Teaching Philosophy and Style

Through my involvement in educational grants and my educational research, I taught quite differently in my final years of teaching than I did 16 years ago when I first became involved in science education research. I used to think that if I were just very clear and well organized that my students could learn if they applied themselves. I have learned since then there are many different ways that people learn and if I as their teacher can tap into a variety of ways that people learn this will help them learn. I also tried to help my students learn more conceptually and less algorithmically, to teach for the big ideas and the connections between the big ideas. I encouraged my students to use language actively in their learning. I tried to tap into what my students already knew and tap into their interests.

I did all this in a variety of ways, but some of the ways include using collaborative groups to enhance the opportunities for students to utilize language to construct meaning and listen critically to the ideas of others, realizing that people learn and think sometimes similarly but also sometimes differently than themselves. Also, I utilized technology considerably in my teaching and encouraged my students to learn and utilize technology to realize that science is not just abstract knowledge but that learners construct their own knowledge. Science is an integral part of the world leading to solutions to real problems. My students worked together in collaborative groups to develop either PowerPoint presentations or Web sites on topics that related to the course content, and presented these to other students, either during laboratory time, during class time, or on the Internet for intergroup peer review. I also used a site called Chemistry Is In the News (CIITN) at this URL: http://www.ciitn.missouri.edu/ (at CIITN, look under Student Projects on the left-hand bar, and you can visit some of my students' projects).

I learned about my students’ goals by asking them to write their goals at the beginning, midway, and end of the course. Students reflected on the reasons they enrolled in the course, their goals for learning, and as the course proceeded, their success in achieving their goals. All this information helped inform me as their teacher of ways I could guide our activities in the classroom to help my students achieve their goals.

I allowed time in class for active learning, with students working in small groups to make connections between their understanding and evidence presented in the subject matter. As one student said to me, “Instead of my just copying the notes and trying to figure it out when I get home, it gives us time to address our questions as we try to do the exercise and have opportunities to learn and ask questions during class.” I utilized the Personal Response System (PRS) with "clickers" as well, to keep students' attendance and their attention in class.

One of my funded grants through the state of Florida's Department of Education was jointly with the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium (PAEC). The University of Florida was a partner in this grant as well. We had a large program for practicing science teachers in rural northern Florida called Science Collaboration: Immersion, Inquiry, Innovation (Sc:iii). Over two semesters we offered two on-line graduate courses, culminating in scientific research experiences in the field for 79 teachers working with environmental scientists at state parks, estuarine reserves, FSU Coastal Marine Laboratory, Nokuse Plantation, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, etc. We disseminated our results with a color, 2008 monograph with ten chapters (with eight by the teachers), available on my homepage, co-edited by Dr. Kate Calvin and me, and published through PAEC in Chipley, FL.

We also have a 60-minute videodocumentary of the Sc:iii program, available in four sections, produced and made available through PAEC at http://www.paec-sc-iii.org/realscience.htm which is also linked in four parts on my Downloads page. The prestigious 2008 Aurora Awards selected the Florida Education Channel's videodocumentary production that spotlighted our teachers, university faculty and scientists who participated in the Science Collaboration: Immersion, Inquiry, Innovation (Sc:iii) project for its Platinum Best of Show in the Educational Documentary category.

The Sc:iii monograph is the fifth in a series of five monographs I have co-edited as a science educator. The fourth one won the NSF Dissemination Award in 2006 for the GK-12 program. All of these monographs are available in pdf format through the Monographs page on my website.