There is perhaps no subject more relevant than the study of life itself. I relish in inspiring a diverse
range of students about the wonders of biodiversity, the importance of evolutionary and ecological thinking to human health and natural resource management, how our bodies work, and how we are all connected through our shared molecular heritage. These stories resonate with students, and emphasize the importance and intrinsic relevance of biology to everyday life.
Whether working with science majors, non-science majors, or members of the public, I believe that it is important be creative, caring, and inspiring, and utilize a variety of techniques and approaches to help facilitate learning. Thus, when learning about the functional anatomy of insects, it is best to hold a beetle. When learning about mitosis and meiosis, my students act out each step. When teaching about circulatory and respiratory physiology, students calculate their heart-rate before and after exercise. I tell the human stories of biological discovery in my lectures, illustrating the scientific method on the whiteboard, and I integrate my own research into the learning process.
I believe that students learn biology best by doing biology, and I am passionate about the integration
of teaching and research. Indeed, introducing students to the research process is one of the most rewarding parts of my career. In addition to incorporating research activities into the classroom, laboratory, and field (e.g., through course-based undergraduate research experiences – CUREs), I have been priviliged to mentor research undergraduate, honours, and graduate students, many of whom have gone on to graduate programs, and other careers. I have individually mentored approximately 30 different undergraduate students thus career, and formally mentor new students in research every term through teaching independent research study courses (BI 406 at WOU).
All of these pedagogical beliefs can be summarised by several key principles which guide my teaching, and which I expound upon in my Teaching Philosophy:
- A caring, patient, and personal approach to instruction allows students to gain confidence in their own abilities and thus build the tools necessary for their success.
- A multi-modal approach to both teaching and assessment engages the highest diversity of students, and allows for the greatest variety of students to succeed.
- Allowing students to take personal responsibility for their learning increases the sense of ownership students have in their education, and, through teaching others, increases their own knowledge and confidence in the subject matter.
- Allowing my enthusiasm for my subject area to shine, and incorporating my own research into my teaching, can be the best way to excite students.
- Showing students that science is a real, living, human endeavor, by introducing students to the process of science, engaging in laboratory or field experimentation, research methods, reading the scientific literature, and communicating with scientists, not only makes biology come alive, but is also absolutely critical to a scientist’s education.
Undergraduate Teaching Experience
I have been teaching undergraduate students biology for over a decade, from serving as a Peer-Led-Team-Learning (PLTL) instructor while a student at UNBC to developing and teaching the following courses as an Assistant and now Associate Professor at Western Oregon University:
- BI 101 General Biology: The Diversity of Life (summer and every other fall)
- BI 102L General Biology: The Foundations of Life (lab; usually at least once a year)
- FYS 107 Dinosaurs! (writing-focussed first year seminar; every other fall)
- FYS 107 Communicating Animals (writing-focussed first year seminar; every other spring)
- BI 213 Principles of Biology: Structure and Function (every spring)
- BI 317 Vertebrate Natural History (every other fall)
- BI 343 Analysis of Biological Data (every Fall & Winter)
- BI 360 Animal Behavior (every other Winter)
- BI 406 Individual Study (research experience; every term, by arrangement)
- BI 474 Biology of Insects (every other spring)