Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2008

Faculty Award winner

Jane Waterman

 College of Sciences

 Biology

Science is like a big jigsaw puzzle, and each research project is like a piece of that puzzle. To get this message across to my students, at all the levels I teach, I try to bring science alive to my classes, show them that science is always a work in progress and that it is exciting. I think it is important to integrate my own research into the classroom, as research and teaching are synergistic activities, and I often use my own data to illustrate topics being covered in class. My philosophy is that even though the student may be taking my class to learn specifics about a particular topic in Biology, they will also leave the course with a greater understanding of how good science is done, how to design experiments and how to critically evaluate the evidence given to support or reject a hypothesis. Teaching such critical thinking skills not only helps students to evaluate what they are learning currently, but also provides greater self-confidence in their own reasoning abilities.  My teaching methods emphasize active learning through cooperative discussion, and active student input during lectures. Learning should not be a passive activity, and students respond positively when they are encouraged to participate more actively in the learning process. Encouraging them to ask questions will help them develop scientifically because that is what scientists do, ask questions. Even in my large lecture classes, I use group discussion and one minute essays to stimulate critical thinking.  Promoting a more active classroom keeps students attentive, focused, and interested, which helps them to process and integrate new material. I also like to challenge students with the sort of questions that test their grasp of the subject at several levels of understanding. Giving students the chance to synthesize, evaluate, and integrate ideas and concepts at any stage of their university experience will help them to grow and develop intellectually.Regardless of the course topic I am teaching, I approach lectures with a sense of humor and spontaneity. Motivating students to learn is my primary role as a teacher, and I work hard at this challenge.