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Courses Taught (Fall 2009-Spring2014)

Human Biology (7 sections)


General Biology (1 section)
Introduction to Molecular Biology (2 sections)
Laboratory (6 sections)
Microbiology (6 sections)
Laboratory (9 sections)
Cell Biology (4 sections)
Immunology (3 sections)
Laboratory (2 sections)
Medical Microbiology (2 sections)
Laboratory (2 sections)
Parasitology (1 section)
Virology (1 section)
Science and Culture in Australia (1 section)
FYS (1 section)
Scientific Thought in Great Britain (1 section)


Though it is a clich, I am learning along with my students. And just as grades are a
measure of student learning, student and colleague evaluations (however imperfect
or incomplete the former) are a measure of my own progress. Though I know the
course content, teaching it to another person requires more attention to detail and
an understanding about the confusing aspects. I welcome feedback from students
and other faculty, as it makes me a better educator and improves my courses. I have
included my student evaluations from the Office of Academic Affairs for ease of
consideration. The ultimate assessment of my success in the classroom is my
students achievements in careers or professional programs.

As I reflect on my brief academic career, I see that I have used my student comments
to make changes for the better in each of my classes. Every class offers me a chance
to try a new technique, style, or technology, and that benefit exceeds the cost of
reorganizing and changing my approach to the content. Sometimes, these changes
are for the better; others need to be adjusted even more to better meet student
need.



As a student, if there wasnt a quiz I probably didnt do the reading: an awful reality
to admit as a professor. To prevent students from making my own mistake, I
decided to start with a weekly reading quiz, a simple, ten-question in-class
evaluation. This did achieve my goal, as most students clearly read the chapter. The
next semester, in an effort to streamline the process for the students and myself, I
tried using ANGEL quizzes. I thought the set-up was simple: still 10 questions, with
students to take the quiz before class as many times as they wished (attempts
ultimately averaged two per student). This was not a total success: It took a lot of
set-up and trial and error getting the quizzes to open and close as scheduled.
Students forgot to take them, and some of the questions were too difficult or
ambiguous. The positives were that they did have enough time and they were still
reading. I took the student comments and discussion we had in class to heart, and
decided that the quizzes could be open for a longer period of time and tried to
remind students to take them. I also rewrote all the questions for increased clarity.
Still, the quizzes were not perfect. At the suggestion of my Introduction to
Molecular Biology course, I decided to have all quizzes available at the beginning of
the semester. This was a great improvement, although I did still have students
forget to take the quiz on time, and many of them wanted to know which question
they got wrong before trying again. This was not possible in ANGEL. Just as I had
figured out ANGEL and its settings, we transitioned to D2L. While D2L is much
easier in some respects, I do not find the quiz functions as user-friendly as ANGEL.
Allowing the students to review the quiz requires that I manually open each. I
therefore decided to return to in-class quizzes. As the semester progressed, we
would occasionally forget to take or run out of time for the quiz. As I thought more
and more about the quizzes function coupled with my increasing dislike of
textbooks. I realized I could do away with both if I moved toward popular science
books. Instead of quizzes, students generate their own questions and summary of
the reading to promote discussion of the book. I think this is a much more useful
and productive use of everyones time and resources. As a Microbiology student
said in my course evaluation last year: The quizzes were not helpful at all, since we
don't actually use the book. The book should also just be thrown out."


Over the last five years I have come to realize that textbooks are not very useful in
my classroom. Most science textbooks are very expensive, and so large that we
could not possibly use the entire book. I started experimenting with not using a
textbook in Parasitology and Virology during January session. Instead of using a
traditional text, I used a popular science book supplemented with my lectures. In
both classes, this technique met with great success. The students enjoyed both
books and actually got excited about the science.
Textbooks can be very dry and boring, but popular science books are unique and
engaging. I found that the students wanted to know more and it sparked
conversation that would not have occurred with a traditional text. In their
evaluations, students made clear that they enjoyed this method instead of a
textbookindeed, they wanted even more discussion of the book. I have taken this
feedback and will incorporate the books into my lecture, which will be challenging
for me. I am not used to book discussion, and did not experience it when I was a
student. I am continuing my January session experiment in all of my courses next
year. I think that this is in the best interest of the students and for me as a teacher.

