Pedagogy for Postdocs


We are providing opportunities for current postdocs to learn about current research in biology education via weekly lunches during Winter quarter. The current schedule is below, along with assigned readings and activities. We are also developing a mentorship program where postdocs can work with currently teaching faculty to develop resources for a course, then teach the course themselves during the summer. Contact Diane O'Dowd for more information on the mentorship program.



Winter 2014



Likely Topics


Jan 6

No meeting


Jan 13



Jan 20



Jan 27

How much material should I cover?


Feb 3

What can I do besides lecturing?


Feb 10

How can I be more engaging in class?


Feb 17



Feb 24

How do I make students do the pre-class assignment?


Mar 3

What does a good exam look like?


Mar 10

Good exam writing, continued



Pre-Meeting Preparation:


Week 8: How can I encourage students to complete pre-class work?


We are changing topics (yay!) from cellular respiration to translation. The learning goals for this lecture are the following:

  • Identify the translator of the genetic code
  • Predict the protein sequence when a gene is expressed
  • Classify a DNA mutation as silent, missense, nonsense, frameshift, insertion or deletion
  • Describe the function of three classes of RNA involved in gene expression


The lecture slides from a previous instructor are given to you here (pdf). You know that theoretically all this material can be lectured within a 50-minute period, but you have decided you want to make 10-15 minutes of space in your lecture to allow students to complete a small group activity. To do this, you have to move content to a pre-class activity and then require students to show they have learned the material.

I have emailed you scans of the textbook pages to protect publisher copyright. Before coming to the meeting:

  1. Decide what material from the lecture can be learned before class
  2. Create a worksheet to guide students through the appropriate reading OR prepare a short video for students to watch and take notes on (email me if you want help with the video). Two (pdf) examples of Bio 93 worksheets are here (sample 1) and here (sample 2).
  3. Write out a list of 5 quiz questions to assess student learning
  4. Take the following quiz (requires EEE login, only available this weekend): https://eee.uci.edu/quiz/EICL2P34p9
  5. Be ready to discuss why you picked that material, difficulties you had creating the worksheet, and ideas about creating and giving the quiz.


Week 6: What can I do to be more engaging in class?


You are working on your cellular respiration lecture (still!) and have this learning goal:

  • Students will be able to describe how high-energy electrons are used to generate ATP in oxidative phosphorylation.

Before coming to our meeting, create 4-6 “lecture slides” you would use to teach this concept within a larger lecture (or pre-class video, or whatever). ALSO decide how you want your students to take notes, and what resources you will provide them. Some options are:

  • No resources
  • Your full powerpoint slides
  • Your slides, but some info removed
  • Your slides, but as pdf not powerpoint format
  • Your full slides but only after class
  • Some sort of handout with figures but room for notetaking

If you decide to provide students with a resource, bring an example to the meeting.



Some additional information you may find useful:

  1. Instructors can record their lectures for students to re-watch after class. Here is an example - Diane's cellular respiration from Fall 2013 (50 min video, UCI or VPN only)
  2. Textbooks often provide "unlabeled" versions of their book figures. This link should take UCI affiliates to a zipped folder of unlabeled images for this lecture.
  3. Laptop use in large lectures - our paper
    Aguilar-Roca, N.M., Williams, A. and D.K. O’Dowd. 2012. The impact of laptop-free zones on student performance and attitudes in large lectures. Computers in Education 59(4): 1300-1308




Week 5: What can I do besides lecturing?
Here are the links to the powerpoints we looked at in Week 4: Adrienne's slides and video and Diane's notes.

Activities you do instead of lecturing should correspond to skills you want students to have when they leave the course. Here are sample skills and activities that match those skills.

  1. Students should be able to explain the movement of an electron from glucose to water.
    Activity - respond to a demonstration. Watch video here: http://vimeo.com/19258798 (about 8 min)
  2. Students should be able to a) explain the movement of an electron from glucose to water, b) predict the likely effects of a chemical that affects the electron transport chain, c) apply information learned about fermentation to a new situation.
    Three activities: pdf sheet

Before our meeting, watch the demonstration video and download and look over the activities. Which suits your style of instruction? Which can you picture trying in a large lecture hall?



