Elements of Successful Teaching in the Sciences

What does successful teaching look like? How can we design a course that promotes active student learning? In this four-part workshop series, we will explore the question of how people learn, think through the elements of course design, explore active learning strategies commonly used in STEM disciplines, and consider how to document and reflect on our teaching.
Course capacity: 30

Session Descriptions

How People Learn: Constructing New Knowledge

Understanding how people learn is the basis for making good decisions in the design and delivery of a course. Thanks to scholars at organizations like the National Research Council, the AAAS, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institutes of Medicine, we know quite a lot about how students learn, why they sometimes don’t, and what teachers can do about it. This session will introduce participants to our current understanding for how learning occurs, and provide them with teaching practices that have been shown to facilitate learning, particularly in STEM classes. Participants in this session will have the capacity to reflect on their own teaching and design new lessons based on well-established principles of learning.

Course Design: A Framework for Student-Centered Teaching

When designing a course for the first time, the temptation is often to start with a list of topics to cover. While determining course content is no doubt important, how can we situate that content within a framework that promotes student learning? In this session, participants will think through the elements of student-centered course design. Upon completion of the workshop, participants will have drafted a set of aligned learning objectives, teaching methods, and assessments aimed at facilitating the kind of constructivist learning discussed in the first session.

Active Learning: Energizing the STEM Classroom

The incorporation of active learning activities in the classroom can significantly enhance student learning. In this session, participants will both experience and discuss the variety of active learning strategies commonly employed in STEM disciplines, with the aim of assessing which strategies might best enhance student learning in their own teaching. In alignment with the framework and learning objectives formulated in session two, participants will begin to develop engaging activities and discuss their implementation in the classroom.

Reflecting on Your Teaching: Statements of Teaching Philosophy and Teaching Portfolios

Statements of teaching philosophy and teaching portfolios are important documents for professional development as a teacher—both for reflecting on and improving your own teaching practice and for demonstrating your competency as a teacher to hiring committees. Participants in this session will learn how to craft a distinctive teaching philosophy and assemble a portfolio that effectively communicates their teaching skills. Participants are encouraged to bring a draft statement of teaching philosophy.


William Rando, Director, Chicago Center for Teaching and Associate Dean of the College

Bill came to the University in 2014 after fifteen years at Yale University where he was the founding director of the Yale Teaching Center. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at a wide variety of institutions. His work focuses on the design and assessment of university courses and curricula, and the development of teaching skills among individual scholars.

Joseph Lampert, Associate Director, Chicago Center for Teaching

Joe joined the Chicago Center for Teaching in 2015. Prior to coming to Chicago he was Assistant Professor of Political Science at Portland State University, where he taught courses in contemporary political theory and the history of political thought, and where his teaching was honored with an Outstanding Teaching Award. He was previously Associate Director of the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University. Joe has a PhD in Political Science from Yale, where he was also a Fellow and Program Coordinator at the McDougal Graduate Teaching Center.

Britni Ratliff, Lecturer/Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies in Chemistry Senior Teaching Consultant, Chicago Center for Teaching

Dr. Ratliff teaches the Introductory General Chemistry sequence and directs the Collaborative Learning in Chemistry programs. The Collaborative Learning programs provide a unique opportunity for students to deepen their comprehension of chemistry through robust engagement with course material while also developing student abilities to work effectively in groups. Britni earned her PhD in Physical Chemistry and her Certificate in Pedagogical Consulting from the University of Chicago in 2011. Her teaching and research are honored by many awards including the 2006 Nathan Sugarman Teaching Award in Chemistry, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the 2011 Yang Cao-Lan-Xian Best Thesis Award in Chemistry, and the 2013 Mary Lee Behnke Prize for Exceptional Commitment to Mentorship, Teaching, and Support of Students in the College.

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