My approach to teaching and learning was greatly influenced by work with my graduate advisor, Lynwood Clemens. While I was in graduate school, Lyn attended a seminar on team-based learning and became so excited about what he learned, he decided to shift his upper-level Neurobiology course from a standard lecture format to a team-based, flipped-classroom environment. Lyn introduced me to education research and demonstrated the importance of incorporating evidence-based practices into my teaching.
In 2017, the National Association of Colleges and Employers1 determined that the most important skill employers look for in college graduates are a) problem solving skills, b) teamworking skills, and c) communication skills. I place these skills at the forefront of my learning goals. I want my students to be confident and capable in their critical thinking abilities as they move forward in their education and future careers. Content knowledge is important and necessary, but these skills are essential for a successful scientific career, whether in health care, academia, government, or industry.
I accomplish these goals by creating learning objectives that target the full range of cognitive domains of Bloom’s taxonomy, making sure to focus on higher order intellectual processes. To that end, I make use of activities that use evidence-based practices to provide students with an effective environment for learning. Through backward design2, I develop assessments aligned with the pertinent learning objectives to evaluate student learning outcomes in a meaningful manner.
“Student success” was not a concept I had encountered before Lyn showed me that pedagogical changes could improve student learning. Many years later, I have built on the foundations laid in graduate school and take pride in my goals for learning in my classroom. Using evidence-based practices in the classroom creates a powerful learning environment where students can improve skills needed to succeed after graduation. I have been convinced by successes in my course that critical thinking, teamwork, and effective communication are all products of engaged learning.
- National Association of Colleges and Employers. Job Outlook 2018. (2017) at NACE
- Wiggin, G. P. and McTighe, J. Understanding by Design. (2005) Alexandria, Va, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.