Lab

BI 399




BI 450



Essay 2: Student learning challenge or problem

At Juniata College, I teach a host of courses that are geared primarily for science majors. However, I believe an important part of teaching at a liberal arts institution is to find ways to excite students outside of your discipline. One means to this end is the use and creation of two-page comic book stories in my introductory and non-majors courses.

The l use of comics in education and as a viable strategy to promote student literacy is not a new concept.  Educators have been using comics in the classroom for over sixty years with the goal of improving literacy, increasing student interest and motivating children to read. Comics have also been found to be useful to train students in the language arts, teach collegiate physics, outline business ethics as well as explain the maintenance of military equipment and promote public health understanding in underdeveloped countries..  Will they work for science education and promote science literacy across the curriculum?

Relative to science majors, non-majors are less motivated and less interested in science and as a consequence, spend less time studying it (Knight and Smith, 2010).  A pedagogical tool that engages students, motivates them to read, helps them understand basic scientific concepts and makes the whole process fun would be quite useful in the science curriculum and promote science literacy among non-science majors.

The initial results from my work indicate that when comics are used to teach science, all students learned the material and their opinions of science improved. However, the studies published in our CBE-LSE paper raised more question than were answered. I believe with more systematic training in classroom research approaches and SoTL research methodology I will be better equipped to design more comprehensive and meaningful studies to evaluate the impact of using comics in the classroom. Specifically, I am interested in the learning impact and knowledge retention by different student populations (e.g majors versus non-majors, K-12, non-native speakers etc.). It is for this reason I am particularly motivated to be part of the research residency.


Essay 3: Professional development experience

My work with educational comics has been ongoing since 2006 when I received and NSF-CCLI grant to develop a text in comic book form. As part of the grant I was required to develop an assessment plan. This requirement caused me to take my first, unsteady steps into the scholarship of teaching and learning.  Over the last six years that path has led me to a position on the board of Juniata College’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Center and this year I am serving as the Center’s director.

In preparation for my year as SoTL Center director, I applied to and participated in ASM’s Bioscholar Assessment Residency. This has proven to be one of the most fruitful experiences of my professional career. While I had been moving toward more scholarly teaching for years, this intensive four-day workshop pushed me to a new level. As a result I believe I have become a more effective instructor and SoTL director.

In terms of my work as a comic book creator, I have written and drawn six science graphic novels as a professor at Juniata (Clan Apis, 2000, Sandwalk Adventures, 2003; Zoo Break, 2005; U.F.O.: Unidentified Floating Objects, 2005;Optical Allusions, 2008; Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth, 2011).

Of course, it is one thing to create educational comics but it is quite another to demonstrate that they are effective teaching tools. I needed to find objective ways of assessing comics as pedagogical tools.  Results from my first published study indicate that comics might be a valuable way to teach certain aspects of sensory biology (Hosler and Boomer, 2011). Just as the Assessment Residency pushed me to be more aware of student outcomes and their value for improving my classroom effectiveness as well as benefiting my students, I believe the Research Residency will move me to the next level in my SoTL research and allow me to design and implement more sophisticated and meaningful analysis of the impact of comics on student learning and knowledge retention.

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