Another area that I have worked on consistently in all of my classes is writing.
Every one of my courses has some writing component, from opinion papers, to
evaluations of peer-reviewed literature. When I first started assigning writing, I
found that students really wanted clear (sometimes too clear) expectations. Not
only did they want the assignment clearly outlined, they wanted to know what they
had to do in detail. I found this especially true in Human Biology. After my first
semester teaching that course, it was clear that I needed to be more explicit in my
expectations. I outlined the assignments in the syllabus, and created a rubric in an
effort to clarify their objectives. While most students found the rubric helpful, some
wanted further explanation. I revised the syllabus to include more information and,
in an attempt to encourage good paper writing, implemented several changes.
My first change was to take an entire class meeting to the library to discuss
appropriate sources with Doris Stephenson. She not only helped them search for
information for the first paper, but created a website with information on sources
and research methods. This resulted in an increase in credible sources; I was
thrilled. I next borrowed a peer-review handout from Stacy Erickson that we
completed in-class for our first paper. We now peer-review three of five papers as
standard practice. If the student does not achieve at least an 80% grade on a paper,
he or she must go to the Writing Center. This has greatly improved the papers I was
grading. I have also begun discussing the papers in class two days before their due
date. (When I tried to do so earlier, the students ended up asking the same
questions twice, and it was not a productive use of class time.) I am much more
pleased with the quality of papers in Human Biology, and there is a sense of clarity
in the assignments. Although I have continued to work on these assignments, it is
still clear from some comments that I have work left to do. I don't really see the
point in the papers, they don't have all that much to do with the chapter and the
requirements for each one specifically weren't really clear. I am continually
striving to improve the clarity of my assignments and work hard to explain that
papers over book chapters do not require thought or argument development. This
continues to be a work in progress.
Another area I thought important for students to improve is their
understanding of scientific literature. I implemented a Journal Club, reading and
critiquing peer-reviewed scientific literature in my majors classes (Microbiology,
Cell Biology, and Immunology). (I presented some of what follows at the fall faculty
workshop in 2011.) I remember being an undergraduate senior and all of the
sudden having to read these horrible, jargon-heavy articles with the expectation I
would know what was being presented. I was terrified, and I knew that my students
were experiencing similar frustration and fear. Each of my courses reads four or
five papers during the semester. I let them work in groups of four or five, and as we
move through the semester, those groups become smaller until each writes his or
her own final paper. The group environment allows them to bounce ideas off each
other and collaborate, integral, of course, to practical scientific work. I present the
jargon and techniques so the students can focus on what is really important. We
spend a significant amount of time in class discussing how to read and interpret
these papers, and I have outlined questions that they should consider as they are
reading along. In addition, I use a rubric to grade the papers and each student gets a
copy of the paper with its accompanying rubric back to learn from their mistakes.
After the students turn in the paper, we discuss it in class; I usually take the lead by
asking what they thought, but occasionally students will start the critique. This is
especially true in Microbiology, where I present one paper that, unbeknownst to the
students, has been retracted and is completely untrue. They are very upset when
they find out that it was a bad paper, but the lesson is a valuable one: scientists have
both the right and duty to determine if the science presented is bad. As found in a
student evaluation comment from Microbiology: "I would have enjoyed more
journal club reviews to solidify the material. They really help tie the material into
the real world and apply it to our lives." In addition, I got this comment last summer
from a student participating in a Research Experience for Undergraduates sent me
this email: I have a binder full of journal articles at my desk right now that I would
have never been able to crack without the readings and reports we did throughout
the semester (and around here for every one question you ask they print off three
journal articles for you to look over which only leads to a lot more questions
and a lot more journal articles) so as much as I might not have wanted to do it then,
I'm sure glad we did! As well as all the terms and concepts your class has helped me
to understand, like synergy I was talking about above and looking for the highest
doses of each treatment with lowest toxicities, it's all starting to make sense with
real world applications (not that it didn't during the year)! I think that the journal
club has become an invaluable tool to stimulate the students to learn as scientists
do.

