Wyat Taylor/The Daily Evergreen
Diane O’Dowd, neurobiologist and professor at University of California Irvine, is instructing students and professors at WSU about the importance of going beyond the standard lecture method of teaching.
She gave her keynote address at noon Wednesday in CUE 203, kicking off her workshop series titled “Creating Intellectually Stimulating Environments in Large Classes.”
“Diane is a great role model for the ADVANCE grant, showcasing women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines,” said Rachel Halsey, program coordinator for the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “Diane’s story has added value as she is a nationally known neuroscience researcher who is also known nationally for her role in reforms for life science education.”
Steve Hines, professor of veterinary microbiology and pathology at WSU, introduced O’Dowd as a very dedicated teacher who has won numerous teaching awards.
“She is a serious teacher,” he said. “She is a very unique person and we’re excited to have her.”
O’Dowd said she came up with the idea for teaching while developing an introductory biology curriculum for UC Irvine from scratch.
“Teachers need to stop teaching just in facts and start teaching in how students are thinking,” O’Dowd said. “They need to think from a perspective of a student.”
O’Dowd said she uses methods to promote dialogue in the classroom such as using iClickers to engage participation, physical demonstrations or "garage demos" and free response problems in order to discuss the logic of the problem instead of just the solution.
“Teachers should move away from the lecture and move toward dialogue,” she said.
O’Dowd said creating an intellectually stimulating environment in a large class does pose some challenges.
The first challenge is minimizing the pressure associated with developing new material, she said.
“Teachers should develop and implement the curriculum into bite-sized pieces,” she said. “This allows one to try multiple approaches.”
O’Dowd said the second challenge comes with minimizing content loss when adding active learning.
“Pre-reading assignments don’t work very well,” she said.
In her experience, O’Dowd said most students say they do not know how to read the textbook or what to focus on.
O’Dowd said she has developed three lecture-based models which consist of a pre-class regimen, the lecture itself and implementation-incremental procedures. The pre-class regimen includes a one page worksheet, assignments submitted electronically and a short pre-class online quiz. The lecture uses the active learning strategies and implementation-incremental procedures to introduce topics and material presented on a one page worksheet with participation guidelines.
This method of teaching has shown increased performance on exams, she said.
One unexpected outcome was that more students placed higher value on reading the text as a learning strategy, she said. Students also realized the in-class questions helped as much as the garage demos.
The third challenge of teaching a large class is providing incentives to participate with minimal administrative burden, O’Dowd said.
O’Dowd said teachers can do this by providing points for using iClickers to answer questions and for correct answers on online quizzes.
She ended her address by explaining that the most important thing in teaching is to show students they may not always achieve their goals but they have to keep trying.
O’Dowd will hold workshop classes Thursday and Friday to expand on the topics of working with teacher’s assistants in large classes, using physical models to illustrate biological processes and making more time for active learning in class. She will finish her time at WSU with a neuroscience research seminar and lunch with graduate students.
This is the first time O’Dowd has visited WSU, Halsey said. The College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Academy invited her to present for her national reputation both as a scientist and teacher.
The workshop series is co-sponsored by the College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Academy and WSU’s Office of Assessment and Learning.