Teaching Philosophy

My teaching is guided by two basic premises. One is that learning about biology in general and plants in particular is interesting and important to us. The second is that learning is active, and a major part of successful teaching is to make sure that the conditions for learning are present. This embraces a wide range of mostly logistical challenges, from thorough preparation of material to making use of a mixture of images and living material to provide students the opportunity to discover on their own.


Bio 102 "Humankind in the Biotic World" (Non-majors General Biology)

I teach Bio 102 during the second summer session. There are 3 major sections to the course: Evolution, Diversity, and Ecology. To engage the attention of students there are quizzes at the end of each lecture session. To encourage students to take notes, at least one quiz consists of collecting and evaluating student notes. Lectures are enhanced by slides, short video clips, living material where possible, and introduction of current news stories to show that Biology is an active and dynamic field that touches each of our lives directly.

Bio 112 "General Botany" (2d semester of 1 year introductory sequence)

EEB 304 "Socio-economic Impact of Plants" (Economic Botany course)

Socio-economic Impact of Plants covers the basics of how we have domesticated and utilize plants. Introductory sections cover the structure and naming of plants, followed by discussion of Plant Domestication. In recent years this has been supplemented by a visit to the McClung Museum on campus including a presentation by staff archeologist Gary Crites. Survey of various types of food plants occupies much of the course, with an emphasis on where each species was domesticated and what part of the plant is utilized. Lectures on plants as sources of medicines and psychoactive drugs are followed with interest by students. A final section on plants as ornamentals includes a visit to the UTIA Gardens with the cooperation of director (and "Garden Girl") Dr. Susan Hamilton. As much as possible lectures are supplemented with examples from the grocery store and produce market. Students are also responsible for making a summary and presentation on an economically important plant.

See this link to access the powerpoint lecture files for EEB 304 from the most recent time this class was taught.

EEB 330 "Field Botany" (Plant Taxonomy and Identification)

Field Botany is essentially a course in plant identification. A salient feature of the course is the emphasis on working with freshly collected material. The class covers how to identify plants using a taxonomic key. This requires learning to identify plant structures, particularly the reproductive ones (flowers, fruits) that are the primary basis for identification. Another emphasis is on learning to identify on sight the most important plant families of our area, and students are expected to learn about 20 families. They also are expected to recognize on sight about 100 different plant species that are covered during the duration of the course. An ancillary skill is learning how to use a dissecting microscope, which is essential to see small objects clearly. Most course sessions are held in the lab using material brought in by the instructor, but 4 class field trips to local sites are held and whenever possible visits are also made to areas of campus where plants can be collected, including the greenhouse and garden areas.

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