In an effort to increase understanding and reduce expense, I spent several summers
reformatting the labs for both Introduction to Molecular Biology and Microbiology.
Many students found the previous handouts confusing. I recreated them with
additional diagrams and a procedure roadmap. This increased their understanding
and improved their retention of techniques we would use later in the semester.
The bulk of my time was spent on Microbiology. I had previously used a published
laboratory book, but it was expensive and contained far more experiments than we
could complete in the semester. I developed handouts for each lab session and
ensured that they were full of diagrams and pictures.
I have found that students need as much incentive to read for lab as they do for
class; indeed, it is particularly frustrating to spend hours setting up the lab and then
wasting time and expensive reagents because students did not prepare. I now
require each student to write out the purpose and methods in their lab notebook
before they begin the experiments. This has greatly increased understanding and
reduced waste. The students also turn in the notebooks to be graded instead of a
formal lab report. This prepares them for the rigors of graduate school and
introduces the importance of good note taking so that the experiments can be
repeated. I have also tried to reinforce the importance of Microbiology lab technique
by adding practical, graded slides, and unknown bacteria. The skills learned in lab
are vital to their understanding of this field, while also instilling a respect for the
role of lab experiments in the development of the discipline of biology. As stated by
a student in my Microbiology course last spring, "I think this lab was structured very
well. We went through every stain, method, etc and then at the end we used all of
those methods to determine an unknown, which I thought was great because it
made it that much easier. We learned a lot and I really enjoyed the lab even though
it was at 8am. This lab made getting up at that time much easier!" The practical is a
chance for the students to demonstrate their mastery of basic microbiological
techniques. All Microbiology students should at least be able to practice proper
labeling, aseptic technique, and isolation. In addition, I require each student to
submit seven bacterial slides that are then graded. This might seem unfair, as
staining is difficult, but it is also essential to the field. This is also the first time the
students are graded on the quality of their outcome in lab. I have students who
willingly spend hours perfecting their slides, and they become invested in learning
the ins and outs of these slides. I have heard from students on the Nicaragua trip
that this is an invaluable skill, as they spend entire days staining to determine the
proper medication to administer.


I have chosen to use PowerPoint as my main teaching tool, as most of my lectures
are image based and it would be impossible for me to draw all of the images. I have
worked each summer on improving the content and flow of each of my courses
lectures. In an effort to make the lectures as accessible as possible, I have carefully
evaluated my teaching evaluations and notes I made during the semester on
problematic areas. This feedback enables me to troubleshoot my lectures and
continually improve them.
Two themes seem to reoccur in my evaluations that I am consistently trying to
improve. The first is that PowerPoint is boring and the second is that it is the same
format every day. I agree, and know that it can be difficult for students to pay
attentionespecially to a screen. To address this issue, I have used animation and
video to enhance and engage students. I also ask the class questions to stimulate
them to think about what has been learned previously and what they can infer about
the new material. When slides contain too many words, I find that students do not
pay attention and think all they need to know is on the slide. But I have also
received the opposite complaint: that pictures alone are insufficient. However, I
primarily use images students have encountered in the reading; because they also
have access to lectures beforehand, they are now able to take notes directly on the
images themselves.
This is a newer development in my short career. I used to think that if students had
early access, they would not pay attention and this certainly was true when I was
teaching as a graduate student. The extensive pre-class note taking I have seen,
however, seems to outweigh this potential:"... I also liked having the power points
before, only because I would pull them up on my computer and use them while I
took notes if I took extra time on a slide."

