Director, CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research, Department of Biology, California State University NorthridgeView Slides
Teaching in the 21st century brings many challenges, but none more than the population of students who seem to actually try to NOT learn. This is particularly apparent in the non-majors Biology courses, but also, seemingly inexplicably, appears in the majors courses as well. Even more frustrating is the presence of these learning refractory students in upper division biology courses. I often ask, “If you don’t like this stuff and do not find it interesting, why is this your major?” What I have found in the majors is that these students “are going to go to (insert professional school here) and so they do not care about science, they will be (insert doctors, dentists, pharmacists here). It is clear that these students and the non-majors do not share the passion and exhilaration of science that we do. Merely relaying technically complex information clearly is not enough to engage these students. Teaching these students requires so much more. Capitalizing on the human love of laughter, I attempt to MAKE students learn, sometimes it seems, against their will. I use a variety of resources to do battle including video clips, sing-alongs, karaoke, sound bites, costumes, and any other foolishness I can find to entertain them into learning. For the motivated student, I provide fun and helpful incentives to encourage over-achieving in my classrooms. Reaching all students across our educationally diverse population is a challenge that continually requires innovation, experimentation, and pure tenacity in the classroom.