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Helping students to deeply understand the central concepts in biology and to develop a critical thinking approach to learning requires innovative approaches to teaching and assessment. I utilize short lectures, student-guided learning, multimedia modules and independent critiques of primary literature in my lesson plans. I assess student learning through graded presentations and writing assignments at the end of each active learning activity. Students work in small groups to lead either informal presentations or more formal teaching sessions on unit material. I assess critical thinking skills through mastery style grading of writing assignments, where students meet and talk with instructors and teaching assistants about their writing assignments. If after assessment, I find that students do not understand a concept, I allow other students in their group to make suggestions and allow them to explain their understanding of the concepts to one another. Failing that, teaching assistants and I meet with small groups and individual students to talk about the material.
I've also plan to implement a grading exchange program in my courses that will help assess the learning of students with different styles of communicating their knowledge about material.
To accommodate different learning styles, students may make grading exchanges according to the following equivalencies: 1 grading unit = 2 papers = 1 exam
Take a look at a sample of a rubric I created to assess a reserach paper assignment:
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