Chris Course is passionate about two things: science and teaching.
The good news is he’ll be doing both this summer when Course, a sessional instructor in the Department of Biology, takes to the head of the class to teach the Principles of Zoology.
And Course, who recently finished his master’s degree, researching bee behaviour, promises the second-year class will be more than textbook readings and him droning on about vertebrates and invertebrates.
He will integrate discussions about current research, provide plenty of opportunities for student participation, and use video clips and lab work to get people thinking. Students will be polled regularly to gauge their learning and enjoyment. And he won’t be afraid to experiment with new teaching methods or materials to keep his protegés interested.
Really, Course will bring the scientific principles he knows and loves into the class as a teaching tool and he’ll be assisted by an equally enthusiastic and energetic senior lab demonstrator Jacinta Dano.
“Science is so much collaboration. Everything we do in science, I try to do in the classroom,” Course said. “How do I make this as scientific as I can because I want students to become interested in science to stay there.”
His desire to make the Principles of Zoology the course that every budding scientist wants to take comes from Course’s own experience with the class, which he took online. When he enrolled as an undergrad at another university, he was a little underwhelmed by it.
“At that point, online learning wasn’t what it is today. It was read the textbook and that’s it,” Course recalled.
And while that might have been enough for some to consider changing majors, it only inspired Course.
“I love animals and I love researching them and I thought ‘Why is this an online course?’” he said.
So he made the case for why it shouldn’t be and taught the course for the first time two years ago to rave reviews. There have been waiting lists to get into his class during the regular school year. Now he’s teaching it this spring to 45 students who want to avoid that disappointment.
“I just found this natural connection to teaching,” Course said. “I started teaching on a whim and it’s kind of taken over. It’s bringing it back to being experiential and students like that, especially if you tell them ‘I’m going to try something new.’
“I’m trying to focus on bigger ideas. Having students make a list of the five characteristics of something isn’t the best. I want them to formulate their own arguments and often when they do, it emulates hypotheses that are in scientific literature today,” he added.
Course admitted he thrives when students are engaged. That’s why he’s always striving to find new ways to pique - and keep - their interest.
And in turn, that has made him curious about combining science and teaching in his future PhD research.
“I really like teaching. I love science,” Course said. “How do I integrate both? Do I get my PhD in science with a research focus and teach on the side or make teaching my focus?”
For now, though, he’ll get his fix with BIOL 2P92.
(Home page photo by Thomas Shahan)