Teaching philosophy
Donald Winslow, November 2019

Teaching is important work, and I take pleasure in it. I especially enjoy helping students with self-directed projects, and I believe it is particularly important for students to learn about biology.

Educating young people about the mechanisms of biology is an important means of facilitating understanding of self and world. My pedagogic goals include (1) raising awareness among students of all paths about the workings of our world through introductory courses in biology and environmental science, (2) helping students develop conceptual and quantitative skills, (3) encouraging student interest in wildlife and the natural world, (4) facilitating the development of effective and relevant professionals, and (5) engaging in discussions of important issues within and outside the academic community.

I encourage the active participation of students. With larger classes I like to reserve some time for small-group interactions among students. Students can learn a lot from each other, and learn from teaching their peers. A full-group discussion immediately following small group meetings can help crystallize comprehension of multi-faceted issues.

Some of the most important opportunities for learning occur in one-on-one interactions between teachers and students. When a student asks a question, I often avoid giving a direct answer. Instead, I ask questions to help the learner discover the answer. Sometimes there are several possible answers, and the instructor can also learn from this dialogue.

I provide familiar examples to explain new concepts, but I also help students see complex issues from many different perspectives. I seek a diversity of information sources and incorporate insights from various disciplines into course content. My broad training in mathematics and the natural and social sciences helps my students to put the pieces of their world together. I describe my own experiences and results from my research projects during class sessions.

The best way to learn something is to teach it. I consequently enjoy listening to students explain their ideas. Another good way to learn is to do. I frequently employ active learning exercises. I construct laboratory activities which require students to design techniques to obtain evidence which they use to answer specific questions, using descriptive and inferential statistics. I assign independent projects in order to encourage creativity in my students. It is an exciting and empowering experience to design and conduct a research project, to analyze the data and interpret the findings! I also assign policy-oriented projects, even in basic science courses. For instance, in 2006 my aquatic biology class at St. Gregory's University studied water supply issues in the region surrounding Shawnee, Oklahoma, and wrote an editorial for the local newspaper.

I am detail-oriented and proficient with computers, various operating systems, and many software applications. I help students advance their technological abilities during class sessions. I have used several online learning management systems, including Moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn., and Canvas. I am skilled with projectors, smartboards, and printers. I have basic website authoring and administration abilities. I have taught hybrid classroom-distance courses.

I try not to let grading get in the way of learning. I have found, however, that most students are understandably quite concerned about grades. I award grades fairly, using rubrics designed to evaluate specific outcomes. Recognition of excellence requires rigor and the acknowledgement of mediocrity. Nevertheless, I emphasize education as the goal. I use pre-course and post-course exam questions to gauge my students' progress.

During an accreditation process at St. Gregory's University, I served on the faculty Self-Study Committee for Student Learning and Effective Teaching. I developed many of the core, programmatic, and course-specific objectives for student learning outcomes in the Natural Sciences Division. The St. Gregory's chapter of Alpha Epsilon Delta awarded me a Certificate of Appreciation in 2006.

Descriptions of courses taught

The ecology course I taught at St. Gregory's University covered approaches to ecological research, physiological ecology, population ecology, life history, social ecology, population genetics and natural selection, species interactions, community structure and diversity, broad-scale ecology, ecosystem ecology, biogeography, and global ecology.

I was an active member of Sustainable Shawnee, a local citizens' group that helps the community of Shawnee, Oklahoma, discover ways to prosper now and in the future. The environmental science course I developed at St. Gregory's University helped to connect students with activists in our town and region. Students were required to complete service projects. During the last year I taught the course my students tabled at the County Fair, assisted in the BioBlitz rapid biological inventory at Robber's Cave State Park, served and cleaned at a fall harvest dinner to promote locally grown food, and facilitated recycling on campus and in town.

In the classroom my environmental science students explored the interrelationships between humans and their world. Topics included critical thinking, principles of the natural sciences, diverse worldviews regarding the role of humans in nature, the environmental impacts of indigenous and industrial human activity, limiting factors that influence human populations, natural resources and ecosystem management, conflicts that arise from environmental dilemmas, environmental policy, and strategies for sustainability. Discussions considered the social, political, ethical, and economic aspects of environmental decision-making.

