Teaching

In graduate school I TAed over six semesters for various non-major astronomy courses for undergraduates. That experience included writing and giving lectures, writing and organizing/facilitating labs, assisting with observing projects on small telescopes, grading homework assignments, lab reports, large written papers, and creative projects, holding weekly office hours, and performing in-class experiments/demonstrations. 

As a postdoc, I've given a few guest lectures, included at my undergraduate alma mater American University, but I think the most useful experience has been participating in the Professional Development Program of the Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators. This program consists of pedagogical training through two intensive, multi-day workshops, working on a team to collaboratively design an (often times) original inquiry activity, and then putting skills and plans to the test by teaching the inquiry activity to undergraduate students. From the PDP website, "The PDP models many effective teaching strategies through a well-designed inquiry activity, and requires that participants spend a great deal of time carefully and collaboratively designing their own inquiry activity. This experience will likely be the most time that participants will ever spend on designing a single activity, because it is meant to be a transformative design and teaching experience that participants draw on for many years. The program includes discussions on educational research and theory, more on why and how the strategies work, so that PDP participants are equipped to select and adapt teaching strategies in new contexts. The PDP does not provide a recipe, or a simple list of strategies, but rather builds a foundation for participants to innovate from. It focuses on things that are hard to teach, like deep conceptual understanding and cognitive practices or reasoning skills. Finally, the PDP focuses on the small things that a single instructor can do, for example through the design of a learning activity or a brief interaction with a student, to make learning more equitable."

So, in short, the PDP has given me a strong foundation on which to build my own coursework or other educational programming, as well as a community of other creative, wise, supportive educators with whom I can learn and grow in my teaching practice. I also really appreciate that they recognize the importance of equity and inclusion issues, and in fact make it one of their three themes (inquiry, equity & inclusion, and assessment). In our teaching activities we are required to apply all three themes.  

Top: 2016 Carnegie PDP Team at Monterey Inquiry Institute, from left to right, Erica Carlson, Rachael Beaton, me, Gwen Rudie. Bottom: 2017 Carnegie PDP team at Santa Cruz Design Institute, left to right, Nick Timmon of UCI, me, Marja Seidel. 

At Carnegie Observatories, for the last few years we have created new inquiry activities for the first week "bootcamp" of our undergraduate internship program over the summer. We structure the activities like a mini research project, where we prompt students to ask their own questions surrounding a specific concept in astronomy, and then they carry out self-driven investigations to answer their own questions, and conclude after a day and a half with short oral presentations. The feedback we've gotten has been mostly positive, like 

"INCREDIBLE instruction!!! All three of them were kind, helpful, engaged, and seemed to truly want us to learn the material. I couldn't have asked for better."

"Your encouragement, openness, and follow-up was well appreciated and never forced. Great visual aids, and feedback."

"The instructors were very knowledgeable and helped point me in the right direction when I felt like I had no idea what I was doing."

"Out of all the astronomy papers/books I've ever read, this is the first time where I actually had to really think on my own in terms of interpreting physical aspects and correlation from graphed data."

"The workshop did seem to simulate and condense a much broader and deeper research experience, but for the time and resources given, the experience seemed very authentic."

In 2016 the Carnegie Observatories team was led by Rachael Beaton, and our activity was titled "Characterizing astronomical objects using Doppler redshift, and engaging in scientific argumentation from graphical evidence." In 2017 I was the DTL (Design Team Leader), and our activity was, "Line broadening in Astronomical Objects -- Physical Origins and Correlations." Not easy concepts, right? I am happy to share the details of these activities with any interested educators. I also highly recommend the PDP for graduate students, postdocs, early career faculty...really everyone! 

Both from 2017: Top, questions students asked during our starter activity to get them thinking about what they wanted to investigate. Bottom, initial claims each group of two students made at the start of their inquiry investigation, which they proceeded to test with data we provided.