v  Stephen B. Malcolm  v

 

TEACHING INTERESTS

 

 

I am most interested to teach courses based on strong conceptual content with the use of facts, data and case histories to illustrate concepts.  I teach all of my courses with a strong multimedia content using hyperlinked digital imagery, models and video clips to convey ideas in biology.  My teaching has a strong ecological and evolutionary emphasis because I feel it is important that our students have a good grounding in the ultimate reasons for the patterns and processes we see in nature.

 

In addition to a strong interest in basic ecological and evolutionary science I am interested in both the application of these disciplines, and in their relevance to other aspects of science, as well as to the arts, humanities and engineering.  I emphasize objectivity and the need to reach conclusions based on sound and logical methods.  This approach runs the risk of being too "dry" to some students and so I use personal anecdotes to illustrate ideas and objectivity.  Students seem to enjoy stories and so I tell true stories such as the time I was treed by an irate ostrich in South Africa (illustrates territoriality!), or well-known ichthyologist thrust my arm into a pile of fresh elephant dung in Malawi to feel its heat (illustrates rapid decomposition in the tropics!).  I have also found that art and music make very good introductions to lectures because they can encapsulate ideas so elegantly or eloquently.  For example, Picasso's paintings of the conflict at Guernica convey the potential horrors of intraspecific conflict so much more effectively than a graph of the population dynamics of a Paramecium species!

 

I feel that I have excellent rapport with students and received a teaching award from students in the Lee Honors College for my "dedication to excellence."  This award was based on a nomination from students in my introductory Environmental Biology class.  This is one of the classes I enjoy teaching most because it includes a cohesive group of Honors students who combine academic talent and motivation with good humor and a desire to interact.  This is a broadly focused class that illustrates well my interest in conveying concepts across disciplines and my interest in making connections with other classes.

 

 

My teaching at Western Michigan University has included the following classes:

 

1

BIOS 1050 Environmental Biology

Introductory course for non majors in the Honors College (3h)

2

ENVS 210 Environmental Ecology

Introductory applied ecology course for Environmental Studies majors (3h)

3

BIOS 3010 Ecology

Introductory ecology course; required core course for Biological Science majors – writing intensive (5h)

4

BIOS 4560 Tropical Biology

Field-based ecology course in the tropics (Belize, Bolivia, Tanzania or Australia) (3h).

5

BIOS 4970 Plant-Herbivore Interactions

Advanced capstone course (3h)

6

BIOS 5470 Ornithology

Advanced course in bird biology (3h)

7

BIOS 5970 Chemical Ecology

Advanced capstone course that integrates chemistry and ecology (3h)

8

BIOS 5970 Human Ecology

Advanced capstone course (3h)

9

BIOS 5990 Research Methods

Interdisciplinary, team-taught capstone course (3h)

10

BIOS 6050 Biological Sciences Colloquium

Required graduate seminar (1h)

11

BIOS 6150 Ecology

Required graduate core course (3h)

 

I typically teach 3 courses a year and mentor undergraduate students in the Lee Honors College through their senior thesis, as well as mentor independent studies for both undergraduates and graduates in Biological Sciences.  I also mentor graduates as both major advisor and committee advisor for MS and PhD students (see "students" for details).  I have published peer-reviewed papers with both undergraduate and graduate students and I am deeply committed to these exciting learning activities with students.

 

Most recently, I have been using assessment techniques to develop my course objectives and learning outcomes and measure how effectively they are met.  I use the results of assessment to improve my courses and to provide more feedback to students through informative grading rubrics and structured assignments.  This has been a surprisingly rewarding and valuable activity and I am now firmly committed to the use of assessment to improve teaching and learning.

 

For each summer of the last 7 years I have enjoyed a major commitment to running our NSF-funded "Research Experiences for Undergraduates" program in "Environmental Signal Transduction" with Dr Sue Stapleton of the Chemistry Department.  Sue and I are committed to a strong interdisciplinary research experience for undergraduates and we think that our program has been very successful at motivating students to pursue a career in the sciences.  Moreover, we have made a major commitment to encourage diversity.  Each year we recruit actively, with site visits and presentations, at Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina, and we think that our success in recruiting underrepresented groups to our program prompted the NSF to renew our initial three-year grant for a further four years.

 

Lastly, I have a strong interest in curriculum design based on aggregated data through the implementation of assessment.  I have been invited to present at a national meeting on the design of our revised majors in Biological Sciences.  Our program received national attention because we used a rational process of assessment to measure the success and problems with our existing majors.  Most recently I have become very involved with assessment techniques at departmental, college and university levels and I am now convinced that these methods are the key to logical structure throughout institutions of higher learning.  I think Peter Senge's illustration (below) of the continuous process of planning, implementation, assessment, feedback and redesign, nicely encapsulates the value of assessment to our teaching, research and service activities within the academy.