I believe that every student possesses a great capacity for scientific inquiry and critical thinking, but that these capacities are often diminished by a lack of understanding on the part of educators and students themselves on how students learn most effectively. Over the past several years, I have committed significant time and energy to adopting teaching strategies to enhance student learning in all of my courses. My current approach to teaching and learning that evolved during this time can be best described as a student-centered evidence-based approach. This approach is an adaptive style of teaching in which the use of research-based best teaching practices, which are centered on the learning needs of the student, is coupled with assessment of student learning gains and experiences. Teaching practices may then be improved and refined over time based on the knowledge gained in these assessments. To adopt this new approach to teaching required a complete restructuring of my courses. As I provided my students the opportunity to show me their individual strengths and talents, I was amazed by their extraordinary capacity for learning. Most importantly as my students became more aware of and embraced their full learning potential, I observed considerable gains in their self-confidence and independence as learners. My current and future goal as an educator is to continue to create an environment in which my students may realize and reach their full learning potential.
My goal as an educator is to train the next generation of scientists and scientifically literate citizens to use a novel approaches in solving the complex environmental problems in the world today. Addressing and solving contemporary and future environmental problems involves creative and novel approaches and requires developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities in the next generation of environmental biologists and citizen scientists to address and solve these complex problems.
We will achieve this goal by taking an evidence-based, active learning approach to evaluating current issues in plant ecology. This approach is an adaptive style of instruction in which the use of research-based best teaching practices, which are centered on the learning needs of the student, is coupled with assessment of student learning gains and experiences. The most effective way for me to create an active learning environment in the classroom is to create a ‘flipped’ classroom environment. In a flipped course, classroom time is devoted to working on problems in collaborative small student groups with little to no time spent lecturing, while background content (e.g. PowerPoint lectures, video) is viewed by students outside of class.
This course has been created in a way to develop a range of skills that will serve not only in advancing your knowledge of the field of plant ecology but also contribute to your overall professional development. These skills include:
- Evaluate and create scientifically sound and testable hypotheses and design experiments to test these hypotheses.
- Graphically, verbally, or quantitatively evaluate and represent problems in plant ecology.
- Construct and evaluate valid arguments based on evidence.
- Collaborate with people of varying knowledge and points of view toward common goals.
- Communicate verbally and in your writing for brevity, clarity, and scientific persuasion.
- Develop an innovative plan to address a significant environmental problem in plant ecology.
- Critically evaluate and appraise your success in achieving goals 1-6.
- Create and sustain a learning community throughout the semester.