Based on several rewarding teaching experiences, I am always looking for opportunities to include teaching in my career including to continue to build my teaching skills and experience. Spring 2015 I taught a class at University of Maryland in the Environmental Science and Policy Program called ENSP399: Climate Change - Coastal Resilience which is focused on teaching students important science policy skills (such as memo writing, elevator pitches, and general public speaking skills) (see syllabus). June 2016 I was an invited participant in a workshop on improving the teaching of socioenvironmental synthesis at Socioenvironmental Synthesis (SESYNC) Center which included developing tools to help instructors. I helped author an explanation of how the jigsaw method can be used to improve teaching. July 2014 I was a participant in the Socioenvironmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) Teaching Short Course entitled, "Teaching Socio-Environmental Synthesis with Case Studies." I developed a case study to help teach the intertwined human and environmental components and challenges of urban coastal flooding.
During my postdoc I was selected to be an NSF-sponsored FIRST IV (Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching) Postdoctoral Scholar. Fall 2009 I was also an adjunct faculty at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD, team-teaching "BIO 240 Ecology and Evolution" (see syllabus). And I have been a co-organizer for six teaching working at the annual Ecological Society of America conference in 2010-2015 which have also resulted in two publications (Sutton-Grier et al. 2016 and Rauschert et al. 2011; more details in References below about the workshops).
As a graduate student I also participated in many opportunities to improve my teaching skills including the Preparing Future Faculty program at Duke. In addition, I participated in a number of courses and workshops that introduced me to the most recent teaching pedagogy including Introduction to College Teaching, Instructional Uses of Technology, and the Teaching Ideas workshops at Duke. Based on all my teaching experiences and my research into the science of teaching and learning,I have clearly developed ideas about how best to help students learn, what effective teaching entails, and both my strengths as an instructor as well as goals I have for ongoing, life-long personal growth as a teacher.
Effective learning is a joint exercise between the teacher and students, and I enjoy learning from and with my students. This process of continual learning is very similar to an approach for managing ecosystems called adaptive management (Holling 1978). Applying concepts from the theory of adaptive management of ecosystems to my teaching, I have developed a teaching approach I call “Adaptive Teaching” that has three primary principles.
I. Create a dynamic classroom; focus on student involvement and development.
Ecosystem management is effective when the environmental conditions of the site support a flourishing plant, animal, and microbial community. Similarly, an effective classroom is a dynamic and interactive place where students thrive and enjoy learning. In my interactive classroom, I don’t give a lecture but I lead class. I motivate and guide student participation in their own learning using activities such as “think-pair-share,” clicker questions, as well as longer-term activities including group projects and presentations. Participation enables students to practice critical thinking and leads to a deeper understanding of the course material. Overwhelmingly statements from class evaluations support this conclusion such as these three comments: (1) “[Group activities] helped me look at the material in a different way;” (2) “[Group activities] allowed us to combine all knowledge to gain a better understanding;” and (3) “By being able to collaborate, more full and balanced ideas and conclusions could be reached.”
II. Make it real and personal.
Ecosystem management works well when share-holders are invested in the outcome. In the same way, successful learning occurs when students connect with the topic and want to learn. Thus, I use class activities, labs, and field trips, to connect science to the real-world and students’ lives. For example, when studying global carbon cycles, students calculate their personal carbon footprint to see how their own activities relate to the global carbon budget. These activities provide a context for the course material to help students retain the knowledge well after the course has ended.
III. Involve students in the scientific process.
Ecosystem management is most successful when all share-holders have the opportunity to actively participate in the development of the management plan. In the same way, it is very important that student have the opportunity to participate in the scientific process. Therefore, a fundamental student learning objectives in every class I teach is for students to develop as scientists and to learn to think like a scientist. Class activities frequently involve developing hypotheses, designing research projects to test those hypotheses, interpreting data, and discussing effective ways to present different types of scientific data. When possible, I also use primary literature instead of textbooks to expose students to current scientific thinking and debates. These discussions help students recognize science as a body of knowledge that is continually evolving and encourage students to take an active role in the scientific process even if the course does not have an accompanying lab section.
One of the criticisms about ecosystem management, particularly restored ecosystem management, is that there is not adequate monitoring or published reporting detailing the outcomes of projects. The same can be said about research on teaching. Teachers often experiment in the classroom but rarely share the results with colleagues. As a result, one of my teaching and research goals is to share what I learn with the community of scholars through both presentations and publications (for example Sutton-Grier and Kenney 2005). Recently I was selected to be part of the NSF-sponsored “Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (FIRST IV)” program (2009-2011). This two-year program aims to improve undergraduate science education by teaching postdocs and early career faculty how students learn, how to design a course based on student learning objectives, and best-practice teaching approaches to achieve these learning objectives. As part of the program, participants develop a complete biology course which they will teach while enrolled in the program. To assist other faculty across the country, all the material for these courses will be posted online at the FIRST repository.
