I applied to the STEP program to gain teaching experience. What I got was so much more: a reassurance that I would thrive at a primarily undergraduate institution, tools that I still use for developing effective and fun courses, and active-learning techniques that give me energy in the classroom. STEP really helped me make my career goal into a reality.
by Patrick Nygren
Like many who start PhD programs and go on to postdoc positions, I was focused on the academic world, and the big question for me was: teaching or research? As my projects in the lab progressed, I found myself much more interested in communicating with others about the background and implications of my research rather than doing the research itself. I applied for the STEP program, reasoning that if I enjoyed conveying information, teaching might be a good fit. But teaching is so much more than conveying information. In the first STEP meetings we learned about Bloom’s taxonomy of cognition and how to help facilitate deep engagement—rather than just receiving information—with concepts. When my group and I started developing and planning our course, I quickly found that creating curriculum involves thinking strategically about how to be clear and concise, yet leave space for deep insights and student engagement.
Dear STEP Fellows,
Are you interested in publishing in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning? If so, we encourage you to join us for the first STEP writing retreat, which will be held Friday, August 3rd at UW Bothell from 9am – 3pm in UW2-141 [room 141 in Commons Hall (UW2)].
This will be an opportunity to write reviews or activities that you’ve prepared to submit to peer-reviewed journals like CourseSource or American Biology Teacher (such as Tips, Tricks, and Techniques, e.g., Price 2013). We will also explore other venues, such as Science in the Classroom and our very own STEP blog. You may also want to consider Life Science Teaching Resource, which includes a pretty wide-based and inclusive collection of resources that covers different disciplines of the biological sciences. It also has a guest blog associated with it. National Science Teachers Association offers a variety of resources on excellence on teaching and learning, including informal science education. It has resources for different age groups from K-12 through college level. Human Anatomy and Physiology has other outlets. Two more peer-reviewed resources are Advances in Physiology Education and the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education.
by Trisha Sippel
When I was a student, you could usually find me in the middle or back of the classroom. I would be just close enough to see the board, but far enough to inconspicuously blend in with the crowd and avoid being noticed. My early school days were spent hiding out this way while praying my teacher wouldn’t call on me, my face turning red-hot if they did. College was less anxiety producing. Sure, I was getting older and becoming more confident, but mostly I didn’t have to worry as much about being called on in class. Typically, the professor would stand at the front of a large lecture hall without much interaction with the students.
As active learning has gained traction in science classrooms, I have thought a lot about the possible anxiety of some of my students, especially those who are less comfortable speaking up in class, as I was. I could imagine being intimidated by and resistant to the amount of interaction and group work involved with active learning. After implementing these techniques in my own classroom, through the Science Teaching Experience for Postdocs (STEP) program, I clearly see the advantages of this type of learning compared to passive lecturing. Now, I wonder how we can make the active learning classroom a more comfortable place for all of our students.
Kim TallBear, Kirsten Lindquist, and Katrina Claw
Postdoctoral research fellows, Katrina Claw (postdoc in the UW Department of Pharmaceutics) and Keolu Fox (former UW Genome Sciences graduate student and current UCSD postdoc), are using their teaching experiences as a 2017 STEP fellow and as an IRACDA fellow, respectively, to engage diverse audiences in an inclusive and exciting science-themed production. Katrina Claw is the lead organizer and faculty for the SING workshop, and has teamed up with the Tipi Confessions producers to organize Sexy Science Confessions this year. Keolu Fox and Tipi Confessions producer, Kim TallBear, are also SING faculty.
An Afternoon of Cutting Edge Research
STEP Forward fellows and STEP alumni who were also Pacific Science Center’s Science Communication Fellows shared their research and hands-on activities with local business leaders and policymakers in a networking event at UW Bothell on June 22nd, 2018, with the collective goal of showing them their diversity and the need for evidence-based decision-making and policies.
Washington State Representatives Shelley Kloba (District 1) and Vandana Slatter (District 48), Senator Jamie Pederson’s Legislative Assistant Penka Culevski (District 43), and members of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce attended the event and talked with the Fellows about their research and the activities that they had developed to teach the general public about cutting-edge science and using scientific evidence to make discoveries and inform decisions.
By Parisa Hosseinzadeh
Science is majestic, beautiful, and inspiring. Yet, being a scientist has its hard moments: long hours of working in the lab, failed experiments, emotional distress, self-doubt, and many other difficult situations that scientists deal with, and have been dealing with, throughout history. Another difficulty remains hidden. It creeps into the lives of some scientists, cripples them at moments, depresses them at times, hits them hard … and that is “being away from home”. And you won’t know how hard it is unless you feel it in your bones.
STEP was well-represented at the UW Teaching and Learning Symposium on April 17th, 2018. STEP alumni Dr. Eva Ma, Dr. Sarah Morgan, Dr. Suzzanne Mcdermott, Dr. Amy Stone, and Dr. Angela Katsuyama all presented posters about the interactive activities that they had developed with STEP Forward and/or the Pacific Science Center’s Science Communication Fellowship, while Dr. Liz Kwan presented a module that she and her fellow co-instructors had developed for their STEP course. STEP mentors Dr. Salwa Al-Noori, Dr. Becca Price, and Dr. Eva Ma along with Elizabeth McCullough from the Pacific Science Center also presented a poster on our STEP Forward program’s partnership with the Pacific Science Center.