I have been able to implement more hands-on experiences in Human Biology lecture
than in my majors courses, primarily because the former does not have lab. At least
once a week, we have some kind of interactive portion of lecture. For example, to
teach why saturated are nutritionally worse than unsaturated fats, we build
molecular models of these fats from gummy bears (carbon), toothpicks (bonds) and
mini marshmallows (hydrogen). This allows students to visualize these small
molecules that are so abstract to non-majors. We also spend a whole lecture in the
Anatomy lab working with and identifying different bones. I have worked hard to
try to incorporate as many lab like activities as I can while still progressing
through the material. In majors classes, this is more difficult, as we have more
material and the more difficult concepts are not as easily demonstrated. It is,
however, possible: for example, in Microbiology we go into the hallway and form
two circles, those that are vaccinated protecting those that are not. Then we slowly
add more unvaccinated individuals until the holes in vaccination are easily seen. I
am committed to engaging students and changing up our routine in an effort to
stimulate and encourage active learning. As seen in this comment by a Human
Biology student last fall, the activities are engaging learning: "I think more in class
activities would be good. Like we did the bacteria thing and we did the bones day
and the marshmallow and gummy bears thing...more things like that would make
the content more engaging!" This quote from another student makes me think that I
am reaching students who were afraid of biology and am succeeding in having them
engage in science. Another wrote, "Polando shows up to every class with high
enthusiasm and you can tell she is passionate about teaching. Professor Polando is
an excellent teacher. She knows how to make the material straightforward, but also
challenging. I have hated biology throughout my entire scholastic career, but this
class has changed my view on the subject. This was without a doubt because of the
way Dr. Polando taught this course. I learned more from this one biology class than I
have learned in any science class that I have ever taken. She knows how to reach
every student through her teaching approach. This is a priceless quality to have as a
teacher. She is always readily available to any student that needed her help. She is a
fantastic professor!"
My most challenging course has been my January course, Science and Culture in
Australia. It is stressful and difficult to plan out a course to take place in another
country. I have been fortunate that I have been to most of the areas we visit five
times, and am therefore familiar with the cities and what the students will
experience. I was also lucky that I have a good contact to help me plan exciting and
engaging experiences for the students. I learned a great deal when I chaperoned
Susan Kleins trip to London. I noted that the students really got tired of one
another after being in a group for long periods of time. This led to complaining and
fighting, so I deliberately left time for the students to explore on their own and
chose the people they wanted to explore with. Observing Dr. Kleins course also led
me to realize that to meet the purpose of travel abroad (and justify the courses
Global Connections designation), students needed to be free to explore on their own
for at least one day, learning to navigate the city and immersing themselves in the
culture and activities they wanted to experience. This did not mean they could run
free; they did have to visit or explore two different parts of the city and report back
to the group at dinner as to where they went. Dr. Polando really promoted
exploratory learning so we each learned about aspects of Australia that interested
us. There was also a lot of variety of experiences planned for us. Ironically, some
students said they wanted to be together more, when I deliberately tried to give
them space. The planning and money collecting was the worst part of the
experience. It is a constant battle to have enough activities and spend as much time
as possible on the ground all while balancing the cost. This is not and cannot ever
be a reasonably priced trip, as airfare alone accounts for 50% of the cost. Now that I
know what to expect, I am hopeful that it will be easier next time.
A key component of the liberal arts is being able to cross over many courses and
academic disciplines. In teaching First Year Seminar and Science and Culture in
Australia, I have been able to implement this cross-discipline liberal arts message. I
greatly enjoy both courses, as they demonstrate the Universitys commitment to the
students lifelong learning. I find these courses stretch me as a teacher, and also
allow me to interact with colleagues in perfecting them. Specifically, I have worked
with Dr. Erickson to present a Science Seminar on scientific writing, addressing how
English courses can strengthen student writing in the sciences. I also spoke to Dr.
Krueckebergs January health care class on how vaccines work and why they are
crucial to community health. These experiences allow me to interact with students I
would not normally encounter, and teach vital skills in cross-discipline education.
Additionally, I have made it a priority to observe many colleagues teach, as well as
invite them into my classroom. The experience not only gives me feedback but also
inspires me to try new techniques and learn new ideas. I have included all of my
teaching observations from Drs. Klein, Deal, Erickson, Sharfman, Hicks (each year),
Lahman, Slavkin, Planer, and Angelos. Each of these colleagues has inspired me to
try new techniques to improve my teaching. For example, when I observed Dr.
Erickson teach, I learned how to ask questions on the text and how to have students
work together in evaluating it. This was reinforced when I visited Dr. Planers FYS
course as they were discussing the reading assignment. It was helpful to have the
students in a circle as each was asked specific questions. This held each student
accountable, because they knew they would have to formulate an answer. In having
colleagues evaluate my teaching, I have had very helpful suggestions that I have
taken seriously and implemented in my courses. For example, Dr. Hicks commented
that the lecture seemed fast in some places, and I have deliberately slowed down
and tried to incorporate more questions to include the students in the lecture
process. Dr. Lahman and I had a great conversation about engaging multiple
learning modes. I often find it difficult to engage kinesthetic learning and she had
great suggestions on how I could do this in my Cell Biology course. I have also had
great feedback and visualization on the pair and share technique. Dr. Slavkin
recommended I try it, and I saw firsthand in Dr. Lahmans Communications course
how effective it is. I will incorporate this in my courses to improve student learning.
This ability to learn and share with colleagues is vital to create engaging courses and
it is incredible to learn from other scholars.
I can only be effective in teaching students if I am engaged and enthusiastic. I have a
true love for science, and I want to share that with all students. I have found that
when I am learning along with them through an analysis of current events, students
really want to learn and engage with the content. Being excited to teach, even when
I have taught the course several times means that I am changing up how I approach
the content. Even in my non-majors courses (where it can be a challenge to get
students excited), I manage to engage them and get them interested in biology.
Enthusiasm in the classroom, however, can only go so far, and I have found that I
must also be accessible to students. I work hard to be accessible, which means not
just being present but easy to talk to. I find that I get very little work done in my
office, because it is a warm and inviting space for students. They come with a
question and then stay and have a discussion about life or something they read
about science. Getting students to look at new developments and think about the
developments, really engages students with the material. I think that it is more
important to talk and engage with students and take home my grading.
As part of my application for Tenure and Promotion, I have been asked to evaluate
and explore my average grades. For ease, I have created a graph for every class
(excluding Scientific Thought in Great Britain, as it was not my course). Overall, my
grades fall in the B range.
This is a bit higher than I would like, and I think it reflects my adaptation of the
course when I realize students are struggling. I have also noticed that by using
rubrics I have in some ways created a checklist for a good grade. It does sometimes
appear that students are checking off the boxes on the rubric, and if they are
completing the pieces then a good grade is easily obtained. I believe that the rubrics
create clarity and that most of my students crave knowledge on what the
assignment requires to get a good grade. I also believe that they might be inflating
my grades, however. I have worked on my rubrics over the last few years and have
seriously considered doing away with them. I am still in the process of weighing
their usefulness against their problems.
Exam format also contributes to the higher grades. I do not like multiple-choice
exams, as I think they are ambiguous or confusing to students. Instead, I use a short
answer and essay format; while this allows students to really demonstrate what
they know, it can also can lead to subjective grading of a question. While I know
that this can increase the grades of my courses, I think it the fairest method for the
students. I also tend to err on the side of the student if it appears one of my
questions is not worded well. I recreate every exam as I hand back the exam and
post the last years exams to level the playing field for all students who may or may
not have an old exam. This requires more work on my part in the creation of
questions and can sometimes lead to a lack of clarity in the question being asked.
However, next year I will starting to experiment with a small number multiple-
choice questions to better prepare science students for major pre-professional
school exams, which take that format.
I also know that January courses tend to have higher grades for two reasons. The
first is that this is the only course students are enrolled in, so they are able to devote
all of their effort to one class. The second is that the Science and Culture in Australia
course is based heavily on participation and a final paper. The students in this class
had excellent participation, and there were three drafts of their final paper with
which I assisted them. I also expect upper-level majors courses to have higher
average grades, as I have many serious and competitive students who are trying to
gain entry into pre-professional programs. Overall, I am satisfied with my grades
and think that I have acted in the best interest of the students when there is any
question or uncertainty.

