My main teaching goals are to build opportunities for deliberate practice rooted in authentic experiences relevant to students’ careers and lives, to enable students to take control over their own learning processes and become self-actualized individuals, and to lead an environment which sustains diversity and inclusion in science education.
To do this, I use evidence-based strategies to facilitate student learning with a learner centered, active-learning approach. Students are encouraged to work collaboratively to solve difficult challenges. Regular reflection and self-inquiry activities provide students space to self evaluate, identify and cultivate their mindset. Finally, I aim to create an inclusive environment for the needs of all students and encourage open communication.
I taught an introductory Genetics course over the summer in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EBIO) department at the University of Colorado Boulder, and am preparing to teach and implement evidence-based teaching practices that improve student learning in the setting of a large lecture course format (~150 students). I am working with an instructional designer from Arts & Sciences Support of Education Through Technology (ASSETT, CU Boulder), hiring several undergraduate learning assistants (LAs), and am working to incorporate an open-educational resource technology developed at the University of British Columbia to incorporate an authentic project-based research experience on a large scale. I have an ongoing collaboration with colleagues in alignment of departmental learning goals, with the overarching goal of achieving learning gains and sharing tools that improve student success.
I have had the pleasure to teach Evolutionary Biology for four semesters as an instructor of record in EBIO at CU Boulder, and three semesters as a graduate teaching assistant in the department of Genetics at the University of Georgia. As a teaching assistant I facilitated recitation discussions, answering questions about class content on the fly, coming up with relevant examples that students could grasp. As a result of these teaching efforts in this course, along with those in general biology (described below), I was awarded an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award by the Senior VP & Provost through supervisor and student evaluations. As an instructor, I have incorporated active learning student-centered strategies into my classes, supervised graduate teaching assistants and undergraduate learning assistants, and was able to develop the skills necessary to incorporate evidence-based pedagogy into courses with support from co-teaching and within the department.
For four semesters I have been the instructor of record for general biology, an introduction to molecular biology, in the School of Continuing Education at CU Boulder. This is a flipped hybrid course for which I recorded video lectures that students watch before coming to class, and designed in-class activities for students to practice engaging with and learning the material. A three-week course observation provides a good snap-shot, with the majority of time spent interacting with students (COPUS results). In this class I use a combination of clickers, in-class activities, and case studies, as well as have used similar practices in teaching a semester of organismal biology. As a graduate student, I was the instructor of record in the department of Biology at the University of Georgia for an introductory molecular biology laboratory course. These labs were inquiry-based and writing intensive, where I conducted short lectures, managed groups of students as they embarked on their problem, and gave them extensive feedback on their scientific writing. I was awarded an outstanding teaching award for my efforts (in part) for this course (and Evolutionary Biology described above).
Courses in Genetics-
CURE: Genetic Methods in Ecology & Evolution
Undergraduates engaging in research experiences at research-intensive universities is considered a high-impact practice which has demonstrable positive effects on student learning, attitudes and career choice (AAAS 2011; AAC&U). Including undergraduates in research as early as possible has been shown to have a variety of benefits (Corwin et al. 2014, Brownell et al. 2015). As undergraduate independent research experiences tend to be an implied prerequisite for admission into graduate schools in STEM and are shown to improve the retention in majors and pursuit of STEM careers (Seymour et al. 2004), the limited number of research opportunities available within an individual lab and informal selection processes may exclude many qualified students and can pose a barrier that perpetuates inequities that already exist (Bangera and Brownell 2014).
Although laboratory courses provide some exposure to research methods, there is a growing call to involve undergraduate students in authentic research experiences which train students more broadly in developing scientific aptitude, confidence, critical thinking skills, and increasing the likelihood to become career scientists. Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) foster opportunities for students to carry out research under the guidance of a trained instructional mentor, and provide a mechanism for undergraduates to contribute to the greater scientific community.
In large introductory Genetics courses, there are often recitations along with the high-enrollment lectures, but students may not have the opportunity to gain hand-on laboratory experiences. The CURE model offers a great bridge to start developing these pathways for students with diverse needs and broad interests in the context of Genetic methods in Ecology (ecological genetics), conservation biology/genetics, population genetics, and behavioral genetics.
Whether you have heard about genomic medicine in the news, have personally discussed the results of a genetic screening with a genetic counselor, or placed an order with a direct to consumer genetic testing company, you may have been unsure about what words like ‘disease risk’ and ‘predispositions’ really mean. Genomic medicine uses genomic information about an individual in order to make decisions about healthcare. While we have learned a lot since the Human Genome Project, especially for more straightforward genetic disorders, there is still a great deal unknown about many simple and more complex diseases.
Students will have the opportunity to gather and analyze their own genomic data and explore a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of their choice (Keller 2015). A broader context of concepts such as missing heritability, genotype by environment interactions, and epistasis will be explored. We will also practice skills in evaluating the results and uncertainty of large-scale genomic research and how to understand and interpret the statistical methods and results (such as odds ratios in genome-wide association studies).
Instructors and certified genetic counselors from the hereditary cancer clinic at CU Anschutz, have offered to provide some practical materials and perform visiting lectures as outreach.
Courses in Behavioral Ecology-
Mating Systems and Sexual Selection
There is remarkable diversity in mating strategies. From selfing, gynodioecy, and dioecy in plants, to polyandry, polygyny, and polgynandry in animals (and more), evolution has resulted in many different ways to produce the next generation. In sexual organisms, differences between the sexes (sexual dimorphism) can result from sexual selection and antagonism. Darwin recognized the struggle between the sexes, and its importance in producing showy traits. A great deal of theoretical and empirical work has gone into understanding sexual selection and mating strategies, but many large questions remain such as the importance of antagonism on trait evolution, quantitative measures of honest signals, and a paucity of information exists on the significance of female choice or preference. Finally, the evolution of behaviors and tactics such as mate guarding, passing toxic ejaculates, and “sneaker” males contribute to the overall amazing diversity of life.
Animal Communication and Cognition
An extension of behavioral ecology and evolution. I have studied these concepts in great detail for ~ 8 years, through research projects, journal clubs and seminars, and led a book group to read popular press on the subject. These could be within or in addition to a traditional animal behavior course, and will draw from Cognitive Psychology principles in relation to evolution.