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Course design

I will use a course I designed and taught in my role as a teaching post-doc at Cornell University, in Fall 2015 as an example.  "Evolution of animal communication" was a blended, active learning course, offered as an upper level elective in the Neurobiology and Behavior department at Cornell.


Course learning outcomes: All living organisms communicate, and effective communication is critical to survival and reproduction. After this course, you will be able to answer the question “How and why do animals communicate?” from the perspective of development, mechanism, function and evolutionary origins across all modalities, including auditory, visual, chemical, electrical and tactile signals. This will provide you with a framework that will add to your understanding of how animal behaviors and traits come to be. In addition to gaining appreciation for the incredible diversity evolution produces, you will also recognize how answering basic science questions like these help to inform translational and applied science, like conservation and global change mediation, and services like education and medicine; fields in which many of you will work. 


This course included active learning format classroom time, out-of-class learning modules, hands-on field lessons and non-conventional assessment methods. Before each class meeting, students completed prep work at home, assessed by either a quiz, writing assignment or thought questions about the reading and online modules/videos etc. At the beginning of each class meeting, I gave a short introductory lecture to prime the students' short term memory and prepare them for a hands-on, interactive, and/or exploratory lesson about the assigned material. Student learning was assessed with mastery-style writing assignments and a final presentation. We also took several field trips during the semester to witness animal communication in the field. These methods helped foster my learning objectives by allowing the students to interact with material in several ways: independently, through group discussion, hands-on activity in nature and though whole class discussion. 


Take a look at the syllabi I created for this course, and another course I taught in Spring 2016:


Link to syllabi

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