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Undergraduate Teaching Experience (BIOL 491)

Students in the Biology Program are encouraged to include a teaching experience as part of their program of study.  Whether in a laboratory or lecture setting, undergraduate teaching can provide a valuable review opportunity for students planning to take professional exams (e.g., the MCAT or GRE) and is an excellent practical experience for students planning to attend graduate school, professional school, or careers in education.  Participating in such an opportunity counts as an advanced biology credit when a BIOL 491 is arranged in conjunction with the experience.

In order to arrange a BIOL 491, students must already have credit for the course they wish to assist with, or have appropriate prior experience.  The course instructor must approve the BIOL 491, and will then serve as the BIOL 491 instructor and assign appropriate duties to the student.  Students in the Biology Program typically assist with courses taught by faculty members in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEOB) or the Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology (GDCB).  Students may wish to consult with their academic advisor or Biology Student Services staff for assistance in identifying a BIOL 491 instructor.    


Undergraduate teaching experiences can be in a lecture or a laboratory setting.  In addition to attending all scheduled class meetings, a BIOL 491 student should expect to spend 2 hours per week (for each credit) performing other duties associated with the undergraduate teaching experience.  Duties may include working directly with students, record keeping, laboratory or lecture preparation, assistance in managing in-class activities, and more.  BIOL 491 courses are taken for 1 to 2 credits.   The BIOL 491 course is repeatable, but only 2 credits may be applied as advanced biology coursework*, and no more than 9 may be applied towards graduation.  

A BIOL 491 student with access to student records is required by the University to sign a confidentiality agreement.  It is the responsibility of the BIOL 491 instructor to ensure that this confidentiality agreement is completed prior to student involvement in the course.

* A maximum of 7 credits total from BIOL 480, BIOL 481, BIOL 490, BIOL 491, BIOL 494, and BIOL 499 can be applied towards advanced biology course requirements


In addition to performing the duties described above, a BIOL 491 student must write a short paper reflecting on what was learned or must keep a teaching experience journal.  The written product is submitted to the BIOL 491 instructor at the end of the semester.

Registration and Deadlines

Students must register for BIOL 491 credit at or before the beginning of the semester of the teaching experience.  The course can only be taken on a satisfactory-fail basis.  A BIOL 491 contract must be completed and turned in to the Biology Student Services Office (103 Bessey Hall).  As part of this contract, the format of the written product and deadlines for submission are set by the BIOL 491 instructor, in consultation with the student.  Once the contract is turned into the Biology Student Services Office, copies are sent to the student and instructor, and the original will be kept on file in the Student Services Office. 

BIOL 491 Contract Form  (PDF)