Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2014

Faculty Award winner

William Self

 College of Medicine

 Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

My goal when teaching any course is to highlight the core concepts in lecture so that the most critical aspects of the material are made clear to the students. Students must read and study the details of the concepts, generally from a course textbook and PowerPoint slides that I develop from the textbook, to emphasize the most relevant material that I am covering in the course. During lecture, I cover only the most difficult to understand concepts and weave these concepts into the material.

I believe that all undergraduate courses should have some core text that can assist both the instructor and student. I feel that adding information from the current scientific literature on a subject helps to update the text, and helps to make the undergraduate student more comfortable learning from the scientific literature. I have done this in all my courses over the past ten years, primarily in my primary course Microbial Metabolism. Metabolism can be a very dry and uninteresting course, so I aim to develop activities that make the course interesting and keep students’ attention. One of the assignments I give to students as part of a homework grade in my undergraduate courses asks them to "update" the concepts in the textbook directly from current literature. This becomes both a learning activity in informatics (and thus contributes to the goal of Information Fluency) and helps students to solidify the concepts from the textbook. In each of the courses I have taught, I have found that highlighting a concept usually involves giving a relevant example that occurs in the ‘real world’, then relating this to the material in the lecture. Examples and applications can help the retention of the concept both in the short term, and in the long term. Simple explanation of numerous concepts in a didactic lecture does little to drive the material into the students’ long term memory. If a concept is ‘tagged’ with a very good and relevant example (story), then it can stick with the student beyond the course. Within this strategy, current topics from recent news (such as newspaper articles) are always a good starting point to gain the attention of the student. This is my primary teaching philosophy as it relates to Undergraduate Teaching.