For the past few months I have been assisting in teaching a introductory biology lab at Sac State.
I TA Bio 15L which is a general education course for non-science majors. The course uses interactive labs to go over all the basics of biology, like ecology, speciation, DNA, genes, and that good stuff.
The class has been a lot of fun for me for a lot of different reasons.
I like helping out the students. Its nice to see some of them so interested in biology even if it is nowhere near what their major is. One of them is even considering switching her major.
It’s nice to go over all the material again. I learned it all years ago and everything is easy for me now. Obviously I should know the material in a class that I teach, but its still fun to know that I could get any of the questions in the class right if the teacher called on me, even when I am the teacher.
The experience of being on the other side of a class is also interesting. I have to deal with making quizzes, grading, student absences, and preventing cheating.
Student absences is probably the hardest part. This is a college level class, so they’re free to not show up if they don’t want to. Its just inevitable that the ones who don’t show up do poorly on the quizzes that cover the material they missed or they miss the quizzes entirely. And this is college so there are no makeup quizzes.
There’s nothing I can really do about absences, but I’d like to be able to tech the students that do come to class so that they can all understand the material and use it in their own lives later on.
Learning biology is important for a number of reasons. How can you be an informed voter on GMO issues if you don’t properly understand what GMOs are? How can you vote on global warming initiatives without knowing more about that? And wouldn’t you like to know how genetics work when you start planning a family to see what genetic risks your potential child could have?
I try to teach the students that sort of stuff. I feel like I’m just learning how the labs work this semester. I know I’ll do way better next semester when I can focus more on directing what we are trying to learn with the labs and giving the students more specific strategies for learning.
Also, I can hopefully be more enthusiastic when I give lectures. The mid-semester student evaluations indicated that the only place I really needed to improve was in how enthusiastic my voice sounded when I was presenting the material.