Teaching Resources

Teaching Interests and Approach

My interests in teaching were fueled during my earliest days as a graduate teaching assistant in Biological Sciences at California State University, Fullerton.  Since that time, I have taught a wide diversity of students in courses ranging from non-majors Evolution to majors courses in introductory biology, ecology and evolution, and upperlevel courses in Comparative Anatomy and Histology.   My subject area expertise is in concepts of evolution, ecology, and the organismal form/function relationship.  

My approach to teaching is that students are responsible for being engaged in a course, they should work hard at understanding major concepts and achieving course goals.  As the instructor, I'm responsible for course organization and providing students with the most current ideas and approaches to learning.  My focus is on students learning major concepts.  However, to do so, students must master fundamental objective knowledge in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics.

I am dedicated to exploring new learning pedagogies and attend workshops and network with educators at several professional meetings each year to identify approaches that are likely to improve student learning.  It is clear that we are now in the midst of an Information Age, and it is therefore imperative that students learn to learn using modern information technologies.  With this said, my attitude is that these technologies are tools and that people still count -- learning begins and ends with people.



Courses (My current courses and their web pages) Old courses (I'm no longer teaching)
On becoming an educated biologist (and person)

What incoming College freshmen students should know and be able to do -- there is increasingly concern about the number of undergraduate students who struggle to make the transition from high school to the university.   In 2003, The Center for  Education Policy Research published a remarkable report "Understanding University Success" --  that seeks to identify "what content knowledge and skills successful students have" to enable faculty teaching introductory courses to design their curricula to enhance student success (see their website).   The study describes foundational skills and content standards in English, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, second languages and the arts. The foundations section describes the skills, behaviors and attitudes expected of incoming students. The standards section lists the content knowledge that helps maximize the probability of success in entry-level university courses The links below take you to three sections of the report -- a) Introduction,  b) Natural Sciences,  c) Social Sciences.  I urge prospective students, current students, their parents, and faculty to read and reflect on these.

 Link to Report Website


Introduction
Natural Sciences

Social Sciences


Critical Thinking and Learning -- there is increasingly an interest in focusing teaching on learning through critical thinking.  That is, to teach students how to develop their thinking skills.  Like many new teaching approaches, elements of this one will likely disappear as quickly as they have emerged as the latest pedagogical "fad".  However, the idea that students should develop critical reading, writing, and presentation skills -- in sum, to be able to think in a directed and focused way -- is certainly important and it is certainly not a new way to approach learning.   If one is to become a professional biologist, one has to think like a biologist and have the skills of a biologist.  The link below is an adaptation of the work by Richard Paul & Linda Elder on Critical Thinking (see the URL to their website) that appropriately frames an approach to develop critical thinking skills through question-asking.  I urge my students to read and reflect on this.

Critical Thinking & Questions


Critical Thinking and Content -- for decades researchers "at the cutting edge" of teaching and learning have argued that the so-called "traditional" approaches to teaching (focus on content, delivered by lecturing) are inadequate and that we should teach much less content in a more active, engaged way.    This has led to the misconception that students do not need to learn content or develop skill sets that might, indeed, be best learned through lecture-formats or even through drill-and-practice exercises.   However, studies on Critical Thinking, Active Learning, Just-in-time-teaching, and so on, state that it is imperative that students gain mastery of content of a field of study as a prerequisite to developing higher order critical thinking.  It is not possible to think like a biologist and have the skills of a biologist without having mastery of content (especially theoretical concepts).  The link below is an adaptation of the work by Richard Paul & Linda Elder on Critical Thinking (see the URL to their website) that appropriately frames an approach to content.  I urge my students to read and reflect on this.

Critical Thinking & Content


Critical Thinking and Grading -- I am not an assessment fanatic, but assessing what one has learned and how one can perform is an important part of the learning process.   Although evaluating mastery of content using objective tests is relatively easy to do, evaluating application of that knowledge (problem-solving) and evaluation of critical thinking skills are much more difficult.   The link below is an adaptation of the work by Richard Paul & Linda Elder on Critical Thinking (see the URL to their website) on assessing critical thinking.   I've adapted it for the biology student.  Clearly, one can apply this to an individual assignment, or for grading a course for the semester, or for evaluating a graduating student.  I urge my students to read and reflect on this.

Critical Thinking & Grading

 


send comments to  chood@loyno.edu

 
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Illustrations by Jean Cassels (jean-cassels.com)