In addition, with several FIRST colleagues, I have designed and taught six teaching workshops, one for the National Postdoctoral Association annual meeting in 2011, and five for the Ecological Society of America conference in 2010-2015. The 2010 ESA workshop modeled how to develop course materials using "backwards design” in which student learning objectives determine course activities and focused on how to use higher order critical thinking skills (Bloom’s taxonomy”) to engage students in science learning (Momsen et al., 2010). The 2011 and 2014 ESA workshops focused on multiple different ways of using primary literature in the classroom and we were invited to write an article about our workshop for the ESA bulletin (Rauschert et al., 2011 and Sutton-Grier and Rauschert, 2014). The 2012 workshop focused on the role of formative assessment (those informal assessments done as part of class to assess student learning before a student is given some kind of formal test to measure educational outcomes) in the classroom and different methods for doing formative assessments (Dauer et al., 2012). The 2013 workshop focused on how to use data in the classroom to help meet student learning goals, particularly related to quantitative skills (Momsen et al., 2013). In 2014, we revisisted the topic of primary literature in the classroom (Sutton-Grier and Rauschert, 2014), and then in 2015 we designed a new workshop about using discussion as a teaching tool (Sutton-Grier et al., 2015).
Mentoring: The Intersection of Teaching and Research
One of my life-long pursuits is to mentor others as they develop their scientific interests. I have already had many positive experiences mentoring high school students, undergraduates, and graduate students at Duke and at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center including an NSF REU student this past summer. I enjoy teaching lab methods and discussing the hypotheses motivating our research. I am particularly interested in mentoring as a way of increasing gender and cultural diversity in the sciences. In 2006, I had the unique opportunity to mentor three female 8th graders as part of a special episode of the PBS kids’ science show DragonflyTV (see Professional Development) featuring N.C. wetlands that focused on promoting young women scientists (“SciGirls”). In addition I have participated in mentoring programs including the "Expanding Your Horizons" event at N.C. State University which introduces 8th grade girls to science and math careers, and the Durham Women and Math (WAM) mentoring program for middle school girls. Mentoring scientists needs to start at an early age and continue through one’s career. I look forward to mentoring students in my own lab, encouraging and cultivating future scientific leaders.
I have experience assisting in teaching graduate courses in Wetlands Ecology and Management and Wetland Restoration. In addition, as a graduate student I co-designed and co-taught an undergraduate course that was cross-listed in the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Women’s Studies departments called “Feminism and Ecology”(see syllabus and reading list). I also was an adjunct faculty member at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD, Fall 2009 where I team-taught “Bio 240: Ecology and Evolution” (see syllabus.) I was the lead instructor for the section focusing on ecosystem ecology in which we studied biogeochemical cycling of nutrients as well as energy flow, trophic dynamics, and ecosystem restoration. Most recently, I designed and taught a class at University of Maryland on Climate Change- Coastal Resilience (see syllabus). Additionally, I welcome the opportunity to develop courses in topics including biogeochemistry, biodiversity, ecosystem restoration, environmental science, and ecology. I would also enjoy the opportunity to teach interdisciplinary courses and to team teach. Just as students learn well from each other, I learn a great deal from other instructors when I get to work with and observe my colleagues in the classroom. No matter what course I teach, I am guided by two student learning goals. I desire that students understand: 1) the importance and relevance of science to their daily lives, and 2) the creative and exciting nature of scientific discovery.
Sutton-Grier, A.E., E.Rauschert, and J. Momsen. 2016. Using Discussion to Promote Learning in Undergraduate Biology. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. 97(1):102-110.
Sutton-Grier, A.E., E. Rauschert, and J. Momsen. 2015. "Look Who's Talking: Using Discussion as an Effective Learning Tool." Teaching workshop presented at the Ecological Society of America Annaul Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.
Albright, E., E. Eisenhauer, M. Kenney, and A. Sutton-Grier. 2014."When It Rains It Pours: A Socioenvironmental Approach to Understanding Coastal Flooding." Case Study developed for the SESYNC Socioenvironmental Synthesis Teaching Workshop.
Sutton-Grier, A.E. and E. Rauschert. 2014. "You're reading what?!? Using journal articles as teaching tools to enhance student learning." Teaching Workshop presented at the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California.
Momsen, J.L., J. Dauer, J.M. Dauer, E. Rauschert, and A.E. Sutton-Grier. 2013. "Got data? Visualizing and Manipulating Ecological Data Sets to Support Undergraduate Learning." Teaching Workshop presented at the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Dauer, J., A.E. Sutton-Grier, E. Rauschert, and J. Momsen. 2012. "Formative Assessment: Just Do It! Rapid Response to Undergraduate Feedback." Teaching Workshop presented at the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon.
Rauschert, E., J. Dauer, J. Momsen, and A.E. Sutton-Grier. 2011. Primary literature across the undergraduate curriculum: teaching science process skills and content. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America.
Momsen, J.L., J. Dauer, E. Rauscher, and A. E. Sutton-Grier. 2010. “In Full Bloom: Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Align Class Learning Objectives and Assessments in Introductory Biology.” Teaching Workshop presented at the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Sutton-Grier, A. E., and M. A. Kenney. 2005. Recruiters and Academia: A Class Act. Nature 436:886.
Holling, C. S. 1978. Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management. Wiley, Chichester.
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