since 1978 - high school teacher of courses in biology, human genetics, and science research
I teach freshman Honors Biology, Genetics, which is a second year biology elective for juniors and seniors, and a Science Research course in which juniors and seniors are able to work in research labs just a few miles away at Purdue University. Much of my teaching has been shaped by constructivist learning theory. I will describe the instructional methods employed in each of these three courses. In Honors Biology the school year is divided up into 2-3 week units (we operate on a block schedule where each class meets every other day for 92 minutes). A student’s grade in a unit is based upon accumulated points rather than percentages. At the beginning of each unit, the students are given a “menu” of all the learning activities on the “buffet” for the unit. The students have the opportunity to choose which activities they want to do to earn their accumulated points towards a grade of D, C, B, or A for the unit. I have written the activities so that no matter what combination of activities a student chooses to do (or in what order), he/she will be able to master the required objectives for the unit. The students also know that there are more activities available on the “buffet” than an A student would ever have time to do. This student choice takes into consideration differences in learning styles and increases student motivation (the kids love having the choices!) For each unit the students know how many points each activity is worth and how many days in class we will devote to the unit. It’s exciting for me to see these freshmen learn to take charge of their own learning, set goals, assign themselves homework, and take an active role in monitoring their own progress. In each unit there are normally a couple of activities that are not optional but required. These are the computer tutorial and the test at the end of the unit. The computer tutorials have been a hit with the students. I have ten Apple computers spaced around the perimeter of the classroom/lab. Each computer has two sets of headphones allowing students to work through the computer tutorials in pairs. Since the 1990s I have spent some summers using a powerful authoring program called Macromedia Director (now called Adobe Director) to develop computer tutorials for each of the units. These self-paced programs contain text, audio, graphics, animations, video clips, interdisciplinary real world relevancy, and humor (I relate to Bill Nye’s style!) I’ve written the tutorials so that they contain a high level of interactivity as students are frequently required to respond to understanding checks during the lessons. If the student inputs an incorrect response, then he/she is rerouted to a short remedial lesson in the program and must then respond correctly to the question before being allowed to move on. The highest level of interactivity involves virtual labs on the computer where students can click and drag objects around on the screen, performing simulations of labs that are not impractical in a high school setting (for example, in the genetics unit the students are able to do an amniocentesis procedure on screen, culture the fetal cells in the medical lab, and perform a karyotype analysis to check the fetal chromosomes for abnormalities). As the students work through the computer tutorials they fill out a study guide to record their notes. Students take a much more active role in their learning in this way, as opposed to sitting through a traditional whole class lecture. A visitor to my class on a typical day would likely find some students on the computers working through the tutorial or working on a website activity. Some students might be seen with headphones in a corner of the room, watching a short video related to the unit while writing out answers to questions that accompany the video. Some students would be seen carrying out laboratory investigations. Some might be seen around an educational game board. A few students would likely be seen at the light stand, aquariums, or incubator tending to their ongoing science fair projects (the students are required to design and carry out a science fair experiment throughout the school year, which they then present at the regional science and engineering fair in the spring). A few students might be seen organizing their course binders or thinking and writing reflection sheets designed for them to reflect on their learning, and self-evaluate their efforts. Many of the activities in each unit can be done in small, self-selected groups of 2 to 5 students. My advocacy of small group work is based in part on the research of William Glasser, which suggests that students learn 10% of what they READ, 20% of what they HEAR, 30% of what they SEE, 50% of what they SEE AND HEAR, 70% of what they DISCUSS WITH OTHERS, 80% of what they EXPERIENCE PERSONALLY, and 95% of what they TEACH TO OTHERS. As I move about the classroom it’s exciting for me to hear students in their groups working without direct instruction from me, observing, exploring, testing hypotheses, puzzling through problems, applying or extending concepts and skills in new situations, analyzing data, and teaching one another. In short, these activities provide opportunities for students to probe the upper levels of Bloom’s taxonomy as they engage in higher-level thinking. Last spring some teachers who visited and observed were amazed that “100% of the kids were on task 100% of the time in three consecutive 92 minute periods.” For me, teaching this way is not only effective but it’s fun. It allows me opportunities to informally sit down with a small group of students and respond to questions that they initiate. Students hand in the learning activities as they complete them and I grade them all before the next class meeting. Occasionally, on any given day, I find it necessary to pull the whole class together for the first 15 or 20 minutes to explain a concept that a significant number of students appear to be having trouble with (based upon the results of the previous night’s grading). To a visitor the classroom may appear difficult to manage and juggle all of the