My experience with the Los Rios Faculty Diversity Internship Program: Part 1

In September, I was accepted into the Faculty Diversity Intership Program (FDIP) at the Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento, California.  The goal of the FDIP is to recruit prospective community college faculty members from a diverse range of backgrounds and prepare them to be successful as community college instructors. The program has two phases. In the fall, interns attend a series of 6 half-day workshops which cover a variety of topics related to effective college teaching as well as issues specific to community colleges. These workshops prepare participants to make the most of the second phase of the internship, where they spend a full semester in a community college class observing, and eventually co-teaching with an experienced instructor. I have just completed the fall workshop series and will devote this post to reflecting on what I learned during the first three workshops. I discuss the second three workshops in a subsequent post. Continue reading

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9 Major Takeways From “An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching”

I recently completed my first MOOC (!), “An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching,” which was offered by Vanderbilt University via Coursera. The course was absolutely fantastic! It was put together by a team of traditional STEM professors and STEM education researchers who belong to the CIRTL network. The goal of the course was to introduce graduate students, postdocs, and junior faculty members to a wide range of research on best practices in STEM education and look at how these practices can be implemented in different contexts. I think that the later aspect was what made the course great – after several videos where a lead instructor discussed a particular STEM education idea or practice, there would be several videos that looked how these practices play out in real classrooms – either through candid interviews with faculty and TAs or through recordings of actual classes. This would be followed up by the opportunity, via an assignment or forum prompt, to think about how you would apply the idea or practice in your own teaching. Though the course covered a huge range of interesting and useful topics (I took nearly 25 pages of notes!), I have attempted to extract the top 9 ideas from the course that I will be carrying into my classroom in the future. Here they are (in no particular order): Continue reading

5 Active Learning Strategies to Try in Your Classroom

This is the third in a collection of posts about topics covered in “A Learner-Centered Approach to Effective Teaching,” a workshop series offered by the UC Davis Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). By writing these posts, I hope to solidify my grasp of the topics covered and provide useful information for the college teaching community.

Think about how you would teach someone to change a tire on a bicycle.

I would probably talk through the process with the person, answering questions as we went. Then I would demonstrate how the process works on one wheel, and ask the person to try changing the tire on the other wheel. What I probably wouldn’t do is show the person a series of slides on how to change a tire and then ask them to come back in a month to try it out for themselves. The first approach, which I think is much more natural, is an example of active learning – the student is constructing knowledge as they go and actually tries to solve a problem. The second approach is an example of passive learning, where the student simply receives the information from the instructor without really engaging with it. Continue reading

Will this affect my grade? Using formative assessments to drive learning

This is the second in a collection of posts about topics covered in “A Learner-Centered Approach to Effective Teaching,” a workshop series offered by the UC Davis Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). By writing these posts, I hope to solidify my grasp of the topics covered and provide useful information for those unable to attend the workshop.

What’s in a typical syllabus? Most begin with a description of the course, lay out a series of lecture topics and reading assignments, and then delve into grading policies. These policies are generally designed with three purposes in mind: to provide accountability to students, to determine the suitability of each student for advancement, and to describe how students compare to some standard. The tools used to enact these policies – tests, quizzes, graded essays etc – are known as summative assessments. While these types of assessments do a good job at determining whether a student has achieved particular learning outcomes, they do little to actually promote learning.

This leads me to what is often missing from syllabi – Continue reading

Backward Design: An Introduction

This is the first in a collection of posts about topics covered in “A Learner-Centered Approach to Effective Teaching,” a workshop series offered by the UC Davis Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). By writing these posts, I hope to solidify my grasp of the topics covered and provide useful information for those unable to attend the workshop.

We began the first workshop in the series, “Where to start: Backward design and student learning outcomes,” by thinking about how courses are typically planned in the instructor-centered model of learning. In this model, the instructor uses their expertise to assemble lectures that transmit knowledge to students about a particular topic. One difficulty with this approach is that, for any given topic, there is far more information available than can possibly be covered in single lecture (or even an entire semester in many cases). How, then, do instructors typically decide what to include? Continue reading

Behind the scenes in a 650-student biology course

For the past year, I have worked as a teaching assistant (TA) for BIS2C (Biodiversity and the Tree of Life), which is the third and final course in the introductory biology series at UC Davis. Successful completion of the introductory series is required before students can move on to take upper division biology courses. The course is offered every quarter, with enrollments ranging from 600-1000 students. Those students attend four 1-hour lectures and one 3-hour lab each week. I want to use this blog post to give you some insights into the people and resources that make such a large course possible. Continue reading