I aim to go beyond simply providing students with relevant information. I want them to absorb it and relate to it. I will provide them with critical thinking and problem solving skills as they learn whatever content is being presented for a given course. I intend to find balance between challenge and enjoyment for courses I teach. Even if a course is a requirement that a student may not have chosen to take, I will do my best to make my courses beneficial through cross-disciplinary skills.
I have taught laboratory courses with hands-on activities such as preserving insects, identifying insect specimens, and quantifying damage to crop plants. I enjoy moving throughout the room and offering one-on-one guidance as they worked through the activities. I have also assisted in a class of 200 students where my job was to be very hands-off, supervise behavior, and involved very little positive interaction with the students. Through these different experiences, I learned that I much prefer to teach in a manner that fosters engagement and interaction. Although most of the classes I have ever taken or taught involved a heavy lecture component, I find both teaching and learning to be most rewarding when a presentation is turned off and active learning or discussion is occurring. I enjoy having time to interact with students and talk to them. I also enjoy the opportunity to watch them try to master a skill or recall relevant information.
I diversify the methods with which I teach and don’t always fall into one style. I use a combination of the blank slate model, Socratic model, and social model, depending on the content being taught. In one lab-based course, I gave a brief lecture during half of the labs to provide some background information that was then followed by a hands-on activity. The activities were different each week. All of them were related to pest management in agriculture but topics varied from pest identification and damage assessment to economic calculations or ecological concepts. In other weeks, students had the opportunity to present on a pest management plan they had designed or had a full-class debate over a controversial topic in pest management. I found this variety to be more enjoyable for me and for the students, as well as broadening the skills that they gained by the end of the course. In addition to learning specific skills regarding insect biology, they also learned to structure an argument supported by reliable information and solve a problem likely to be encountered in many of their future careers.
Technology in the Classroom
I think technology can play a valuable role in providing variety to course interactivity. The tools I use most heavily in class are the Microsoft Office suite and the course management software offered through the Universities I have taught at. I have begun using blogging as a way to document my teaching portfolio, as well as to conduct assignments for a course. I can see blogging being a highly useful method for sharing assignment descriptions for a course, especially in large classes. By allowing students to comment on blog posts, their questions and my answers will be posted in one central place for each assignment where other students who may have wondered similar things can also see them. In a smaller course, writing reflective blog posts can be beneficial for increasing the depth at which students are thinking about course material. I have benefited from this as a student and would like to try it as a teacher in future courses.
Why I teach
My favorite part of being a scientist has always been the ability to share that knowledge with other people. Ever since I was first considering the possibility of attending graduate school, I have wanted to teach others and inspire the next generation of young scientists and equip them with the tools they will need to succeed after learning a course or workshop I teach.