I’ve TA’ed introduction to ecology and evolution at UT for three semesters. I use of a lot of different techniques in my teaching and each time I TA a course I approach it armed with the experience of the previous semester.
I use a variety of approaches in my teaching:
grouping dissimilar students. I distribute a survey at the beginning of the class to get a feel for each student’s personality and strengths. I use their responses to make groups with different types of people: business majors are paired with biology majors, students confident in their mastery of the material are paired with those whose understanding is shakey, native English speakers are paired with those for which English is a second language. The result is balanced groups in which students can learn from one another.
mid-semester evaluations. I ask students to fill out evaluations halfway through the semester so I know if there are major things I need to change about my teaching styles and how I meet students’ needs.
one thing you didn’t understand. One thing I plan to do in the future is to have each student write down one idea or concept they’re still a little shakey on at the end of each class. These anonymous submissions have worked for other teachers in identifying concepts that need to be reviewed at the beginning of the next class.
problem sets. I distribute lengthy, ungraded problem sets before exams so that students can test their mastery of the material
weekly quizzes. I use weekly quizzes to ensure that students are keeping up with the material.
fall 2013: 4.5 / 5.0
spring 2015: 4.5 / 5.0
summer 2015: 4.8 / 5.0
In addition to being a TA, I’ve also been an extended guest lecturer for two large Animal Behavior courses. I lectured on topics from sexual selection to human behavior to altruism and kin selection.
I like to draw as much as I can from the recent literature to showcase interesting studies and the people that produced them. Showing photos of the researchers that conducted a given study helps humanize science and shows students the diversity of people that can become scientists.
I update a github repository with thoughts and findings about best teaching practices.