Teaching Practicum Reflections – Biological Membranes

For a 90 minute lecture on biological membranes (for an introductory biochemistry course at Columbia College), I probably spent close to 8 hours making (only) 14 slides. I had a lot of fun creating the teaching material. The PowerPoint presentation was carefully animated – each concept inviting discussions and each slide building on the one previous. The process of designing the presentation allowed many opportunities for me to question the overall alignment between my learning activities and learning objectives, to strategize around how to best engage all of my students, and to think about specifically how each participatory activity may help my students learn (e.g., stages of the Kolb’s cycle).

I invited the students to collaboratively draw a typical biological membrane at the beginning of class and built on their previous knowledge as I introduce additional more in-depth concepts (e.g., chemical structure and molecular interactions). Throughout the lesson, I used many guided questions to help them make connections between concepts. At the end of the lesson, the students taught one another as they collectively filled out a compare and contrast worksheet on the projected whiteboard.Overall, I am happy about the lesson  – most of it unfolded as I had planned and anticipated. I feel confident that the students met the learning objectives by the end of the lesson.

The learning objectives for my lesson were – by the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  1. List and describe the interaction(s) between each major component of a typical biological membrane
  2. Compare and contrast characteristics of a membrane channel and a transporter
  3. Given the characteristics of a solute and the cellular environment, provide the most feasible passive and/or active transport mechanism across a semi-permeable and selective membrane barrier

From this teaching experience, I think one of my strengths is my ability to leverage technology in creating powerful teaching and learning aid. In animating the slides and in minimizing text, it created space for story-telling and helped to enhance student engagement. I also think that the learning activities were well-structured to provide a safe space for everyone to participate and were well-aligned with the learning objectives. I found it difficult to manage time (I only filled 75 of the 90 minutes in this lesson), not knowing how to best balance between amount, depth, and breadth of content and opportunities for students to engage with the material and to integrate knowledge. I recognize that finding this fine balance takes practice, experimentation and experience – but it is most definitely something I need to be conscious of whenever planning a lesson.

In my post-teaching discussion with the course instructor, he left me with some questions to ponder on – how could you further challenge your learners in this class? what kind of assessments could help you distinguish stellar students from good students?

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