I find it fascinating to study the molecular characterization of genes and their mechanism of expression in living organisms. This characterization has been feasible in genomes of multiple organisms with the use of molecular tools. The scientific community needs to motivate young scientists to continue adding more tools and innovations to the current list of achievements.As a molecular biology teacher, encouraging students to join the scientific community by teaching them how to use molecular tools is a great responsibility.
Engaging students in the molecular biology field
Cultivating students interest in learning and applying molecular tools has been my main goal throughout my teaching career. I interview each of my students to understand what motivates them and what they expect to learn, and I let them know that I will take their needs into consideration. As such, I outline my syllabus to meet the individual needs of the students, while keeping in mind that different people learn differently. I clearly state what they are going to do during the semester and what they will expect to learn by the end.
Teaching strategies: The lecture
I think that for the best teaching to occur, one must continually update and modify one’s teaching strategies, utilizing all technological advancements currently available. I use PowerPoint™ presentations in class, multimedia online, web-based applications and computer software to enhance the learning experiences of the students. During my lectures, I provide real life examples to illustrate complex scientific information given to them. Thus, I help students understand the concepts and the practical application of these concepts.
Teaching strategies: Active learning
I challenge myself to provide a stimulating learning environment to the students to promote active learning. I believe that the best approach to learn the utilization of molecular biology tools is by working with the techniques in the laboratory. So I organize “hands on” lab work to run molecular techniques during the semester. For that, the students get grouped in teams of three or four to run their experiments in the lab, and I encourage them to get together to write their lab reports. Additionally, I request the teams to design and carry out a cooperative research project utilizing any technique they learned previously in the lab. To analyze their experimental results, I have them use any computer software they learned in class. I believe that cooperative learning provides an opportunity for the students to critically analyze their experimental designs.
I believe assessment is important on many different levels. First, I want to ensure that my students understand concepts. The approach I use is to meet them during office hours (“tutoring”) and discuss the topics and issues about which they are unclear. I believe students have the freedom to exchange opinions with their teachers, and give me their feedback, since it is ultimately these types of comments that stimulate me as a professor to improve. Additionally, I assess their collaborative work by requiring them to defend their research project results in a 30-minute oral presentation at the end of the semester. This type of assessment is particularly effective because it gives them the chance to practice for their thesis or dissertation defense. Thus, as a teacher and researcher, I must encourage my students to be objective, creative and determined. My challenge doesn’t lay in how to lecture the students about concepts, but in giving them the opportunity put molecular biology in practice. These are the philosophies that I try to live and teach by.
• Rossio Kersey, Molecular Biology