As a biology instructor, I aim to make the subject of biology personally relevant and to have my students think critically by comparing the strengths and weaknesses about the evidence for selected biological theories. Often undergraduate student are presented with biological information and are asked to recall this information on midterms and exams; the excitement, personal accomplishment, and thinking component prominent in biology are lost. I aim to teach my students the skills required to address the questions still left in biology, such the influence of genetics in the conservation of biological diversity, rather than teach my students the skills to recall the current knowledge of biology.
In my lectures, I engage students by making the biological information personally relevant using current examples and using lots of pictures and diagrams. For example, I discuss the benefits and costs surrounding the aquaculture industry and provide pictures of the study organisms. I have my students think about the biological information being covered by asking occasional questions, guiding group discussions, and presenting problems. Also, I have my students think about the biological information outside of lecture using take-home questions and assignments. For example, what are the benefits and consequences to gene flow in small populations?
In my laboratories, to get students excited about biology and to think about ways to address biological problems, instead of giving students a ‘recipe’ protocol to follow, I present a problem and the students generate their own protocol to follow. For example, students are asked to design an experiment to examine whether the presence of a predator influence parental behaviours. I do not give the students the solution, but guide students towards a solution by asking questions that hint towards a solution, such as ensuring they have appropriate controls. My students feel a sense of personal accomplishment when they have come up to a solution of addressing a biological problem.
Students are evaluated for participation in discussions, problem sets, laboratory assignments, midterms, and exams. Students are given timely feedback on their progress after an evaluation so that they may have the opportunity to improve or seek extra help. The occasional questions I ask in lecture are an assessment of whether I am achieving my learning goals for students and whether I need to make modifications to my teaching to ensure that my learning goals are achieved. I also like to assign reflection questions in laboratories for students to write down what they are feeling and learning in the laboratory. These reflection questions are another occasional assessment of whether I am achieving my learning goals for students.
For more information on my teaching please see my
Houde ALS. 2011. Integrating problem solving and critical reflection opportunities
in first- and second-year science courses. Teaching Innovation Projects
1: Article 7.
7. Atlantic Salmon Research
6. Statistical Analyses
5. Fisheries Conservation
4. Fish Adaptations
3. Fish Diversity
2. Behaviour Experiments
1. Conservation Genetics
8. Analysis and Interpretation of Biological Data
7. Tropical Marine Environments
6. Behavioural Ecology
5. Introductory Biology
4. Animal Behaviour
3. Ecology and Evolution of Fishes
2. Introductory Ecology
1. Integrated Science Program