I have extensive experience employing and teaching research methods. I have developed successful grant proposals, published peer-reviewed articles, presented posters at conferences, and delivered talks to technical and lay audiences. I have reviewed grant proposals, manuscripts submitted for publication, and conservation area designations. I have taught these skills in courses such as Research & Technical Writing and the capstone Natural Science Seminar at St. Gregory's University.

I taught a summer course in field biology at St. Gregory's University. During this short (1-2 weeks) course, students and instructor collaborated to design and execute a single research project. We developed a proposal, collected and analyzed data, and then wrote a report. It worked well when we chose questions that we could answer with available time and resources.

I have taught general biology (lecture and laboratory) at Michigan State University, at Indiana University, at St. Gregory's University, at Rose State College in Oklahoma, and at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. I have taught courses for biology majors, courses for non-majors, and a course designed to serve both. I have taught introductory biology as a one-semester course, a two-semester sequence, and a three-quarter sequence.

In an introductory biology lecture sequence I like to cover the scientific method, matter and energy, the nature of life, biochemistry, cell structure and function, energy metabolism, reproduction and development, genetics and evolution, taxonomy and diversity, animal organ systems and behavior, ecology, and conservation biology.

In introductory biology lab courses I include laboratory and field activities that highlight the broad scope of biological investigation and reinforce comprehension of the scientific method. These include exercises on the fundamentals of measurement, microscopy, cell structure and function, histology, diffusion and osmosis, cellular respiration, mitosis and meiosis, organismal development, bacteria and protists, plant classification and physiology, fungi, invertebrates and vertebrates, and plant community ecology. For the community ecology exercise I take students out on campus or to a nearby natural area. We identify and measure plants using a systematic monitoring protocol, and then take the data back to lab to begin the analysis. Students individually write research reports to submit on a later date.

In an introductory zoology course I like to familiarize students with diverse specimens emphasizing the breadth of the animal kingdom. I include a protist exercise on the first meeting of the laboratory. Before we go through the animal phyla I start with an exercise on using a taxonomic key to identify unlabeled creatures from sponges to mammals. I also include a couple of field exercises to allow students to observe wild animals. At St. Gregory's University my zoology students surveyed waterfowl at nearby lakes and measured the time budgets of fox squirrels (Sciurus niger).

I have taught ornithology courses at Michigan State University and at St. Gregory's University. As a Master's student at Michigan State I helped to teach field ornithology at the Kellogg Biological Station and ornithology at the East Lansing campus.

The ornithology course I taught at St. Gregory's University included lecture, lab, and field components. Lecture topics included avian diversity, evolution and phylogeny, systematics, morphology, feathers and flight, physiology and foraging, nervous and sensory systems, visual and vocal communication, learning and behavioral development, seasonality and migration, orientation and navigation, social behavior and mating systems, reproduction and development, parent-offspring relations, reproductive strategies and success, population biology, community ecology and conservation, biogeography, and speciation. Lab exercises helped students to learn avian taxonomy by examining and comparing study skins. Field projects focused on raptor ecology, winter waterfowl, birds of various habitats, and avian censusing.

The genetics course I taught at St. Gregory's University covered the history of genetics, molecular genetics, mitosis and meiosis, replication and recombination, simple and complex inheritance patterns, sex determination, linkage and chromosome mapping, chi-square analysis, biotechnology, genomics and proteomics, sequencing, applications and ethics of genetic engineering, mutation and repair, transposons and viruses, immunogenetics, gene regulation, cancer, developmental genetics, gene patenting, population genetics, quantitative and behavioral genetics, evolutionary genetics, and conservation genetics. Laboratory exercises included yeast and plant crosses, human genetics, DNA extraction, population genetics, gel electrophoresis, and independent projects.

In the biostatistics course I taught at St. Gregory's University, I emphasized modern approaches to statistics relevant to biomedicine and ecology. We considered topics such as resampling, Monte Carlo analysis, multivariate analysis, survival analysis and inference, model selection, and model averaging.

You may review my syllabi and other course materials at http://donaldwinslow.info/.