My interests in thinking about, and researching, teaching developed while I was a graduate student. There were fantastic resources for professional development available to me at Cornell University that I intend to seek out at future schools in which I work. I have had the opportunities to participate both in workshops and classes through the Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence. Workshops have provided information on teaching methods, course design and classroom dynamics. The class ALS6015 Teaching Practices in Higher Education has been a great resource for information on constructing a research and teaching philosophy statement as well as discussions on why higher education is important and why I see myself as a teacher and my goals for teaching in the future. A short course on designing course activities led to the development of a bioinformatics activities to integrate bioinformatics in an introductory microbiology course. One of these activities has been published in hopes of broader use in similar courses.
Since graduating from Cornell I took a MOOC on evidence-based teaching in STEM. It was an interesting introduction to the world of online courses, and provided me with some additional teaching resources.
I’ve had a great experience as a TA with the General Microbiology Lab course. The teaching staff who support this course are outstanding and I have learned a lot about the logistics of running six consistent lab sections and course design. Through developing assignments and quizzes, as well as the experience I’ve had designing and proctoring lab practical exams, I’ve gained many skills for running and critically thinking about lab courses. Sue Merkel, senior lecturer and recent Carski Foundation Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award laureate, has been my most valuable teaching mentor at Cornell. She is an exceptional role model and I aim to continue in her footsteps as I continue teaching in microbiology.
Additionally, I have found faculty that serve as mentors with regard to how I think about teaching in microbiology. I interviewed Dr. Esther Angert, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, about her teaching experiences and career at Cornell. She highlighted a few key points:
- When designing courses and learning objectives it is very important to keep the audience in mind.
- Co-teaching can highlight different learning styles and give insight into ways of incorporating different methods to appeal to a variety of student learning styles.
- The challenge of motivation and engagement persists from year to year. Try to be engaging but also set expectations that you need students to meet you in the middle.
- Find service opportunities that appeal to you. “High profile” service positions, like graduate student admissions, should be shared among your colleagues.
- Seeking balance and finding balance between roles as a faculty member (research, teaching, and service) are very different things. Set clear boundaries for yourself.
For a more complete picture of this interview you can read my full write up here.
Moving forward I seek to find a mentor who can be a sounding board for course design, reflections on teaching and an observer of my teaching to keep assessing my teaching and working toward becoming a better teacher.
Resources for teaching and teaching in Microbiology:
- Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education (http://jmbe.asm.org)
- The American Biology Teacher (http://www.bioone.org)
- The Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.com)
- The Teaching Professor Blog (http://www.facultyfocus.com/topic/articles/teaching-professor-blog/)