As an educator, I am passionate about teaching science as a process and fostering an inclusive classroom. In the short term, these approaches improve student performance and hone their critical thinking and communication skills. In the long term, they give students the tools to draw their own sound, evidence-based conclusions about the pressing scientific issues of the present and future. Better test scores, and better voters.
As a scientist, I am a strong believer in the synergy of teaching and research. This has inspired me to be involved in science education in a wide variety of ways, including traditional undergraduate classrooms, field-based intensive courses, curriculum development integrating evolution and engineering, and K-12 outreach.
Ecology, Evolution & Diversity (Intro Bio for Majors – BIOL 125), Willamette University
In fall 2016, I taught 33 undergraduates as the instructor of record for the organismal Introductory Biology course at Willamette. I increased student interaction in this traditionally lecture-based course by utilizing a variety of approaches, including the Socratic method, think-pair-share, hands-on models, and peer teaching. Throughout the course, I wove in learning objectives focusing on the scientific process and evidence-based thinking. My strategies to achieve this include reading and discussing primary literature, challenging students to interpret unfamiliar figures for themselves, and exploring what new questions we could ask and how to answer them. (Above, students explore the properties of phylogenetic trees by building their own with pipe cleaners).
Summer Ecology Lab (ZOL 355L), Kellogg Biological Station (KBS)
I was the instructor of record for the KBS Ecology Lab for the summers of 2013 and 2014. I developed 45 hours of curriculum, introducing major themes in ecology while guiding students through the scientific process. The course culminated in group projects that were student-led from conception to final analysis and presentation.
BEACON Evolution in Action course
In summer 2011-2012, I was responsible for designing and teaching the evolution section of a week-long intensive course integrating evolution and engineering for a diverse group of advanced high school students. It was a first experience in basic concepts of evolution as well as field work for many of these engineering-focused scholars, and initiated my work on a lesson on digital evolution that ultimately resulted in a publication (below). This course was supported by Michigan State’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.
Developing new resources for the teaching community
Together with Liz Schultheis, I developed a lesson using a free online program (BoxCar2D) to demonstrate evolution by natural selection in a virtual population of cars. The ultimate accessible platform for addictive evolutionary experiments. We presented the lesson at several teacher workshops and two national meetings; it is published in The American Biology Teacher.