Teaching > Efforts to Improve Teaching
I enjoy teaching (and all of the preparation that comes along with this) and am especially interested in how I can tie research into classes more directly. I have three major teaching goals that I would like to accomplish in the next five years:
To better integrate primary research into a class curriculum.
I have worked as a scientific researcher for the past 10 years and have published my work in highly regarded peer-reviewed publications throughout this time. I am very familiar with how cutting-edge science is performed and reported. I feel that I am now underutilizing this expertise in my classroom. I am taking the first steps to incorporate research (see the "Extra Credit" sub-section in my Teaching Philosophy) as extra-credit in the class. It is my hope that I will gain more concrete ideas about how to better include this type of work, along with realistic expectations for what a student can accomplish, in these initial trial runs.
To explore new methods of assessment.
I have recently incorporated the use of two-dimensional testing in my exams. Briefly, the idea is that the student must provide not only the answer to each exam question but also indicate their level of confidence in their answer ("very confident", "semi-confident", "guessing"). The idea is that a "very confident" wrong answer is scored more negatively than a "guessing" wrong answer. And conversely, a "very confident" correct answer is worth more than a "guessing" correct answer. I have begun to incorporate single two-dimensional questions in my exams. I have read many papers describing the advantages of these types of exams (which primarily better assess subject mastery) and studies showing gender and cultural equity. However, I have found significant resistance to this type of question from my students. I am currently at the stage where I am experimenting with different test writing styles that incorporate these elements. In these next five years, I would like to include a measure of confidence in my exams. I believe that this would effectively transform my exams into a new type of feedback that I could then use to adjust the course as it progresses.
To emphasize small group discussions in order to foster effective communication and multicultural awareness.
In my laboratory classes, I assign students into groups of four which are tasked to create a presentation. I tell them they all need to prepare for the presentation but I will select one of the four students to actually do the presentation. Whatever score the one presenter gets will apply to all of the members of the group. I have found that creating this scenario results in an environment where each student is self-motivated to talk to the other group members and try to effectively communicate ideas. This is significantly different than other group activities where each member is only graded on their portion, and can thus ignore the other members. The classes I have had at the campus have included students who come from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. I have been told from students that being forced to successfully communicate an idea to students from other cultural backgrounds has been very useful. In the next five years, I would like to find a way to incorporate this type of experience in my lecture courses as well.