Teaching philosophy

My general approach to science education is to motivate the student towards science as a way of knowing. If we are to contribute to the understanding of our rapidly changing society and environment, educators must promote the habit of scientific thinking so that students can develop rational insights about their world. My goals as a professor of biology are to: 1) develop for the student, an understanding of biology as a hierarchical science deeply rooted in evolutionary theory; 2) foster critical thinking skills for research; and 3) provide the student with a set of conceptual and analytical tools to address today’s complex and dynamic ecological issues.

From an organizational standpoint, I believe undergraduates are best served in courses where the objectives are clearly established by a structured syllabus and consistently reinforced. Effective undergraduate instructors maintain student involvement and interest by bringing innovative teaching approaches into the classroom to provide a context for learning. For example, I have developed a series of interactive computer-based problem sets to teach ecological concepts and theories. These computerized worksheets have analytical and graphical capabilities that encourage students to visualize and explore a range of possible outcomes. I believe skill development in observation, hypothesis generation, and analysis should accompany the presentation of fact and concept whenever possible.

Teaching is a dynamic activity. I present my lessons with enthusiasm and incorporate my current personal research into the curriculum when applicable. I improve my instructional skills by responding to the constructive feedback of my students and colleagues. By emphasizing inquiry-based learning, I strive to provide undergraduates with a useful understanding of the research process that leads to biological discovery and advancement.

As a graduate instructor and advisor, my primary goals are to maintain an active research program to attract, support, and graduate academically competitive students. I work to provide a creative environment for the exchange of ideas and develop student capabilities for independent inquiry and research. As a field biologist, it is my obligation to teach, by example, the importance of professional values and ethical respect for society and the organisms we study.

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