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  • Learning to Teach:

    A Workbook for Graduate Students

    in Biology

    Fall 2003

    Katherine Dowell Kearns, Ph.D. Biology Department Boston University

  • BI 699 Fall 2003


    Table of Contents

    A Note to the Graduate Student . . . . . . iii About the Author . . . . . . . . iv Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . v Course Syllabus . . . . . . . . vii Pre-Course Evaluation . . . . . . . . ix Part I: Preparing to Teach Chapter 1. Three Reasons why Graduate Students should Teach . 1 Chapter 2. The Habits of an Effective Speaker . . . 3 Chapter 3. What Makes an Effective Teacher? . . . 7 Thought Paper #1 . . . . . . . 13 Chapter 4. The Mechanics of Running a Class . . . 15 Chapter 5. Active Learning Through Case Studies . . . 17 Thought Paper #2 . . . . . . . 27 Chapter 6. The Diversity of Learners . . . . . 29 Thought Paper #3 . . . . . . . 35 Chapter 7. An Introduction to Classroom Assessment . . 37 Part II: Surviving Teaching and Graduate School Chapter 8. Grading . . . . . . . 43 Chapter 9. Academic Honesty at BU . . . . 51 Thought Paper #4 . . . . . . . 61 Chapter 10. Stress Management for the Graduate Teaching Fellow 63 Part III: Beyond Teaching in Graduate School Chapter 11. Documenting Your Professional Life . . . 71 Thought Paper #5 . . . . . . . 77 Post-Course Evaluation . . . . . . . 79

  • BI 699 Fall 2003


  • BI 699 Fall 2003


    A Note to the Graduate Student

    Objectives The purpose of this workshop and workbook is to help you to become an effective and efficient teacher. In this course, I will define a good teacher as someone who mentally prepares, physically prepares, and assesses their teaching with an open mind. I believe that the best way to become a better teacher is to practice teaching and to get feedback on your teaching. Therefore, many activities in this workshop will involve analyzing what good and bad teachers do as well as making you aware of your performance in the classroom. We will have several opportunities throughout this semester to help you analyze your performances as a teacher including discussions, written assignments, and peer classroom evaluations. This workshop also is intended to provide you with some background in pedagogy to help you understand what teaching and learning are. We will elucidate some teaching tools, including effective grading techniques and active learning strategies. Some of these tools may not be appropriate for your present teaching situation, but they should be useful at some point during your teaching career. Every student appreciates a teacher who can provide a variety of instructional techniques. A final goal of this workshop is to provide professional development. If you are a first-time teacher, you may not realize that the skills you learn to use as a teacher can be transferred to any job, including non-academic jobs. Inevitably, everyone has to give a presentation, explain how to use a piece of equipment, or critique a paper. Towards the end of the semester, we will highlight some of the skills you have learned or improved upon as a teacher to show how you can market these skills to potential employers. Assignments and Activities For scientists participating in this workshop, it may be tempting to believe that some of the in-class activities and homework assignments are not analytical enough to be effective tools for learning about teaching. The assignments are not intended to be mind-bending, cathartic or time-consuming. The purpose of these activities is to help you analyze your development as a teacher and to make you aware of your attitudes towards teaching and learning. Final Words Teaching is not easy. However, seasoned teachers will tell you that it is much easier to teach well than to teach poorly. I believe it is also much more rewarding to be a good teacher. Besides the feeling of accomplishment, nothing beats the look of sudden comprehension on a students face (think a-ha) or when a student says thank you. I hope that your first teaching experience is an enjoyable one and that this workbook will be useful to you, either in the present or in your future endeavors.

