INTRODUCTION TO LABORATORY INSTRUCTION
Syllabus - Fall 2009
|Course Description||Text||Chem-Biol Synergy||Responsibilities|
|Meeting Time & Place||Background||Grading||Useful Web-links for TAs|
|Course Home Page
Instructor: Prof. Hal White
Office: 203 Brown Laboratory
e-mail: halwhite at udel.edu
Course Description: Being a new Teaching Assistant (TA) in a biology or chemistry laboratory of 20 undergraduates requires preparation not only in the subject matter but also in methods of instruction. Introduction to Laboratory Instruction is not a course devoted to biology or chemistry content. Rather, it focuses on teaching and especially learning. It is dedicated to preparing first-time TAs to fulfill their roles in undergraduate teaching laboratories. Issues relating to specific laboratory exercises and course content are the responsibility of the various course instructors. Among the topics and issues addressed are:
Time & Place:
The class meets Tuesdays from 8:00 to 9:15 A.M. in 208 Gore Hall. In addition, the course is coupled to the annual TA Conference sponsored by the Center for Teaching Effectiveness and departmental TA Orientation sessions during the week before classes start. The tentative course schedule is posted.
Who should take this course:
All new Chemistry graduate students who are first-time teaching assistants must take Introduction to Laboratory Instruction. All new Biology graduate students who are first-time teaching assistants are strongly recommended to take this course. Because this course has a significant in-service component, new graduate students who are not teaching, should defer taking the course to when they become a TA.
There is no text for this course. However, there will be many handouts and material you will need to photocopy or print from the Internet. In order to keep these documents organized, you should put them in a three-ring binder.
Financial support and incentives for offering this course come from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and their four-year Undergraduate Science Education Grant to the University of Delaware That began in September 2002. The HHMI Undergraduate Program at the University of Delaware is dedicated to "stimulating attitudes of inquiry" in the classroom and in the laboratory, and among students and faculty at all levels. Traditional methods of instruction (e. g. "cookbook laboratories") often focus on transmission of information rather than cultivating curiosity and conceptual understanding. One of the goals of this course is to catalyze a shift in the perception of a teacher's role from the being source of all knowledge to being a facilitator of student learning.
Grading and Assignments:
Introduction to Laboratory Instruction is a pass-fail course. The main purpose of the course is to help new teaching assistants succeed. For this course, I expect registrants to:
Groups and Class Conduct:
Each student will be assigned to a heterogeneous group of four or five students. These groups will not change during the semester. Every class period will involve group and whole class discussion with occasional individual presentations. Experienced teaching assistants and other guests will contribute to some classes.
Over the years, my perception of my role in the class room has changed and now focuses on student learning. First, I believe that substantive learning has an emotional component which I view as involvement. Consequently, I feel comfortable and justified in moving from a teacher-centered lecture approach to a student-centered, problem-based learning approach where students work in cooperative groups during class time. To encourage involvement, I look for complex real-world problems with a “hook” that relates to the students and to the concepts I want them to learn.
Second, learning is not easy. The struggle to understand is important. It is not my struggle but the students’. Therefore, I am much less inclined to answer student questions. Rather, their questions more often elicit other questions from me that can be viewed as handholds on the mountain they have to climb. With this perspective, I try to encourage independence but provide support when needed.
Thirdly, I view myself as more than a content expert who has to “cover the material.” I believe it is important for me to evaluate student writing for composition and grammar, although I am not an English professor. I feel it is important to introduce ethical issues that relate to the material, although I don’t have ready answers. And I am willing to deal with uncertainties in the dynamics of the groups I create without credentials in social psychology. These are all things I think will help students become more effective biologists and chemists. By dealing with these issues in science classes, I hope to convey their importance for being a responsible citizen.
General responsibilities in the course in which you are a TA: