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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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U-ABC-IT posters.
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Figure 4: U-ABC-IT posters.

Mentions: On every day of class, from the first day of class, there were six posters with colorful lettering that were hung on music stands on the stage of the classroom. These six posters read as follows: Use Evidence, Ask Questions, Be Skeptical, Cultivate Wonder, Identify Confusions, and Think Like a Biologist. These scientific habits of mind, which constitute part of the learning goals for all of my biology courses, appeared to play an important role in helping students aim for learning, rather than just memorizing information during the course. Of course, there were things to memorize, and many students seemed to do this well. Most, though, appeared at a loss for what else to do. The U-ABC-IT posters (as they came to be known) were used in lectures and made constant appearances in students’ writing in their Biologist Journals, aiding all of us in keeping a focus on the habits of mind that we were attempting to cultivate in this introductory biology course. See Figure 4.


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

Tanner KD - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

U-ABC-IT posters.
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

Figure 4: U-ABC-IT posters.
Mentions: On every day of class, from the first day of class, there were six posters with colorful lettering that were hung on music stands on the stage of the classroom. These six posters read as follows: Use Evidence, Ask Questions, Be Skeptical, Cultivate Wonder, Identify Confusions, and Think Like a Biologist. These scientific habits of mind, which constitute part of the learning goals for all of my biology courses, appeared to play an important role in helping students aim for learning, rather than just memorizing information during the course. Of course, there were things to memorize, and many students seemed to do this well. Most, though, appeared at a loss for what else to do. The U-ABC-IT posters (as they came to be known) were used in lectures and made constant appearances in students’ writing in their Biologist Journals, aiding all of us in keeping a focus on the habits of mind that we were attempting to cultivate in this introductory biology course. See Figure 4.

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