Noted physicist and well-known genius Albert Einsten once said, "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." This quote mentions two ideas that encompass my general teaching philosophy. Having been in the science field for most of my educational career, as well as being a science educator, I have come to believe that logic is key to understanding and learning the sciences. On the other hand, I believe you must also bring imagination, unconventional thinking and innovation to teaching the sciences. I see logic as one side of a blade, enabling students to link pieces of knowledge together; imagination is the other edge, because without it, our students will not be engaged and excited about learning.
Having been a TA for two years in undergraduate introductory Biology, I encounter many students who are not in the science disciplines and find science a burden to study. They do not believe they will ever have to use the information they learn in my class again. I chose to study Biology because I love the idea that we all share certain biological similarities and that the study of life is applicable to all. Though my lessons involve theoretical ideas, I always try and create real world scenarios so every student can gain something from that lesson. For example, while studying biomolecules, such as proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, I create a case study of two individuals with different nutritional intakes and lifestyles and ask the students to use their knowledge of biomolecules to make diet recommendations to the individuals.
Though I use quizzes and exams to determine the students’ understanding of the basic theoretical information, I always include questions on these assessments that require the students to use all the pieces of knowledge and logic to come to an answer. I also include questions that may have multiple answers, according to how the students approach the question. I believe this encourages unconventional and imaginative thinking. For example, while studying photosynthesis, I ask the students whether they think blue plants that grow on Planet Xenon would be able to utilize green light to create glucose. Getting to know my students helps me address their needs and tailor the course to their interests. I am able to call on students to get them engaged, adjust questions in my homework and quiz assessments and include real world examples in my lecture which I know will interest them to goose their curiosity. For example, one of my students expressed an interest in how transplantation of cells between species is even possible. So, during my next teaching session, I chose a research article that focused on stem cells (a topical and controversial subject) and the transplantation of these cells to a different species. Many of the students expressed a positive reaction to the paper and the topic and the one particular student had many of her questions answered.
Improvement as an instructor is one of my personal goals, so I use a myriad of assessments as an instructor. I evaluate my students’ performance on assignments and during the class to see which areas of the subject I am not teaching effectively or need to emphasize more. I am planning to use a critical incident questionnaire after every class, to see what areas I may need to focus on and areas where my students need more attention. I also send out anonymous student review sheets, so the students can asses my teaching skills. I try and add one new type of instructional tool into every lesson, e.g. a new video, activity, reading, article, etc. and asses the reaction from the students to see how effective these tools are. I also meet with other TA’s and review their presentations and use of instructional tools and activities to find new and innovative ways to teach. I have recently become interested in the many facets of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. I am fascinated by what drives humans, as learners and in general. I have trying to find ways to motivate my students to be interested and engaged in the subject material. I am planning on determining their interests and goals and incorporating them into my teaching style and lesson plan. I hope to improve my students’ motivation and their overall learning experience. All of these methods have made me a better instructor and I hope to find many other ways to improve my teaching skills.
Being a TA has been one of the most fulfilling jobs I have ever had and has had changed me in many ways, including my current educational goals, as well as my future plans. I believe one of the areas most lacking in my students education is the use of logic and its usefulness in all disciplines. I hope to integrate the use of logic in my teaching, in order to benefit my students and allow them to take what they have learned as use in their future development and occupations.
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