  • BI 699 Fall 2003


    About the Author Katherine Kearns received a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Ecology from Cornell University in 1995. She received her Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Georgia in 2000. During all four years as a graduate student, Katie taught freshman biology laboratories as well as senior-level population ecology laboratories. While at UGA, Katie also had the opportunity to lecture in the Summer 2000 course Introductory Biology for Non-Majors. In addition to her experience as a teacher, Katie was also involved in Teaching Assistant mentoring and professional development at UGA for two years through the Office of Instructional Support and Development. Katie is currently an instructor and laboratory coordinator in the Introductory Biology Program in the Biology Department at Boston University, where she has taught for nearly three years. Besides taking on initiatives in curriculum development in introductory biology labs, she is also involved in teaching assistant/teaching fellow training with BUs Center for Excellence in Teaching. This workshop and workbook stemmed from an interest sparked at UGA in TA resources and professional development. Katies contact information is given below: Katherine Dowell Kearns, Ph.D. Instructor, Laboratory Coordinator Biology Department 5 Cummington Street Boston University Boston, MA 02215 (617) 358-1958 kdkearns@bu.edu

  • BI 699 Fall 2003


    Acknowledgements In my journey toward improving graduate-student teaching, I have discovered that finding a good mentor is the key to getting projects accomplished. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with two people who have significantly fostered my desire to improve undergraduate education through mentoring graduate-student teaching. I would never have discovered this path without the assistance and support of the Office of Instructional Support and Development (OISD) at the University of Georgia. In particular, I would like to thank Dr. Kathleen Smith, Director of TA Programs at OISD. Her guidance has helped many graduate students develop a passion for good teaching and mentoring. I would also like to thank Dr. Sharon Prado at the Center for Excellence in Teaching at Boston University for our many conversations about improving graduate student teaching in the Biology Department. Finally, I would like to thank the faculty of the Biology Department at Boston University for supporting my Learning to Teach course and for allowing me the time and resources to complete this workbook. Several print resources have also been very helpful in developing my teaching and mentoring skills. Many of these have been cited in this workbook. I am providing a compiled list here as a resource guide for readers who may want more in-depth reading. Angelo TA and Cross KP (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers.

    San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Bolles RN (2000) What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career

    Changers. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press. Davis BG (1993) Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. McKeachie WJ (1999) Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University

    Teachers. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. Silver HF and Hanson JR (1998) Learning Styles and Strategies. Woodbridge, NJ: Thoughtful Education

    Press. Walvoord BE and Anderson VJ (1998) Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment. San

    Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

  • BI 699 Fall 2003


  • BI 699 Fall 2003


    BI 699 Fall 2002 Course Syllabus

    Class schedule and associated readings and assignments Date Topic and associated readings Assignments Thursday Aug 28 1:00-2:15

    Introduction to teaching undergraduates Read: Chapter 1: pp. 1-2 The habits of an effective speaker Read: Chapter 2: pp. 3-6

    Take Pre-Course Evaluation

    Thursday Aug 28 2:30-3:45


    Be prepared to give a short five-minute presentation about yourself

    Week of Sept 1 Part 1

    What makes an effective teacher? Read: Chapter 3: pp. 7-12

    Thought Paper #1 due today (see page 13)

    Week of Sept 1 Part 2

    The Mechanics of Running a Class Read: Chapter 4: pp. 15-16 Active Learning through Case Studies Read: Chapter 5: pp. 17-26

    Bring in an outline today of your talk for your first class. Base this outline on the reading in Chapter 4

    week of Sept 15 The Diversity of Learners Read: Chapter 6: pp. 29-34

    Thought Paper #2 due today (see page 27)

    Answer pre-class activity questions and take a Learning Styles Inventory before coming to class today

    week of Sept 29 An Introduction to Classroom Assessment Read: Chapter 7: pp. 37-40

    Thought Paper #3 due today (see page 35)

    week of Oct. 13 Grading fairly, effectively, and efficiently Read: Chapter 8: pp. 43-50

    Bring in an assignment that you need to grade for your teaching assignment

    week of Oct 27 Academic Honesty at BU

    Read: Chapter 9: pp. 51-60

    Thought Paper #4 due today (see page 61)

    week of Nov 10 Documenting your Professional Life Read: Chapter 11: pp. 71-76

    week of Dec 1 Final Class evaluations (see page 79) Thought Paper #5 due today (see page 77)

  • BI 699 Fall 2003


    Assessment Criteria Attendance and Participation

    You should plan to attend every class ses