Creating Effective Classroom Learning Experiences

In my teaching, I strive to express enthusiasm and approachability as starting points for generating effective classroom learning experiences. I also like to use specimens and hands-on experiences to engage students and get them motivated to learn. I find that having specimens for students to handle and interact with can be very engaging and it serves as a bridge to integrate my research into the classroom. By connecting to real research and real experiences, students better appreciate the real world value of what they are learning and can find something tangible they can relate to.

A hands-on experience with the hard clam, Mercenaria mercenaria.

Many of my lessons will involve a significant lecture component with Powerpoint to disseminate information. Powerpoint can be a bit bland, but I typically include videos and other media forms to break up the lectures and engage the students. Another tool I incorporate is virtual field experience, a new tool being developed by educators at the Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth. This tool brings the field to the student and lets them explore a field site that would otherwise be impossible to visit. For example, you can visit a virtual field experience I created for the Colorado River delta (

I also encourage student participation during my lectures. For instance, I ask students to provide definitions for new terms, to converse with their neighbors about new ideas, and to share questions and insights as they arise throughout a lecture. Most importantly, early in the semester, I emphasize to my students that we are a team working towards a good experience for everyone.