Recently, John Willis (Professor of Biology) assigned several chapters of the book “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry Coyne. Dr. Willis is teaching Biology 102 (Genetics and Evolution), one of the courses being redesigned as part of the new biology curriculum. As part of the redesign, Dr. Willis solicits opinions and concerns from his students before class by asking them to briefly answer a few open-ended questions on Blackboard. He learned, before class, that his students were already engaged with the assigned reading, and had thoughtful comments and questions. Based on the student comments, he decided to invite the author to talk with students via Skype in the classroom. First, he had students in the class work in groups to list questions they wanted to ask, then the students were able to ask their questions to the author themselves.
Dr. Coyne (book author and invited speaker) enjoyed the experience and wrote about it in his blog, even embedding the video of himself speaking to the class.
Dr. Willis continues to use the short answer quizzes before class to ask students to comment on their reading and what they’d like more information on. He delights in using student comments to plan his next class session to meet the students needs and interests. He begins each class addressing the students’ most common questions and concerns.