activities, but it’s a system that has evolved through years of experience, plus the fact that I have written most of the activities (during those summer months) helps me to keep things straight in my mind! Besides, the students love the approach. It helps them to see that science is relevant, has real world application, allows them opportunities to meet their social needs because of the group work, and is fun because of the hands-on, active nature of the learning experiences. Not long ago I smiled when I overheard a student in the hallway tell another student, “I love biology because we get to do stuff in there!” The second course I teach is an upper level, second year biology elective in Genetics. The popularity of this course through the years has been a source of pure joy for me! I started the course in 1985 and it changes every year with new discoveries. For example, former students from the late 80s and 90s are amazed to hear that the kids are now doing molecular genetics experiments such as PCR based DNA fingerprinting on their own DNA. I have written and developed this year-long course to presently include the following topics: gametogenesis, human embryo development, bioethical decision-making, assisted reproductive technologies, cloning, stem cells, prenatal diagnosis, genetic counseling, cytogenetics, single gene inheritance, molecular genetics, multifactorial inheritance, recombinant DNA technology, DNA fingerprinting, DNA sequencing, the Human Genome Project, genomics, epigenetics, immunogenetics, and population genetics. In this course there is a great deal of lab work, interactive computer tutorials, and problem solving in small groups. Students are often huddled in small groups around 2’ x 2’ white boards with dry erase markers, puzzling through genetics problems. My experiences teaching NSF funded summer teacher workshops in the late 80s and 90s in Human Genetics and Bioethics (under the directorship of Drs. Jon Hendrix and Thomas Mertens of Ball State University) strengthened my background and ignited my passion for teaching genetics and it’s been a thrill to see how high school students have taken to the subject, especially as the 21st century is being billed as the century of genetics. I also owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Andrew DeWoody of the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources for employing me in his molecular genetics lab the last two summers where I have been able to hone my skills in modern laboratory and research methods. The third course that I teach is the Science Research course. This is an independent projects course where I have 15 to 18 juniors and seniors working on authentic research projects throughout the school year. During the summer months leading up to the school year, I work to connect each student with a Purdue University researcher based upon the area of interest stated by the student. The student has release time towards the end of the school day to go to Purdue and work in the research mentor’s lab. One of the culminating experiences in the course is the students’ participation in the Lafayette Regional Science and Engineering Fair in the spring. It has been gratifying to see what these capable young people can do when simply pointed in the right direction! Since 1997 when I first started this course I have had over 200 high school students working at Purdue in all areas of science and engineering. In these past 13 years, 11 students qualified at the regional fair to advance to 9 INTEL International Science and Engineering Fairs. The exciting thing about this course is the way it has shaped the science and engineering futures of numerous students.
1. 2012 - MARQUIS de LAFAYETTE AWARD, presented by Tony Roswarski, Mayor of Lafayette, IN 2. 2012 - EXTRAORDINARY BOILERMAKER AWARD, presented by France Cordova, President of Purdue University 3. 2012 - SHELL SCIENCE TEACHING AWARD, presented by the National Science Teachers Association and Shell Oil Company 4. 2005 - LILLY ENDOWMENT FELLOWSHIP 5. 2010, 2005, 2002, 2000, 1998 - OUTSTANDING TEACHER AWARD, presented by the Lafayette Regional Science and Engineering Fair at Purdue University 6. 2004 - CRYSTAL APPLE TEACHING AWARD, presented by the Purdue School of Education 7. 1996 - PURDUE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF SCIENCE DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN K-12 TEACHING 8. 1996 - LILLY ENDOWMENT FELLOWSHIP 9. 1992 - TANDY TECHNOLOGY SCHOLAR AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, AND COMPUTER SCIENCE TEACHERS 10. 1989 - PRESIDENTIAL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN SCIENCE TEACHING, presented by the White House, NSF, and the National Science Teachers Association 11. 1988 - GOLDEN APPLE TEACHING AWARD, presented by the Lafayette, Indiana Chamber of Commerce 12. 1987 - OUTSTANDING BIOLOGY TEACHER OF INDIANA, presented by the National Association of Biology Teachers 13. 1986 - SIGMA XI HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHING AWARD, presented by the Purdue University chapter of Sigma Xi, the Science Research Society
1977 - B.S. from Purdue University in Biology 1980 - M.S. from Purdue University in Biology Education since 1982 - +30 graduate hours in science
