Teaching Philosophy

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.


Course Structure

This course is fully structured as an active learning environment with little to no classroom time allocated to the traditional lecture. Active learning is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of learning activities such as problem solving, analysis, role-playing, and group collaboration and discussion. Following this, this course is structured as a series of ecosystem management ‘workshops’ where we, as a group, are involved in a 15-week study and evaluation of management of terrestrial ecosystems. My goal in providing this workshop format is not only to cover core content in the management of terrestrial ecosystems but provide opportunities for professional development in environmental management.

Ecosystem management

Ecosystem management (EM) is an approach to sustainably restore and maintain the composition, structure, and function of ecosystems. The success of EM is based on the ability of practitioners to collaboratively develop a vision for desired future condition amongst a variety of stakeholders that integrates ecological, institutional, and socioeconomic perspectives.   In this course we will examine the historical and current role of ecosystem management as an approach to managing ecosystems. Group discussion and case studies will focus primarily on ecosystem management issues of the western US although students will have the opportunity to explore EM issues outside of this region through written assignments and group projects. Students will actively practice and develop tools in critical reasoning through a series of individual and group activities in both written and oral form throughout the semester that address current issues in managing ecosystems.

The overarching goal of this seminar is to conduct a very focused training in  ‘scientific teaching’ and other evidence-based approaches for graduate students. The idea behind scientific teaching is that we approach our classroom instruction with the same rigor, critical thinking, experimentation, and creativity in which we approach our research. The final product would be to produce a teachable unit that could be implemented in collaboration with a faculty member on campus. This seminar is geared toward graduate students who have interest in developing a short teaching unit (1-2 classes) within EBIO or any other science department. The first few weeks of the semester will focus on principles in scientific teaching. The majority of the semester, however, would be focused on developing teachable units and implementation of these evidence based approaches to teaching and learning.

The goal in the graduate student writing seminar is not only to help with those looming proposals and manuscripts and enhance your science writing skills, but to also create a community of graduate students who you can give you writing feedback during your time at CU.  The course is a two credit seminar that focuses on Josh Schimel's book "Writing science: How to write papers that get cited and proposals that get funded" and addresses how to apply the resources of the book to your own writing.   As the purpose of this course is to facilitate graduate level writing cooperation, I co-lead the course with graduate students who help with coordinating all aspects of the course.