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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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Student (graduate teaching assistant actually) with name card.
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Figure 3: Student (graduate teaching assistant actually) with name card.

Mentions: The most critical thing that I did with the name cards was to take each student's picture—with his or her explicit permission—with the name card in front of the individual in the picture. I did this in the laboratory sections during the first 2 wk of the course. As I took the pictures, I asked what they had written on their index card the first day of class that was unique about them. This was immensely helpful! Oh, you were the one who: was attacked by a monkey, writes jingles, is a professional photographer, died for 4 min, eats only macaroni and cheese, etc. The mechanics of obtaining the photographs was probably even more important than taking them. It meant that within the first 2 wk of class I had had a personal conversation, albeit ∼1–2 min long, with each student in my course. See Figure 3.


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

Tanner KD - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

Student (graduate teaching assistant actually) with name card.
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

Figure 3: Student (graduate teaching assistant actually) with name card.
Mentions: The most critical thing that I did with the name cards was to take each student's picture—with his or her explicit permission—with the name card in front of the individual in the picture. I did this in the laboratory sections during the first 2 wk of the course. As I took the pictures, I asked what they had written on their index card the first day of class that was unique about them. This was immensely helpful! Oh, you were the one who: was attacked by a monkey, writes jingles, is a professional photographer, died for 4 min, eats only macaroni and cheese, etc. The mechanics of obtaining the photographs was probably even more important than taking them. It meant that within the first 2 wk of class I had had a personal conversation, albeit ∼1–2 min long, with each student in my course. See Figure 3.

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