I am passionate about experiential, active learning that is problem-based, social, interdisciplinary, quantitative and leverages technology. Though borne out of my own experience as both student and instructor, my approach is also influenced by the examples of such thinkers as Professor Eric Mazur and Sir Ken Robinson. Good teaching practices should be rooted in scientific study, not anecdote; and much of this philosophy is well borne out in the educational research literature. Pieces that have been particularly influential for me include the evidence for the value of collaborative problem-solving in science education (Anderson et al. 2011); the immense evidence for active learning, (Cornelius-White 2007); the road-map for quantitative, interdisciplinary and research driven biology training (Bialek and Botstein 2004). I am also interested in how approaches such as the use of social media (Junco, Heiberger, and Loken 2010) and peer instruction can bring some of the benefits of small classes into large lectures.
I have been an instructor at the Bodega Phylogenetics Workshop (2011), an intensive 1-week course that draws about 40 students from around the world to learn the latest methods in phylogenetics. I teach a section on comparative methods and basic programming. I taught upper-division undergraduate students in biology, mathematics and computers science through the NSF training initiative CLIMB (Collaborative Learning at the Interface of Mathematics and Biology) program at UC Davis in spring and summer of 2008. A diverse group of eight students designed and conducted a research project into meta-population dynamics of avian influenza and organized a conference of academics, state epidemiologists, and representatives from chicken industry to present and discuss their findings. I have been a teaching assistant for introductory biology (1B), a lab-driven course introducing students to fundamentals of zoology. I have been involved in outdoor education for eight years, where I have gained experience in group dynamics and facilitation, leadership theory and active learning. On campus I have helped lead the Graduate Student Teaching Community, where graduate students and post-doctoral fellows can discuss and practice new teaching strategies. I’m a member of the Center for Learning and Excellence at UC Davis. I also enjoy educational outreach, particularly where it combines active learning, technology and biology. I’ve worked with middle school teachers on how to use simple computer simulation software (netlogo) to provide an exploratory approach to teaching ecology and evolution in the SIRC program, and have gave a guest lecture on ecological dynamics at University of the Pacific. I’m a member of the National Lab Network and I keep an open teaching notebook where I reflect on my experiences.
While teaching with CLIMB I had the chance to work alongside a graduate student from the UC Davis department of Education who was writing her thesis on the program, and first introduced me to some of the recent research in effective education. Davis has several excellent research programs in higher education, within the education department and beyond, such as the physics education research track and the highly successful Physics 7 program, as well as the CLIMB program. I am quite interested educational research and a scientific approach to education, and as such try to follow a bit of what is going on in the educational literature. The papers mentioned above provide some of the foundational philosophy towards education. I maintain a Mendeley reading list of articles I encounter that may be of interest to others wanting to know more about educational research.
Anderson, W. A., U. Banerjee, C. L. Drennan, S. C. R. Elgin, I. R. Epstein, Jo Handelsman, G. F. Hatfull, et al. 2011. “Science education. Changing the culture of science education at research universities.” Science (New York, N.Y.) 331 (jan): 152–3. doi:10.1126/science.1198280. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21233371.
Bialek, William, and David Botstein. 2004. “Introductory science and mathematics education for 21st-Century biologists.” Science 303: 788–90. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14764865.
Cornelius-White, J. 2007. “Learner-Centered Teacher-Student Relationships Are Effective: A Meta-Analysis.” Review of Educational Research 77: 113–143. http://rer.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.3102/003465430298563.
Junco, R., G. Heiberger, and E. Loken. 2010. “The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades.” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (dec). doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00387.x. http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00387.x.