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Average Grades
I have graphed data obtained by my course evaluations in an effort to look at the
overall trend of my teaching and courses as perceived by students. I chose to use
the overall course and overall professor data as it is most useful for me to
evaluate the quality and it is the most consistent question from all years both before
and after evaluation questions changed in 2010. In looking at the trends of the
graphs, I can see that I have made good progress in the overall course and professor
categories in both the non-majors courses and majors courses. For most of my
evaluations, I have increased my overall ratings from previous years and have been
above the department and college averages. Separating out the information for a
majors class I have taught 6 times, I can also observe that I have made progress in
each class as my teaching has continued to grow and expand.



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3
Non-majors evaluation of professor
Professor
Department
University
0
1
2
3
4
F
a
l
l

2
0
0
9
S
p
r
i
n
g

2
0
1
1
S
p
r
i
n
g

2
0
1
2
S
p
r
i
n
g

2
0
1
3
S
p
r
i
n
g

2
0
1
4
Microbiology evaluation of course
Course
Department
University



As is nicely summed up by a Microbiology student last year, I am making progress
and engaging my students: "Your class was so interesting. I loved that you made
lecture exciting, and that you made us want to ask questions and learn more. I
enjoyed when we discussed problems going on in the real world. You were always
able to dumb things down for us, and I feel like that shows how knowledgeable you
are about microbiology. Lab was actually a fun experience, and I didn't dread going
to it. I thought it was crazy that you were able to grade our exams and assignments
so quickly. Also, thank you for all of the yummy snacks. :) Keep doing what you're
doing!"







0
1
2
3
4
F
a
l
l

2
0
0
9
S
p
r
i
n
g

2
0
1
1
S
p
r
i
n
g

2
0
1
2
S
p
r
i
n
g

2
0
1
3
S
p
r
i
n
g

2
0
1
4
Microbiology evaluation of
professor
Professor
Department
University