Dean James P. Porter
What is it that makes a master teacher? Is it mastery of the content that is to be taught? Is it application of sound teaching techniques? Is it truly caring about the learner? Yes, it is all of these, and more.
The other day I walked past the teaching laboratory that is used for our Biological Science Education students. This is where future high school biology teachers learn how to present scientific principles using inquiry-based exercises and hands-on experiments. When I looked into the room, I saw the following phrase posted on the wall, at the front of the room, in large block-letters, “Tellin’ Ain’t Teachin’.” This was a strong reminder to me that teaching involves much more than standing at the front of the room pouring out facts for students to passively take in and hopefully learn. While there is a place for the lecture format, deep learning usually requires a heavy dose of teaching techniques that actively engage the student. While writing this, I think I accidentally coined a new term. As I typed, I incorrectly added an extra “a” to the word “techniques,” and came up with the word, “teachniques.” Although my spell-checker really doesn’t like this word, “teachniques” can be thought of as the many active methods we use when teaching that help our students learn. You will read about some of these methods in this current issue.
Effective learning usually requires a caring teacher. When students see that the professor cares about them they are motivated to try harder to learn. We are fortunate in the College of Life Sciences to have teachers who care so much about their students and their students’ learning. Every year the college awards between $60,000 and $100,000 to support faculty projects directed at improving the learning experience of students. We call these TEGs (Teaching Enhancement Grants). Examples of funded TEGs include a project to produce virtual expeditions in New Zealand for ecology students, a project to develop case studies to enhance student discussion and learning in a large General Education class, and a project to help freshman and sophomore students to isolate novel bacteriophages in the lab and then sequence their genomes.
With your help we can continue to provide support for the teaching innovations of our dedicated faculty. We want to assist them in becoming master teachers.
James P. Porter
Dean of Life Sciences