Instructor Spotlight – Brett Couch


Photo by: Elaine Simons Lane

Brett Couch is a Senior Instructor in the departments of Botany and Zoology. He has taught and developed the lab component of BIOL203. He also serves as the chair of the Botany Local Safety Team and is a member of the Faculty of Science Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee.

In addition to teaching, Brett is active in developing curriculum and instructional materials. He has developed the BIOL203 labs and various classroom activities as part of the flexible learning initiative in BIOL121. He has also published case studies through Pearson to support their texts, and recently published a case study through the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. Brett is currently collaborating with the Belkin Art Gallery on a project to use fine art to teach observational skills in organismal biology labs.

What led you to pursue a career in teaching?

Teaching was always a part of my graduate training and continued into my post-doctoral work.  I worked as a teaching assistant, student mentor and lecturer. Finishing my post-doc position I decided that a career in teaching was where my strengths and passions lay. I was fortunate to be hired to develop a new lab course at the University of Minnesota and was part of an exciting group working to incorporate active teaching methods, informed by pedagogical research, into the revision of the majors biology program.

What do you like best about being an Instructor?

My favorite part of teaching is interacting with students in labs and in the field. I love the small group dynamic and hearing the “wow!” when students see or learn something that is new and exciting for them.

What is something that you are currently doing in your course(s) that you are excited about?

In labs, I am seeing that students are becoming more passive observers of the world through the lens of a cell-phone camera. I am currently working on a project to better scaffold and support the development of critical and active observational skills in organismal biology labs. This year, I am piloting activities developed in collaboration with a curator at the Belkin Art Gallery, the current artist in residence at the gallery and a science education specialist. My aim is to develop activities and approaches that are generally transferable to other biology labs.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In learning and thinking about how artists are trained to carefully observe and accurately represent the world around them, I have recently taken up drawing and watercolor painting of botanical and other subjects. I also play the violin (with varying degrees of success) and am a Scout leader for my daughter’s troop.

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