A First STEP to Become an Effective Undergraduate Science Educator


By Megan Culbreth posted 03-09-2017 09:55


For my Supplemental Training for Education Program (STEP) experience, I took the “Scientists Teaching Science” online course through the New York Academy of Sciences. “Scientists Teaching Science” is a course on current teaching and learning techniques in STEM undergraduate education. Barbara Houtz of STEM Education Solutions taught the course.

After I finish my PhD, I would like to teach at the undergraduate level. To this end, I wanted to take the “Scientists Teaching Science” course to learn about curriculum development and effective teaching strategies. Not only did I gain invaluable experience writing learning objectives, test questions, and a teaching philosophy, but also I acquired tactics to implement active learning in large classrooms as well as in an online format.

Ms. Houtz provided extensive feedback on all assignments. She even allowed me to redo assignments to ensure I understood my mistakes and learned from them. I have confidence the syllabus I developed in this course could be implemented with minimal modifications at any undergraduate institution.

In addition to practical assignments and constructive feedback, Ms. Houtz supplied ample resources to emphasize effective learning techniques and teaching strategies. I am certain I will reference these resources throughout my teaching career.

Although “Scientists Teaching Science” is an online course, there were several live online discussions to help facilitate communication with the instructor and between the students. There also were required discussion board posts, which allowed feedback from instructor to student or student to student.

If you are interested in taking this course, it is accessible to both domestic and international scholars because of the online format. Furthermore, Ms. Houtz allows you to choose the topic for the syllabus you create. I developed an Introductory Neuroscience course.

For anyone considering a career in undergraduate education, I would highly recommend this course. The knowledge and skills I have acquired will be instrumental in my development as a teacher. I am grateful to the Graduate Education Committee of the Society of Toxicology for the STEP Award to support my taking this course.

Graduate students are eligible for these awards, which support professional training that will provide preparation to achieve career goals but is outside the immediate scope of the graduate training and research program. The next STEP deadline is May 1, 2017.