Course Design

There are four key aspects to course design: overall course planning, individual class planning, preparation, and assessment. I favor the backwards design approach to course development. In this way I decide what it is important for my students to be able to do when they are finished with the course and then build the content for the course around those objectives. With Bloom’s Taxonomy in mind, I aim to include learning objectives that cover a range of skills from lower-order (remembering and understanding and applying information) to higher-order (analyzing, evaluating and creating information they are acquiring in class).  Below I have outlined how I approach course design, however I not yet taught a course of my own design. Also feel free to access a syllabus for a lab course I taught, and some teaching materials I have designed and used so far.

Class Planning and Preparation

After the syllabus is designed I move on to individual class planning and preparation. To prepare for each class or lab I outline each week at least two weeks in advance and decide what subjects are pertinent to cover, what techniques I will need to demonstrate, and what supplies I will need. If readings are assigned I create a list of reading questions as a guide for my students that will then be utilized for in class discussion. By keeping records of how I prepare over time my preparation changes and improves, and also becomes more efficient.

Learning Objectives and Assessment

Course content should be driven by learning objectives and the goals that are set for students to accomplish in a course. Assessment methods should align with the learning objectives and really demonstrate how well the students are moving toward these goals. With the growing body of research on how people learn I try to incorporate multiple methods of assessment to allow students with different learning styles to have some assignments that seem more comfortable to them and to push them with other assessments. One major goal of mine is to collect information on how the students are doing throughout the semester through a variety of assignments, in this way there should be less anxiety around quizzes or the exam because students have interacted with the material in many different ways and will be prepared to demonstrate their knowledge on the subject. Outside of formal assessment I like to give students note cards at the end of class for them to write down one thing they learned that day and one ‘muddiest point’ that they still need clarification on. This allows me to make slight updates to what we discuss the next class to clear up misconceptions and see what information students are gleaning from class.

Expectations and Policies

This syllabus is a good location to outline expectations I have for the students who take my class. By making these expectations explicit and clear early on in the course students should know what the class dynamic will be like and get a sense of what they need to do in the class to be successful. I also think it’s important to include policies about classroom inclusivity, academic conduct and disabilities. Starting the course with a tone that is both welcoming and clear should set the course off on solid ground.


I would like to teach a wide range of courses in microbiology, biogeochemistry and bioinformatics. From more basic non-majors courses investigating microbes in the world around us, to general microbiology for majors and advanced microbiology for upper level undergraduates or graduate students. My background in environmental microbiology and molecular biology provides ample room for the development of a broad range of courses. I have an example of a course I designed upper level biology concentrators in mind. This syllabus for a lab course I taught in microbiology. This course would be appropriate for students with basic biology and chemistry backgrounds who are interested in pursuing microbiology and or ecology.

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