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Moving theory into practice: a reflection on teaching a large, introductory biology course for majors.

Tanner KD - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA. kdtanner@sfsu.edu

ABSTRACT

So, what did I learn in teaching a ∼300-student class for the first time? In general, I learned that many assertions I had previously heard about the values and behaviors of students in a large introductory biology class for majors did not resonate with my own experiences. The same pedagogical approaches may work differently in the hands of different instructors, and sometimes intangibles may be at play, aspects of teaching that are stylistic, affective, and centered on the student–instructor relationship. These “intangibles” should make everyone skeptical of teaching discussions that make claims about “what works” in any general sense. Teaching is a social endeavor about personal relationships. What I learned in teaching the largest class that I had ever attempted was that these personal relationships did not just disappear. They are there if you notice them, cultivate them, and honor them; in fact, they are a major asset in accomplishing our teaching goals. Finally, metacognition is not only important for students learning about biology, but also for instructors’ learning about biology teaching. While it is neither possible nor desirable for every course we teach to become a full-scale research project, we can cultivate a scholarly, scientific, and metacognitive approach to teaching by purposefully reflecting on our experiences and student evidence collected along the way.

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Inside of lecture name card.
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Figure 1: Inside of lecture name card.

Mentions: In most of my classes of fewer than 50 students, I have used a folded 8.5 × 11 piece of cardstock marked with the first name of each of my students to make an individual name card for each student. These name cards have been indispensable tools in my courses for learning names, constructing groups, and encouraging students to get to know one another. On the first day of this large course, every student received a bright green name card and was asked to write his or her name in large letters on the front and the back. I expressed the desire not only to learn their names, and explained the importance of learning together as a community, even a big one. It was not just important for me to know their names; it was important for their colleagues (other students) as well. See Figure 1.


Moving theory into practice: a reflection on teaching a large, introductory biology course for majors.

Tanner KD - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

Inside of lecture name card.
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3105914&req=5

Figure 1: Inside of lecture name card.
Mentions: In most of my classes of fewer than 50 students, I have used a folded 8.5 × 11 piece of cardstock marked with the first name of each of my students to make an individual name card for each student. These name cards have been indispensable tools in my courses for learning names, constructing groups, and encouraging students to get to know one another. On the first day of this large course, every student received a bright green name card and was asked to write his or her name in large letters on the front and the back. I expressed the desire not only to learn their names, and explained the importance of learning together as a community, even a big one. It was not just important for me to know their names; it was important for their colleagues (other students) as well. See Figure 1.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA. kdtanner@sfsu.edu

ABSTRACT

So, what did I learn in teaching a ∼300-student class for the first time? In general, I learned that many assertions I had previously heard about the values and behaviors of students in a large introductory biology class for majors did not resonate with my own experiences. The same pedagogical approaches may work differently in the hands of different instructors, and sometimes intangibles may be at play, aspects of teaching that are stylistic, affective, and centered on the student–instructor relationship. These “intangibles” should make everyone skeptical of teaching discussions that make claims about “what works” in any general sense. Teaching is a social endeavor about personal relationships. What I learned in teaching the largest class that I had ever attempted was that these personal relationships did not just disappear. They are there if you notice them, cultivate them, and honor them; in fact, they are a major asset in accomplishing our teaching goals. Finally, metacognition is not only important for students learning about biology, but also for instructors’ learning about biology teaching. While it is neither possible nor desirable for every course we teach to become a full-scale research project, we can cultivate a scholarly, scientific, and metacognitive approach to teaching by purposefully reflecting on our experiences and student evidence collected along the way.

Show MeSH