I thoroughly enjoy sharing teaching ideas with colleagues at state and national science teachers meetings. Here's a sampling of the last 30+ years: 1. February, 2013 – “Fat Dogs and Coughing Horses: Delivery of a Ninth- Grade Curriculum” – presented at HASTI in Indianapolis, IN 2. February, 2013 – “Teaching Epigenetics to Advanced High School Biology Students” – presented at HASTI in Indianapolis, IN 3. March, 2012 - "Fat Dogs and Coughing Horses: Delivery of a Ninth-Grade Curriculum" - presented at NSTA in Indianapolis 4. October, 2011 - "Teaching Epigenetics to Advanced High School Biology Students" -presented at NABT in Anaheim, CA 5. February, 2011 – “Incredible, Indigenous Invertebrates” – presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 6. February, 2010 – “Teaching about Evolution” and “Teaching about Evolution Part 2” – presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 7. February, 2007 - "High School Genetics Demonstrations" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 8. February, 2006 - "Galapagos Restored: Save the Giant Tortoise" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 9. February, 2006 - "8 Days in the Galapagos Islands" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 10. November, 2004- "The Creation/Evolution Continuum" - presented at NABT in Chicago 11. September, 2004 - Butler University (Indianapolis) "Religion and Science: Seminar on Religion and World Civilization" Seminar - presented on panel with Dr. Ken Miller of Brown University 12. February, 2004- "The Creation/Evolution Continuum" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 13. February, 2004- "Incredible, Indigenous Invertebrates" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 14. November, 2002 - "Prenatal Diagnosis" - presented at NABT in Cincinnati, OH 15. February, 2002- "How to Grab a Teenager's Attention" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 16. February, 2002- "Increasing Student Learning through the Use of a Fun Interactive Wireless Network and Handheld Computers" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 17. February, 2001- "Human Genetics: Secondary-Middle School Links" - co-presented as a master teacher at HASTI in Indianapolis 18. October, 2000 - "BioScope Multimedia Technology" - co-presented at NABT in Orlando, FL 19. February, 1999- "How to Grab a Teenager's Attention" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 20. February, 1998- "Multimedia Interactive Application in Your Classroom" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 21. February, 1997- "Digging Dinosaurs" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 22. February, 1996- "Restructured, Team Taught, Computer-Assisted Biology" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 23. February, 1995 - "Using Multimedia Computer Programs to Facilitate Inquiry Learning" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 24. November, 1994 - "Using Multimedia Computer Programs to Facilitate Inquiry Learning" - presented at NABT in St. Louis, MO 25. February, 1994 - "Combining Multi-Media Instruction, Cooperative Learning, and Mastery Learning in a High School Biology Unit on DNA/RNA/Protein Synthesis" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 26. November, 1993 - "When is it the 'Safest' Time to Have a Baby?" - presented at NABT in Boston, MA 27. February, 1993 - "Combining Multi-Media Instruction, Cooperative Learning, and Mastery Learning in a High School Biology Unit on Evolution" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 28. February, 1993 - "BioMedia Labs, Teacher Written Software Presentations" - co-presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 29. November, 1991 - "How to Grab a Teenager's Attention" - presented at NABT in Nashville, TN 30. November, 1991 - "Creature Feature II (a karyotyping activity)" - presented at NABT in Nashville, TN 31. February, 1991 - "How to Grab a Teenager's Attention" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 32. November, 1990 - "Human Embryo Development - A Cooperative Learning Strategy" - presented at NABT in Houston 33. November, 1990 - co-authored "Reading and Writing to Learn Within the Social Context of One Secondary Classroom" - presented at National Reading Conference in Miami, Florida (by Dillon, O'Brien and Volkmann) 34. February, 1990 - "Creature Feature II (a karyotyping activity)" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 35. January, 1990 - co-authored "Social Contexts of Reading/Writing in a Secondary Classroom" - presented at Qualitative Research in Education Conference at the University of Georgia (by Dillon and O'Brien) 36. December, 1989 - co-authored "Collaborating to Understand Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School" - presented at the National Reading Conference in Tucson, Arizona (by Dillon and O'Brien) 37. February, 1989 - "The Hows and Whys of Cooperative Learning" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 38. February, 1989 - "How to Grab a Teenager's Attention" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 39. January, 1989 - co-authored "The Evolution of Research: From Ethnography to Collaboration" - presented at the Qualitative Research in Education Conference at the University of Georgia (by Dillon and O'Brien) 40. January, 1989 - presented "The Effect of Qualitative Research on Practice" (results of ethnographic/collaborative study with Drs. Deborah Dillon and David O'Brien of Purdue University) at AAAS in San Francisco 41. December, 1988 - co-authored "The Construction of the Social Organization in One Secondary Content Classroom: An Ethnographic Study of a Biology Teacher and His Academic- Track Students" - presented at the National Reading Conference in Tucson, Arizona (by Dillon and O'Brien) 42. December, 1988 - co-authored " 'Struggling' in Groupwork: An Examination of Student/Text Exchanges and Negotiations in a Biology Classroom" - presented at the National Reading Conference in Tucson, Arizona (by Dillon and O'Brien) 43. November, 1988 - "Genetics and the Immune System" - presented during Ball State Human Genetics session at NABT in Chicago 44. April, 1988 - presented "Ethnographic/Collaborative Research in One Biology Classroom" - at Purdue University Symposium on Qualitative Research in Math and Science Education (with Dillon and O'Brien) 45. February, 1988 - "Making Mastery (Learning) Manageable" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 46. October, 1987 - "The Blue People of Troublesome Creek" - presented during Ball State Human Genetics session at NABT in Cincinnati 47. February, 1987 - "Strategies for Teaching Genetic Engineering" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 48. October, 1986 - "Using Games to Teach Human Genetics" - presented at NSTA Regional Convention in Indianapolis 49. February, 1986 - "The Genetic Engineering Game" - presented at HASTI in Indianapolis 50. November, 1984 - "The Human Development Game" - presented at NABT at Purdue University 51. October, 1982 - "Confronting the Creationist Problem in the High School" - presented at NABT in Detroit