My current research efforts focus on understanding how specific classroom instructional practices and course materials shape student learning, engagement, and retention of science concepts. Effective teaching requires instructors to be reflective practitioners who collect and carefully consider evidence of student learning to improve their actions when modifying course content and structure. This reiterative process requires time and practice that is crucial for improving our own teaching and student learning. Through the incorporation of team-based learning activities such as in-class group quizzes, group review sessions, and problem-based small group work that breaks up lecturing, I am finding that my students are more engaged with the scientific material and perform better on formal assessments. Students also self-report that they perceive these group learning experiences as one of the most valuable parts of class time.
I am also using these findings to develop training materials for graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) working in biology teaching labs. GTAs will be in positions throughout their careers where they formally or informally instruct undergraduate students in the content and application of science, yet they often receive little formal training in pedagogical theory or practice. One way to provide opportunities for GTAs to develop their instructional abilities is to introduce them to a number of teaching cases of realistic teaching problems during their trainings sessions. Through discussion and problem-solving in the context of these cases, GTAs become active participants in teaching orientation sessions. The effectiveness of these teaching cases in GTAs’ training and development are being evaluated via pre- and post-training assessment administration as well as in-class observation of the GTAs implementation of evidence-based teaching practices.