Teaching and Learning

Teaching Philosophy (aka Underlying Thoughts and Beliefs that Influence My Teaching)

Constructivist theories (Bransford et al. 2000) of learning are an important part of my thoughts about teaching and learning.  Because students construct their new knowledge with existing knowledge as a foundation, at least 2 things become important for teaching and improved learning.  First, I know that my students bring their prior knowledge, correct or incorrect, to my classroom.  I should be able to teach better if I know something about what they already know.  Second, I know that my students bring misconception to my classroom and that  misconception is difficult to dislodge.  I should be able to teach better if I know something about my students’ misconceptions.

Student engagement – Students must be actively engaged, in and out of the classroom, with the concepts and skills I want them to learn.

Thinking like an expert – It is clear that “experts” do not think the same as “novices” in any area of study (D’Avanzo 2003, BioScience 53).  So, I attempt to show how I think about biology and ecology and how they should think differently about biology and ecology. At its simplest, I imagine that most students are looking for a series of facts that they need to know.  I try to explain the contexts or frameworks in which facts are better understood

Communication as a Key – Talking about and teaching improved communication skills has become a central theme in all of my classes.  This may be a corollary to students learning to think like experts, as I believe that experts think more carefully about what they say and how they say it.

Here are some examples of how I teach communication:

  • I provide explicit criteria for well formed predictions
  • I provide explicit criteria for good descriptions of experimental designs
  • I tell students the elements they must include in descriptions of natural selection

Selected articles and presentations – Teaching and Learning(† indicates organizer, * indicates presenter)

D’Avanzo†, C. A. Anderson†, and A. Griffith†. 2010. Workshop: Using Diagnostic Question Clusters (DQCs) to Improve Introductory Biology and Ecology Teaching. Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Abstract.

Charlene D’Avanzo, Charles W. Anderson, Brook Wilke, Kathy S. Williams, Nancy Stamp, John Merrill, Alan B. Griffith, Laurel M. Hartley,  and Nancy J. Pelaez.2010. Faculty use of  Diagnostic Question Clusters (DQCs) and Active Teaching in Ecology and Biology Courses. Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Abstract.

Griffith, A. B.* B. J. Abraham, C. Picone, C. D’Avanzo, C. W. Anderson, and N. J. Pelaez. 2009. Diagnostic question clusters and student active learning: Their role in faculty development of scientific teaching. 2009 – 2010 Social Science Colloquium at UMW. Abstract.

Griffith, A.B.*, B.J. Abraham, C. Picone, C. D’Avanzo, C. W. Anderson, and Nancy J. Pelaez. 2009. Diagnostic Question Clusters and student active learning: Their role in faculty development of scientific teaching. Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Abstract.

Charlene DAvanzo, Charles W. Anderson, Brook Wilke, Nancy Stamp, Kathy S. Williams, Alan B. Griffith, Laurel M. Hartley, Nancy J. Pelaez. 2009. Helping students reason about energy and matter from cells to ecosystems with diagnostic question clusters. Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Abstract.

Griffith, A. B. * and P. Murray-John*. 2009 Designing and implementing a drupal: Can a biology geek and a computer geek begin to think alike? UMW Faculty Academy 2009. Abstract.

D’Avanzo, C.*,  C. Anderson, and A. Griffith. 2008. Diagnostic Question Clusters: a Different  Kind of  Concept Inventory. Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) Conference for NSF Principle Investigators.

Griffith, A. B.† 2008. Organized Oral Session-Investigating Your Own Teaching: Ecology Faculty as Research Practitioners. Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Abstract.

Griffith, A.* 2008. Investigating Your Own Teaching: Ecology Faculty as Research Practitioners. Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Abstract.

Griffith, A. B. 2007. Semester-long engagement in science inquiry improves students’ understanding of experimental design (Research Results). Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology 5 [online]. July 2007. Abstract

Griffith, A. B. August 2004, posting date. Inquiry-based learning in plant ecology: students collect the field data, ask the questions, and propose the answers. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol. 2: Experiment #2 [online]. Abstract.

Leave a Reply