My philosophy of teaching is to give students resources to succeed and allow them to take charge of their own learning. All of the mentors and educators that have had the biggest influence on my education gave me the autonomy to make choices about my learning, and also challenged me to push the boundaries of my knowledge and beliefs. I want students in my classroom to feel welcome to take risks, ask questions openly, and learn in a way that is engaging for them. Students come to the classroom with different backgrounds, learning styles and preferences, so I use variable teaching methods, activities, and modes of representation to ensure that all students can learn in a way that works for them. My goal is for students to leave with a good understanding of a few key important concepts and skills, and not spend time doing busy work.
As an instructor of environmental science and biology courses, my students should be able to learn and apply technical skills (e.g., using R/excel and word to create and display graphs), work with field and/or lab data, and synthesize and communicate questions, methods and findings effectively in written and oral formats. To teach these important concepts and skills, I focus on active learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and authentic assignments. In my classroom, I break up lectures with student activities to give them a chance to interact with each other and content that is current and relevant to their goals and passions. I use different types of activities to keep students’ attention throughout each class and ensure that they have an opportunity to participate in a way that supports their learning. I believe it is important to include activities that allow both introverts and extroverts to participate equally and comfortably. Some examples of teaching techniques that I find effective are:
- Clear learning objectives and expectations for each assignment outlined in a rubric and explained verbally in class
- Audience polling
- Small group discussions
- Shared Google document discussions
- Including text and visuals in powerpoint slides
- Field data collection in small groups
- Workshops/labs for skill development (R, excel, etc.)
- Breaking up large assignments into smaller tasks and giving feedback on each one before the final project is due
Check out an example activity that I would use to introduce scientific writing.*
*This assignment has been adapted from an activity I did as an undergrad in Dr. Betsy Bancroft’s Ecology course that I found extremely helpful in learning to write lab reports.