My Teaching Philosophy: Evidence based and intellectually rewarding.
My training as a behavioral ecologist and my desire to treat my teaching and advising with as much rigor as I treat my research has led me to develop philosophies that are reliant on empirical evidence, focused on achieving measurable learning gains, and able to pique my curiosity as a scholar. All three of these themes have resulted in strategies that are uniquely effective and personally gratifying. Below, I describe the development of each component of my teaching philosophy.
I consciously rely on evidence to both plan my teaching strategies and to assess my teaching effectiveness. My reliance on evidence in teaching has led me to investigate the education literature to identify several best practices in instruction, such as using flipped classrooms to maximize student and teacher interaction, utilizing formative assessment and backward design techniques, and seeking to motivate students through their own innate curiosity. Because I am looking for evidence of learning throughout my teaching, I incorporate formative assessment to frequently monitor my students’ progress and re-evaluate class plans. I have found that this frequent assessment has led me to more quickly pinpoint students who require extra guidance, as well as those who I can use as leaders in the classroom.
Another area of my teaching that has been directly affected by my evidence-based philosophy is the realization of the meaning of the cliché “active learning.” This process is, in fact, a redundant phrase. “Active learning” is the only process by which any learning can occur, as engagement with the material in any setting and through any mechanism can affect a person’s behavior. The classroom or lecture format should encourage students to search for answers by posing learning goals as questions, engaging students when they have questions instead of quickly providing answers, and encouraging reflection when students proclaim to have finished a particular activity. The key, I have found, to encourage active learning is not simply providing “hands on” activities, but rather to pique interest and nurture inquiry whenever possible.
I have strived to develop my scholarship in education. As scholarship stems from pursuing innately rewarding questions, I have found that this practice compounds the satisfaction that I obtain from teaching. So far, my research in education has focused on three projects: 1) the role of a small class intervention on increasing retention among first year undergraduate students on academic probation, 2) the effect of perceptual models in students’ understanding of complex process, and 3) the use of evidence-based reasoning skills by students majoring in science versus humanities fields.
As my teaching and research philosophies have converged, I have come to accept an adage that I was told early in my graduate training: that scholarship and education are tightly interconnected endeavors. My philosophy has lead me to adopt a range of habits in my teaching that have paid dividends to my skill as a teacher as well as to my students. I know that my strategies have increased my skill as a teacher through my high ratings in teaching evaluations, positive student comments, and because of my receipt of the competitive Teaching Excellence Award from the Graduate School of New Brunswick at Rutgers University.
Relevant Content Area Experience
Health and Medicine Education Experience
- I have taught physiology to first year undergraduate majors in General Biology
- I advised pre-medical students
- I interviewed pre-medical students through Rutgers' Health Profession’s Office
- I was a member of the admissions committee for joint the undergraduate and medical school program at Rutgers
- I reviewed the medical school curriculum for content comparison between advanced undergraduate and first year medical school coursework
- I taught non-life science majors content on epidemiology, evidence-based reasoning, and the philosophy of science.
Ecology Education Experience
- Energy and food webs
- Nutrient cycles
- Population Dynamics
- Within and Between Species Interactions
- Community Structure
- Ecosystem Services
- Human Impacts
The Process of Science
- Evidence based reasoning
- Citizen Science