Teaching Philosophy

There are three tenets to my teaching philosophy.  First, I feel that students learn more effectively and retain more information when there is continuity in the curriculum between lecture and lab, from course to course and from department to department.  This philosophy is reflected in my desire to continue to work with students at all levels of their undergraduate career.  I have greatly valued teaching the 100 level General Chemistry course and would welcome additional opportunities to do so again.  Having these students again in the 300 level Biochemistry course has allowed me to build a personal rapport and insure that the themes and skills learned early on continue to expand at the upper level.  Because of the interdisciplinary nature of biochemistry, I have worked to foster communication both within the Chemistry department and between the Chemistry and Biology departments.  For example the design of the new Bio-analytical Chemistry laboratory complements and builds upon the Experimental Biochemistry course.   Also, certain topics covered in Genetics are also covered in the biochemistry lecture section.  Through careful communication with fellow faculty members, I have been able to provide students with a greater depth of understanding and continuity in their education on these particular topics.  Finally, my work developing an exciting, inquiry based biochemistry laboratory program has both given me an insight into the topics and concepts that are particularity obtuse in the classroom and allowed me to reinforce laboratory skills taught in other courses.

The second tenet of my teaching philosophy is that students benefit from being continually challenged to work at a higher cognitive level.    As part of this philosophy I work to provide students with the tools necessary to build their “chemical intuition” and relieve them of their failsafe of blindly memorizing everything.  This philosophy is reflected in my test questions that require students to design, modify and evaluate new sets of parameters.  Even though I am primarily teaching in a lecture-based format, I value interaction from the students during class.  Currently I use a Socratic style to encourage deeper answers.    When possible I try to draw upon additional disciplines whether it is a historical context, a relationship to research or to current events.  This has allowed students to make correlations and drive their thinking to higher cognitive levels.  

The third part of my teaching philosophy is to maintain flexibility within my current and proposed curriculum.  This allows me to meet the intellectual and future professional goals of the students, continue my development and be a “team” player both within the department and between departments.  To facilitate the needs of the students I have been employing a two-part assessment tool.  The first part is administered at the beginning of the semester and asks student about their expectations, goals, learning styles and background.  I use this information to adapt the course content to meet their needs and reinforce their previous experiences.  The second assessment tool is given at the end of the semester and measures the effectiveness of my strategy.  Thus far I have used the results of the assessments to 1) modify the scope and style of the homework assignments, 2) improve organization of lectures and 3) limit repetition between courses.  A second avenue that has allowed me to maintain flexibility has been a concerted effort to use a paperless classroom.  Lectures, handouts and assignments are available via the campus network and can be modified and distributed a moment’s notice.  One of my future teaching goals under this philosophy is to adapt the Just-in-Time Teaching strategy to fit the 300 level biochemistry classes.  I believe this represents an innovative advance in teaching pedagogy.