Teaching philosophy and experience Donald Edward Winslow, October 2013
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 young adults to learn about ecology. My broad training in mathematics and the natural and social sciences helps my students to put the pieces of their world together.
Educating students about the mechanisms of biology is an important means of facilitating comprehension of self and world. My pedagogic goals include (1) raising awareness among students of all paths about life through general education courses in biology and environmental science, (2) helping students develop conceptual and quantitative skills, (3) encouraging student interest in 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.
Some of the most important opportunities for learning occur in one-on-one interactions between teachers and students. 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 synthesize comprehension of multi-faceted issues.
When a student asks a question, I often avoid giving a direct answer. Instead, I ask questions to help the student discover the answer. Sometimes there are several possible answers, and the teacher can also learn from this process. I help students see complex issues from many different perspectives. I seek a diversity of information sources and incorporate insights from various disciplines into course material.
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. For this reason I provide opportunities for my students to undertake independent projects. It is an exciting and empowering experience to design and implement a research project, to analyze the data and interpret the findings! I also assign policy-oriented projects, even in basic science classes. 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.
As a graduate student at Michigan State University and Indiana University I taught a variety of classroom, laboratory, and field courses. After I finished my doctorate, I taught the advanced field biology class at Indiana University as a Visiting Professor.
I directed the Conservation Biology program at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee for five years. For two years I served as Head of the Department of Life Science and Kinesiology. During the most recent accreditation process, I served on the faculty Self-Study Committee for Student Learning and Effective Teaching. I also organized and developed the University's biological collections.
While at St. Gregory's I taught lecture and laboratory courses in biology, zoology, botany, genetics, cell biology, field biology, ecology, environmental science, environmental studies, evolution, conservation biology, research & technical writing, sustainable living, biogeography, aquatic biology, vertebrate natural history, ornithology, and biostatistics. I also facilitated the natural science senior seminar. The SGU chapter of Alpha Epsilon Delta awarded me a Certificate of Appreciation in 2006.
At St. Gregory's I advised undergraduate students majoring in Biology, Conservation Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Biology Education, and other fields. Graduates of the Conservation Biology program went on to graduate school in ecology or soon found work in wildlife and environmental monitoring with state agencies, tribes, and private companies. Syllabi, lecture outlines, and presentations for my courses are available at http://donaldwinslow.info.
I also taught introductory biology at Rose State College for a year.
In an introductory biology course I like to 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 tree community ecology.
For the community ecology exercise I take students out on campus or to a nearby natural area. We identify and measure trees 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 been an active member of Sustainable Shawnee, a local citizen's group that helps the community of Shawnee, Oklahoma, discover ways to prosper now and in the future. The environmental science course I taught at St. Gregory's University helped to connect students with activists in our town and region. 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, served and cleaned at a local fall harvest dinner to promote locally grown food, and facilitated recycling on campus and in town.
In the classroom my environmental science students explore the interrelationships between humans and their world. Topics include 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 consider the social, political, ethical, and economic aspects of environmental decision-making.
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.
I like to involve undergraduate students in research. 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 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. The recognition of excellence demands the acknowledgment of mediocrity. Nevertheless, I emphasize education as the goal.
"Some of the more flattering comments from student evaluations of my courses follow.
"He is very intelligent & knows a lot about what he's teaching.”
"He is very good. When I needed help on something he was always easy to contact and ask questions.”
"He is very good about updating us on schedule changes, and keeping up with the scheduled material.”
"Very smart & knowledgeable!”
"All papers & projects were graded fairly.”
"He was willing to help you & is very understanding.”
"Dr. Winslow was very very knowledgable on the subject matter and I had fun on the field trips although they were @ the crack of dawn.”
"The syllabus followed the class almost to a T. He did a great job of outlining what we were doing this semester.”
"I felt that he was committed to each individual learning the given material.”
"Interested in his work, flexible, & always on time.”
"This class was very beneficial toward my degree & life.”
"This was a good course—lots of information.”
"Take home tests enabled me to concentrate on the central ideas of genetics. I loved the take home tests.”
"Easy to work with him. He cares that students understand, and is willing to help outside class.”
"Followed syllabus as well as possible allowing for students to understand material presented. Objectives I believe were met. I more greatly understand organisms & interactions.”
"He's passionate about what he teaches.”
"This course has enabled me to practice my communication skills, both orally and written. It gave me experience in participating in an interview and public speaking.”
"The instructor seemed willing to help students improve their writing skills and presenting skills. The professor took time to go over material turned in and offer insightful comments.”
"Always on time & well organized.”
"Dr. Winslow's a really good teacher. He cares about his students & is very approachable & helpful.”
"Dr. Winslow is awesome! He knows his field very well.”
"Dr. Winslow is a good teacher with concern for his students. He is approachable & easy to communicate with."
"The content helped my general knowledge of anatomy and behavior in all respects."
"I enjoyed the class because I learned new things."
"He knows the material well."
"Exams were good and followed class lecture and notes."
"Thought exams did a good job testing material covered."
"Very fair with exams, exams were made for you to think."
"He was understanding and always tried to make sure we understood what he was talking about."
"Very knowledgeable about everything and seemed to really enjoy teaching."
"Very good--knows this subject very well."
"The assignments given were used to help students achieve their future goals after college."
"Tests/Exams were fair; I liked how he set them up."