Department of , WSU
In a world where our graduates will likely take on many different careers over the course of their lives, where science and technology play an ever more sophisticated role, and where human impacts on the Earth are significant, I believe it is of vital importance that we prepare our students with basic scientific knowledge, either to function as scientists, or to critically evaluate scientific evidence presented in daily life. Students need to understand the scientific method. Therefore, in both my undergraduate and graduate courses, I strive to create an environment within which:
students discover key scientific concepts and gain confidence in solving scientific problems;
students develop clear conceptual models for hypothesis testing and integrate interdisciplinary information collected into a holistic system picture;
students are comfortable using appropriate technology.
These goals can be achieved by implementing problem-based labs, using research project assignments and bringing recent research into the classroom. Because education research shows that students learn by participating, students should be doing all aspects of science, including hypothesis development, hypothesis testing, data analysis and interpretation, and summarizing work in both oral presentations and written reports.
Courses recently and currently taught (list course name and number and number of students)
A summary of courses developed and taught.
Table 1. Courses taught
Year/Semester Course #: Course Title Hours*
Undergraduate courses and special projects:
2013/Fall Course # name of course 1.5 (3 total)
2014/Spring Course # name of course 3
2014/Fall Course # name of course 1.5 (3 total)
*number of credits that I was or am responsible for is shown outside the parenthesis.
Instructional innovation and use of disciplinary research in teaching
Undergraduate courses. Research has shown that students learn by their own experiences. My philosophy in developing the new courses and in recreating the courses has been to create active labs in which the students learn by conducting and interpreting their own experiments, rather than by exclusively reading about and working with measurements that have previously been made by others.
With the agreement of my co-instructors, I have converted one credit of lecture to a lab credit. Thus far, I have taken the lead on lab development for the course.
At the present time, there are no lab manuals commercially available that present a program of active labs, such as are needed for effective education. In fact, there is only one commercially available lab manual. It has a number of limitations: different cases are used to illustrate each concept so that learning is fragmented; students are looking for the one correct text-book solution in a verification format rather than using a more valuable “discovery” approach; “hands-on” components are minimal; and perhaps most importantly, there is little room for the students to ask their own questions or create their own experiments. Therefore, we have begun to create our own field-focused problem-based program.
An instructional mini-grant has funded the initial instrumentation of the demonstration site. The provides a location for developing and testing key concepts, and making observations of a natural system. Through the labs, students conduct a study of the system at the field site in stages over the course of the semester. Students collaborate to produce a significant summary report which integrates their knowledge. Thus, the students conduct a complete scientific study: they construct hypotheses about the system, make observations concerning the physics and chemistry of the system over the course of the semester, critically analyze and interpret the data that they collect, and work together with other class members to determine conclusions and create a formal scientific report. The report constitutes a significant (~20%) proportion of the course grade. An example student report is provided in the Appendix.
Consistent with current pedagogy, the goal is to create labs that use a “discovery” approach and emphasize critical thinking. Additionally, the labs are designed to develop communication and team work skills. Technological tools, including computing and analytical equipment, are used where appropriate and available.
Graduate Course. I feel that graduate courses should emphasize the recent literature as the primary source of information. Both interpretation and critical evaluation of the literature is encouraged through problem-solving assignments and guided class discussions. I also make a point of bringing current issues in the field to class. For example, the Washington Department of Ecology is currently considering changing the methodology by which soil clean-up criteria are established within the state. After the students had spent a few weeks developing a model of the mechanisms controlling the interactions between organic contaminants and soil/sediments, we discussed the advantages and limitations of employing our model in the regulatory framework. Discussions like these allow the students to work through practical applications of current scientific literature, and require critical evaluation of the literature in a supported environment. My service on the Washington Department of Ecology Science Advisory Board, for example, provides a connection for the class to the very real issues of groundwater and soil contamination.
Educational proposal pending
A proposal, to fund development of groundwater labs using technology currently unavailable to WSU students and to create multimedia labs, has been submitted to the National Science Foundation, Instrumentation and Laboratory Development, Leadership in Laboratory Development program (ILI-LLD).
Work with individual students and advising
I have been the major advisor for one Master’s student who has successfully completed his degree. Currently, I am the major advisor for two graduate students who are both making good progress on their research projects and are supported on RAs this semester. It is a high priority to gain research support for the students during part of their graduate career so that they can focus attention on their research.
I serve on the committees of a number of other graduate students from the Departments of
and . I provided advice on course selection for all of the graduate students in (dept) during a professor’s sabbatical leave.
Together with interested students, I have been creating an ad hoc group that meets approximately monthly. The group members include myself, 2 faculty, our graduate students and a few interested others.
I have involved several undergraduate students in my research through independent study projects (Table 1) and through paid research positions. Students are included on portions of
projects that I or one of the graduate students are working on directly.
I always make a point of sharing the overall goals of the research and keep the students apprised of the progress so that the students understand the whole picture. These students are always encouraged to join the research group and to come on field trips with the graduate students. A few of the students have taken advantage of these opportunities.
For these students, I have provided advice about graduate school options. A student that is currently working in the lab for me and I have discussed what makes a “good” graduate experience – I try to provide the broader academic context based on my experiences at other institutions and to empower students with information about how the academic department functions.
Instructional materials completed and in preparation
In collaboration with my colleagues at WSU, I have created the draft lab manual (Appendix). After next year’s offering of the course, we should be able to provide a well-organized manual for the students at the beginning of the course.
Additionally, my colleague, and I will be collaborating to create a publishable lab manual for wide distribution, as described in a letter of support provided for the NSF proposal (Appendix).
Name of student was awarded a scholarship for his M.S. research from the urban chapter of the
. A manuscript for publication from his M.S. research is nearly completed, and he contributed to a second manuscript which is currently in the review process.
- Course syllabus and lecture notes from name of course.
- Course syllabus for name of course.
- Syllabus for proposed course, name of
- Selected sections of the lab manual under development for name of course.
- Examples of the final team project produced for name of course.
- Letters of evaluation from: