At Clemson, I teach Integrated Pest Management (odd spring semesters– syllabus), Insect Ecology (even spring semesters– syllabus) and Agricultural Entomology (odd summer semesters– syllabus), a summer field course, as well .
Here’s my teaching philosophy:
As the daughter of two high school educators, teaching is a responsibility I approach with respect, pride, and enthusiasm. My approach to education and outreach has been shaped by diverse teaching experiences, extensive preparation in pedagogical workshops, and advice and examples set by several outstanding mentors at both liberal arts and R1 university environments. My PhD advisor constantly reminded me that my intellectual and professional success were critical to his own, and I will invest similar priority in the development of my own students and mentees. My teaching philosophy is best characterized by six pledges I make to all students and mentees I educate now and in the future.
1) Ignite interest: The first step in education is engaging students’ attention. In addition to bringing humor and palpable enthusiasm to the classroom, I provide thoughtfully crafted blends of lecture, video, discussion, and group activities that keep students engaged and focused. I link course material to current events, and integrate recent developments in the field as they occur. Occasionally, I employ the ‘flip’ method in my classroom; students are required to prepare background material prior to class, and spend the entire classroom period working together on meaningful group projects.
2) Make it real: Nothing helps students appreciate the importance of their training like a project with real and tangible outcomes. For example, in an Integrated Pest Management curriculum, I will recruit regional growers to provide consulting opportunities for students– to increase their awareness of real-world challenges and to learn to balance competing priorities of weed control, pest control, soil management and economic/environmental sustainability. At Purdue University, I collaborated with faculty and students in the Landscape Architecture program to design and install a demonstration garden for beneficial insects that is currently under construction. This project will be continually utilized in Purdue’s Entomology department teaching curriculum and extension/outreach program. Additionally, I encourage students to prepare term papers in the form of academic articles or grant proposals and offer to help prepare them for submission.
3) Make it personal: Students have diverse backgrounds and strengths; I will offer project choices that enable them to develop unique interests as well as showcase their strongest skillsets. For example, class presentations can be delivered in traditional lecture form for those inclined to public speaking, or in edited webinar format for those who prefer video production. My teaching style actively encourages class participation, however I will also offer students opportunities to meet my requirements in class, in online platforms, or during office hours. These choices will allow students to interact in environments where they are most adept and likely to learn.
4) Impart life skills: While tailoring a learning/training experience to students’ unique needs, I will expect that each of them gain basic skills that are critical in science, or any profession. For example, students will practice writing and receive feedback on short, routine assignments. Moreover, students will have ample opportunity to practice collecting and processing of data, allowing development of a basic level of proficiency in using spreadsheets, simple data analysis and figure preparation. Finally, students will develop, execute, and present projects as a team and practice peer evaluation. These requirements will improve comprehension of course material, enhance critical thinking, and serve as training in any field students pursue following course completion.
5) Teach resourcefulness: With the ever-growing wealth of information available at our fingertips, future success for students will be defined by how well they can identify information resources and synthesize information, rather than how well they can retain it. My students will learn: 1) how to use the most powerful features of online search tools like Google Scholar, 2) when to ask for help once they have exhausted accessible resources, 3) how to identify who is most qualified to help, and 4) how to ask informed questions. In addition to this training in information gathering and networking, I will also make them aware of extracurricular professional development opportunities, relevant seminars, academic and professional conferences, and community service opportunities in their fields of interest. Importantly, I encourage students to seek out similar opportunities for themselves.
6) Keep training always: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I commit to routinely develop my skills as an educator through participation in annual workshops and seminars. Insect ecology is a dynamic and rapidly developing field, requiring that teachers stay abreast of both current advances and the most effective education tools available to translate that information to future scientists. Technology is rapidly transforming the culture of education, and I intend to take full advantage of social media, mobile technology, and online class engagement platforms, particularly Socrative, which enable rapid, anonymous assessments of student learning and promote active participation, even in large groups.