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Welcome to my teaching dossier. To the left are links to a description of the teaching strategies I use, my contributions to teaching, a list of workshops that I have attended to develop my teaching ability, sample artefacts of the resources and tests I provide my students, and the teaching grants and awards I have received. A statement of my teaching philosophy is below.

I have three main goals when I teach: 1. Convey to students why biology is perpetually amazing. If students do not make a connection with the course material, they are not going to be motivated to learn (Ambrose et al, 2010a); 2. Ensure that students understand the evidence underlying our knowledge claims, which includes understanding the limits of science (Brewer et al., 2011); 3. Provide students with an educational environment in which active learning is possible and students metacognitively engage with their education leading to deeper learning (Ambrose et al, 2010b; Weimer, 2013a).

Hence, when I teach I consider approaches that draw students into the subject matter. I try to engage students to consider the consequences of cellular and biochemical knowledge in their own lives. One of the consequences of this approach is that it leads students to consider the implications of the knowledge they are acquiring. They cannot simply memorize the details. They must understand how the details interact with each other. One thing that first-year students find significantly different in university is that, although they learn similar material in high school, they did not understand how biology is an integrated whole. I think this is probably the most significant stumbling block for university students. They have a difficult time making the transition from modular learning to holistic learning. In my courses the subject matter is subdivided into sections that provide students a structure for organizing their knowledge similar to high school. However, I also require them to integrate these different sections so that they understand that cells/organisms are ultimately wholes, and not simply a collection of parts.

Another goal of mine is to enable students to consider the limits of our scientific knowledge. This becomes especially significant in Augustana’s fourth-year capstone course for Biology majors: History and Theory of Biology. By analyzing the theoretical framework and historical contingencies of biological thought, I encourage students to think about testable questions and the types of approaches that have been successful and unsuccessful in biology.

Relatedly, I have students consider our knowledge claims in biology. This is something touched upon in all of my courses, but it becomes a major focus in my fourth-year courses in which recently published experiments are used during lectures giving students the opportunity to interpret data and explain the rationale of experimental design. I also use data analysis and experimental design problems in AUBIO 230 - Molecular Cell Biology, teaching students that scientific knowledge is built upon evidence and how we interpret our experiments.

There are many biology educators today who advocate a conceptual approach over rote memorization.  I support this conceptual approach but not at the expense of biological vocabulary without which they will not have the search terms required to carry out their research.  I believe biological details are analogous to the vocabulary necessary to mastering any foreign language.  One cannot gloss over memorizing the words in a second language.  However, learning new words is insufficient to learning the language.  Grammar mastery and practicing speaking are necessary to become proficient.  Similarly in biology, the vocabulary must be mastered, but it must be placed within its proper context and used to carry out biological investigations.  Terms, concepts, and practice must all go hand-in-hand to becoming a biologist.

One of the challenges that modern biology must face is determining the appropriate amount of detail at different educational levels.  There are simply too many for students to learn all at once.  One of the guiding principles I use when I teach is to ask myself before class, why do students at this level of education need to know what I am about to teach them (Weimer, 2013b)?  If I cannot answer that question to my own satisfaction, then I need to adjust my lesson plan. 

I have become distressed, over the last several years that students seem to be taking an instrumental approach to their education, thinking of their courses as simply boxes to be checked off in the requirements of their degree program. This is made manifest for me, when students entering a senior course express surprise that I expect them to remember what they learned in a prerequisite course. The result is that students struggle to attain the level of prerequisite knowledge necessary to continue their learning journey. Part of the problem, I suspect, is that students are too focused on learning what is needed for the exam rather than considering what will prepare them for their future courses and careers: they view their courses simply as hoops to be jumped resulting in cramming and superficial learning (Brown, Roediger & McDaniel, 2014). To encourage active, engaged, and deeper learning, I use Team-Based Learning (TBL) as the instructional strategy in many of my courses. TBL requires students to prepare for class prior to the topic being covered in class. Thus far, I have found that this creates time, during class, for students to communicate, practice, and apply their learning through peer discussion. Many educators term this flipping the classroom: rather than lecturing on textbook material and assigning practice problems for homework, the lecture material in the textbook is assigned for homework, and the practice problems are collaboratively done in class. I have been impressed by students' ability to take responsibility for their own learning, and also by their ability to communicate and apply their learning to experimental problems of data analysis and experimental design (Haave, 2014b). I am hopeful that this will produce students better prepared for subsequent coursework and future careers. However, the use of active learning must be used judiciously depending upon the level of intellectual development of students and the intellectual demands of the course (Haave, 2016a).

The e-portfolio pilot I led at Augustana in 2012/13 is another example of active learning I have implemented (Haave, 2016b). My objective when using that instructional strategy is to have students metacognitively engage with their learning asking themselves what, why, and how they learn (Haave, 2014a). The difficulty in engaging students thinking about their learning is that many have been acculturated into viewing education as passive knowledge transfer (Spence, 2004; Weimer 2014). When I use active learning teaching strategies I must ensure that students understand that true learning is an active and transformative process (Mezeske, 2004). Ultimately, it is my goal that graduates of our university will be able to research – and communicate – their thinking as a result of my teaching. 


Literature cited

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010a). What factors motivate students to learn? In How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (pp. 66–90). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010b). How do students become self-directed learners? In How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (pp. 188–216). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Brewer, C. A., Smith, D., Bauerle, C., DePass, A., Lynn, D., O’Connor, C., … Wubah, D. (2011). Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action. (C. A. Brewer & D. Smith, Eds.) (pp. xv, 79). Washington, DC: AAAS.

Brown, P. C., Roediger III, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Mix up your practice. In Make it stick: The science of successful learning (pp. 46–66). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Haave, N. (2014a). Developing students’ learning philosophies. Teaching Professor, 28(4), 1,4. [this article was re-published on Faculty Focus here]

Haave, N. (2014b). Team-based learning: A high-impact educational strategy. National Teaching and Learning Forum, 23(4), 1–5.  [final draft of this paper is available here]

Haave, N. C. (2016a). Practical Tuning - Achievable Harmony. Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching, 9, iii–x.

Haave, N. (2016b). E-portfolios rescue biology students from a poorer final exam result: Promoting student metacognition. Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching, 42(1), 8-15.

Mezeske, B. (2004). Shifting paradigms? Don’t forget to tell your students. The Teaching Professor, 18(7), 1.

Spence, L. (2004). “The professor made us do it ourselves.” The Teaching Professor, 18(4), 6.

Weimer, M. (2013a). Research: Evidence that learner-centered approaches work. In Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice (2nd ed., pp. 28–55). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Weimer, M. (2013b). The function of content. In Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice (2nd ed., pp. 114–142). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Weimer, M. (2014, September 10). “She didn’t teach. We had to learn it ourselves.” Faculty Focus - The Teaching Professor Blog. Madison, WI: Magna Publications. 

Created: 2007 May 10
Updated: 2016 July 5