Engaged and active learning are essential toward a successful learning experience. Today, I continue to learn new ideas and academic disciplines, and continue to consider myself a student learner. While I realized that biology can be seen and experienced in everyday life from my years as a biological sciences student, my experiences in introductory courses of other disciplines revealed to me that I was also seeking for relevance, real-world applicability, and the understanding of 'why'. My successes in other disciplines came from being able to explain what I learned to others and discuss why it is important to our world. From being a teaching assistant at Orange Coast College, I learned that non-majors and even the first-year biology students feel the same way I did, with many selecting their major field based on how well they 'get it.' The instruction of biological science courses, especially non-majors, is vital to the student's development of everyday scientific critical thinking skills and success in handling future biological encounters. My teaching philosophy aims to instill the logic and appreciation of biology, effectively deliver fundamental biological concepts, and incorporate practical applications into the curriculum in order to best equip them toward success in their future challenges.
I believe in beginning a class with clear course objectives in order to help students understand what is expected and to help them accomplish their learning goals. With a clear set of expectations, an instructor must also be adaptable to a student's stage in academics and way of learning. I would often discuss challenging lecture topics using analogies and knowledge that students already know. In the case of restriction enzymes, I often compared the plasmid to a metal ring and the enzyme to a pair of scissors to emphasize that the right tool is needed for the right job. I would also encourage active and engaged learning by posing a question to the class and asking students to discuss them with their neighbors. Group projects and class pop-quizzes gives students the chance to discuss the material and develop effective ways to communicate their knowledge and ideas. As a teaching assistant, I asked students to collaborate with their group until they could confidently point out where a peptide bond is on a molecular model. Even with all these class exercises, an instructor must be encouraging of students to discuss poor exam and quiz scores, help them assess their weaknesses and give positive counsel on methods to improve them. Office hour appointments would help introduce students to the benefits of office hours, discuss exam grades, clarify unclear topics, and give them the opportunity to know that I can also be a guide and mentor. These discussions help instructors know their students better and show that they care.
My goal as an instructor is to help students realize that biology can be learned through logic and common sense. When a student says, "I get it," I am rewarded with their inspiration, appreciation, and motivation that follows, especially when they get the questions right on an exam. At Orange Coast College, I am rewarded after having met the students' expectations with positive teaching evaluations and their advocacy for me to teach their next class. Through teaching, I also aim to learn new skills, develop more effective teaching methods and to share them with my colleagues. I understand that courses, such as a non-majors biology course, may be the only course that students take in science, thus I am serious about the instruction of non-majors biological science courses because they give students a well-rounded scientific background and a fundamental framework to help them grow as students and future professionals.