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Alternatives to conventional lecture-based teaching

I feel a great debt to the teachers who inspired me throughout my education. When I began to teach, my objective was to emulate them. I concentrated on oratorial skills, organization, clarity, and a good rapport with students. However, I was always disappointed by the fact that it was easy to get students to memorize a lot of information but difficult to get them to understand and integrate it in any depth. Moreover, college students retain very little from their courses after just a few months.

Over the past several years, I have adopted the “flipped classroom” format in an advanced course on Metabolism that I teach with several other faculty members. Instead of having lectures in class and homework assignments outside of class a flipped class inverts this paradigm. So, I place all of my lecture material on short videos and the class sessions consist of interactive challenging exercises where students work in groups.

The flipped class is far more effective than a lecture-based class. The students have to be caught up. They are all active in the classroom. They do not have to cram for exams. And, it is very rewarding to interact with the students and get to know them.

Teaching opportunities for graduate students and post-docs

For graduate students and post-docs aspiring to a career that includes teaching, developing a teaching portfolio is a great addition to a resume. I have had many graduate students and post-docs work with me on teaching innovations. Several have gone on to have rewarding teaching careers at undergraduate colleges (Scott Cooper at UW-Lacrosse, Dan Gretch at Carroll College, Kim Dirlam at UW-Fox Valley). I offer these opportunities to all graduate students and post-docs. Apart from developing innovative teaching methods, it also offers an opportunity to learn metabolic biochemistry in depth.