Teaching Philosophy

I enjoy teaching because it gives me an opportunity to interact with students and is a logical extension of the research I have accomplished. My teaching philosophy is to present material in a straightforward manner and encourage students to think about the material presented in lecture. My goal is not to have students memorize facts or steps in a process such as cellular respiration, but to have them grasp the entire concept being taught. In this manner students will not only be presented with the necessary scientific information, but will have the opportunity to synthesize information for themselves, a skill needed in all aspects of life. If a student has an in-depth understanding of respiration, then they will find it much easier to learn the counter-process of photosynthesis.

I strive to be a friendly teacher who reaches out to students in the classroom so they feel that they are part of the learning process, and my student evaluations indicate my successful attainment of these goals. I feel this is especially important in laboratory situations where not all students are comfortable with hands-on material. However, I have learned that students must meet an instructor half-way in order to reach their goals as a student. My goal as an instructor is to encourage all students to actively participate in lecture. I believe my willingness to encourage class participation is why I was acknowledged by the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio University as an Outstanding Teaching Assistant.

I have taught lecture and lab courses for over a decade, and I have experimented with techniques that build on my teaching style. In Biological Concepts I, my goal is to give students a foundation for their careers as biologists. I do not think it serves any purpose to “weed out” students, but if the introductory course is too easy then students will be set-up to fail in later courses and a variety of qualifying exams (MCAT’s, GRE’s, etc.).

I truly enjoy teaching my non-biology majors, and have developed a handful of courses for them including Ethnobotany (plants and people), World of Plants, Field Botany, Science of Flight, and a Bahamas field course. Teaching non-biology majors the basic concepts of biology is more important today than ever. Topics such as the environment and DNA fingerprinting in court cases are realities that our students will have to deal with upon graduation. The challenge and pleasure of teaching non-major science courses is to help students overcome their fears of learning science so they may fully appreciate the natural world around them. I have found it very satisfying when I have encouraged a non-biology major to change their major to Biology. Another goal of mine in teaching non-majors is to convince them that science is important because it has profound and significant effects on our daily lives. It is important that non-biology students receive a life sciences education that will help them understand, in a functional manner, the world in which we all live. Teaching the scientific method is just as important to non-majors as it is to science majors.

My philosophy on student evaluation is to give students many opportunities to demonstrate what they have learned, as opposed to what they do not know. This also gives me the opportunity to identify students who are having problems in class, and ensure that such a student would have the opportunity for extra help. I feel that communication is an important skill for all scientists so I emphasize laboratory write-ups and class presentations.