My primary goal as an educator in the post-secondary environment is to empower students learn to “think like scientists.” That is, I want to help create a community of people who value evidence, and think critically about the implications of science for us and our planet. As a scientist, I particularly value using evidence-based teaching practices, i.e. those that are well-supported by peer-reviewed research (i.e. scholarship of teaching and learning; more on this below), such as active learning and authentic scientific inquiry opportunities.
In my teaching career at Canadian universities, I have been the primary instructor for two courses: Principles of Animal Development (lecture and laboratory; Acadia University, Wolfville NS, 2013) and Evolution (lecture; Dalhousie University, Halifax NS, 2014). As an instructor for Principles of Animal Development, I designed an authentic scientific inquiry laboratory, during which students designed and conducted their own experiments on how stress impacts development of the brine shrimp Artemia franciscana. I have also been a teaching assistant during my B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. in variety of biology courses from 2008-2018 – ranging from cell biology and genetics to botany and animal physiology. In all my courses, I view myself as a guide who is there to help students identify the tools and strategies they need to become better thinkers and learners.
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)
As someone who values evidence-based teaching practices, I have also engaged in scholarship on teaching and learning. During my Ph.D., I researched the ways that post-secondary students structure their understanding of animal physiology. I also studied classroom techniques that can help students think more “experts,” facilitating the growth of their critical reasoning and problem solving skills. I presented these results at the Western Conference on Science Education in 2017, and you can read the abstract here.
What is educational development, you might ask? It is essentially professional development of teaching or education skills – so if you’ve ever attended a workshop on how to improve your teaching, or consulted with someone on topics like how to design a course or help your students learn better, you have participated in educational development. During my M.Sc. completed the Dalhousie Certificate in University Teaching and Learning, and during my Ph.D. I later completed the Advanced Teaching Program and (internationally-recognized) Instructional Skills Workshop to further my personal educational development.
Because educational development made such a difference in my own teaching, I want to facilitate similar experiences for other people teaching at post-secondary institutions. I dipped my toe into the educational development world during my M.Sc., when I led my first workshop for teaching assistants (TAs) on best principles for facilitating labs at a TA Professional Development Day held by the Dalhousie University Centre for Teaching and Learning. I also wrote an article on the value of incorporating authentic scientific inquiry into laboratory instruction, which you can read here. During my Ph.D., I expanded my involvement by working part-time as a graduate student educational developer at the Western University Centre for Teaching and Learning. In this role, I facilitated workshops (e.g. the TA Training Program) on effective teaching for graduate TAs for three years (2016-2018). I strongly believe that facilitating the professional development of academic instructors (at all levels) is important to the teaching quality at post-secondary institutions.