Teaching

TEACHING 


University of Wollongong
2019: Physiology, Animal Behaviour and Intro to Behavioural Ecology, Lecturer

University of Sydney

2017-18: Sexual selection section in Animal Behaviour, Lecturer
2017: Ecophysiology section in Tropical Wildlife Ecology, Lecturer

Oregon State University*
2010-2012: Human Anatomy & Physiology, Lecturer and Course coordinator
2012:          Vertebrate Biology and Evolution, Lecturer and Course coordinator
2011-2012: Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, Lead Lab Instructor, and developed all lab curriculum
2007-2010: Vertebrate Biology and Evolution Lead Lab Instructor, and developed all lab curriculum
2007-2012: Human Anatomy & Physiology, Lab Instructor (TA)
2006-2007: Introductory Biology, Lab Instructor (TA)

 

*Recipient of the 2010-11 Frolander Award for The Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant at Oregon State University

Philosophy

Supervision and mentoring of research students

One of the key reasons I have pursued research is to involve others in the excitement I feel for discovery in the pursuit of understanding the natural world. One of the most rewarding ways to involve others is by mentoring students at undergraduate, Honours and postgraduate levels. I feel strongly that my role is to teach my students how to be a scientist. Although research production is crucial, I take a patient and heuristic approach to mentoring students through the research and writing processes, by letting them make their own discoveries but also supervising them so they do not go astray - and they succeed! Importantly, I have learnt a great deal from my students, and with each experience I have grown and improved as a mentor and a scientist.

 

Teaching
 

As an instructor, I aspire to infuse students with my passion for biology and critical thought. I believe all students are capable of rising to intellectual challenges. It is my job to create a classroom environment that encourages intellectual risk-taking and critical thinking. I enjoy designing engaging course material. 


In any class there is bound to be some traditional lecturing, but I have always found ways to incorporate active and deep learning philosophies in every class I have taught. Active, deep learning techniques engage students beyond simply listening; they are designed to emphasize skill mastery, require analysis and evaluation of problems, while making connections between “facts” and theory which yields a broader synthetic knowledge (e.g. Marton 2018). Entry level biology requires that students “learn the language”, yet I feel that students should be asked to make connections between overarching concepts, and I center in-class discussions around peer-reviewed literature, so they learn to think like a scientist at every level of their education. 


Active learning techniques work in STEM (Freeman et al. 2014), and are especially helpful for STEM students from traditionally disadvantaged groups (Eddy and Hogan 2014). One of the best ways to learn new material is for students to engage and discuss with it classmates (Handelsman et al. 2004; Boud et al. 2014). Working in collaborative groups is an essential skill all scientists must master to be successful. I believe that it is critical to make explicit the ground rules for group work and emphasize to the students that their education, and that of others, requires a space where everyone feels comfortable learning and sharing ideas, which requires them to respect group members and be sure that no one is left out or behind—teaching someone else is the best way to learn. 


Therefore, in my lectures, I have employed group problem-solving, in-class worksheets, and student response systems (SRS) with and without peer coaching. SRSs allow me to “check in” with the students to: 1) assess their current knowledge of a subject prior to lecturing on it; 2) instantly evaluate attention and comprehension; 3) facilitate discussion group activities; or 4) gauge if they need a quick break to stand up, stretch and regenerate ATP. I have used SRSs to measure the positive correlation between physical presence in lectures and test scores. To ensure student participation outside of class, I use Blackboard/Moodle etc for pre-lecture quizzes, introduce peer-reviewed literature on discussion boards before lectures, and have students write example exam ‘quality’ questions and to answer those of their classmates (for incentive I tell them I will use the hardest (but fair) questions on the exam; they can be diabolical!). 


When I lecture, I strive to get students to do more than just listen; they need to engage their whole mind (and body!). For example, in Human Anatomy and Physiology lectures, I ask students to imagine the physical feelings felt during various situations that might relax or stress them slightly (e.g., sitting on the beach watching the waves or public speaking) which serves as a segue to a description of the physiological processes that occur during the stress response (juxtaposed to relaxation), which I helped them palpably experience. Then they make the connections between the physiological systems with the symptoms, which makes it real for them.


Finally, I aim make course learning objectives clear and explicit, as well as my expectations of the students (workload, dedication, best practices). I offer the students advice on learning strategies and tell them what they can expect from me in my role as their instructor. 

 

References
Boud D, Cohen R, Sampson J (2014) Peer learning in higher education: Learning from and with each other. Routledge
Eddy SL, Hogan KA (2014) Getting Under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structure Work? CBE-Life Sciences Education 13:453-468


Freeman S, Eddy SL, McDonough M, Smith MK, Okoroafor N, Jordt H, Wenderoth MP (2014) Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111:8410-8415


Handelsman J, Ebert-May D, Beichner R, Bruns P, Chang A, DeHaan R, Gentile J, Lauffer S, Stewart J, Tilghman SM, Wood WB (2004) Scientific teaching. Science 304:521-522


Marton F (2018) Towards a pedagogical theory of learning. In: Deep Active Learning. Springer, pp 59-77