Week 4:How much material should I cover?
Imagine you are a new instructor and have been assigned introductory biology. You are given an old lecture schedule from a previous instructor (below). Your students will be mostly first-quarter freshmen, about 300 of them, generally high performers in their high schools but only half have had biology more recently than as high school freshmen. You should cover all the topics listed, but you have two free lectures to play with.


Before coming to lunch, ponder the following:

1. What do you think are the core biological concepts of this class? What "big picture" ideas cross multiple lectures? For a discussion of core biology concepts, see pages 12-13 of Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education.

2. I've emailed you a sample of a publisher's powerpoint file for the chapter on cellular respiration. If I limited you to 15 slides, which ones would you pick? List the topics on a sheet of paper and bring it with you.



Lecture Topic


Course Mechanics, Introduction


Atoms, molecules, water


Carbon, carbohydrates, lipids


Proteins, nucleic acids


ATP, enzymes


Single cell dynamics, membrane structure


Membrane function, passive and active transport


Cytoskeleton and motor proteins.


Nucleus, ER, golgi, lysosome


Cell Communication


Cellular Respiration




Cell cycle, mitosis


Meiosis and sexual life cycle


Simple Mendelian genetics


Human genetic disease


Chromosomes and inheritance


DNA-The molecular basis of heredity


From genotype to phenotype


Regulation of Gene expression


Recombinant DNA technology


Genetic basis of development


Vertebrate Development 1


Vertebrate Development 2


Neurons -  Physiology, membrane potential


Transmitting an action potential
































Winter 2013



Likely Topics


Jan 7



Jan 14

Research- based teaching


Jan 21



Jan 28

Formative Assessment: clickers


Feb 4

Writing Exam Questions 1: Learning goals


Feb 11

Writing Exam Questions 2: Bloom's levels


Feb 18



Feb 25

Metacognition: question analysis, class cards


Mar 4

Helping students read primary literature


Mar 11

How to Begin: Designing a syllabus and a First Day format



Pre-Meeting Preparation:


Week 10 (for Mar 11): Pre-Class Activities

  1. Look over these two examples of a syllabus for Bio 93 in 10 minutes. The Active Learning syllabus web page contains all the information traditionally needed for a syllabus. The Flipped class video and outline covers this, plus tries to explain and "sell" the new format of the class.
  2. Both classes use a quiz before the first day of class to encourage students to read and understand the syllabus before class begins. I have re-activated both quizzes, and set all participating postdocs as both "students" and "administrators." After you receive the email stating the quiz is open and you have viewed one or both syllabi, pick a quiz to take via eee.uci.edu. You can go in on Monday morning and view the results of both.
  3. Because the syllabus has become a pre-class activity, more time is available on the first day of class for other work. I've attached the video from the active learning first day and the powerpoint of the flipped class first day. Take 10 minutes to skim these and see what is covered.
  4. On Monday, bring any questions or comments you have about designing a syllabus and "what to do" on the first day.


Week 9 (for Mar 4): Pre-Class Activities

  1. Four articles on incorporating primary literature in teaching are listed below. Pick one or two that sound interesting and spend up to 20 minutes reading.
    A full cell biology class based on primary literature
    "Deconstructing" a videotaped research seminar to teach biology
    Results of a workshop on incorporating primary literature into any class
    Students pick a topic in the textbook and follow it back to primary literature
  2. Spend 10 minutes on the following activity. A) what learning goal would primary literature serve? and B) How would you incorporate it into a 400-student sophomore-level course?


Week 8 (for Feb 25): Pre-Class Activities

  1. (Video option) Spend 10 minutes watching this pre-class video and taking notes (you can download and print this outline if you want, or just view the outline to see what students get).
  2. (Worksheet option) Next, download and print this notetaking worksheet and spend 10 minutes filling it out (you'll have to fake the reading by looking things up online. Choose "LBL1_Lec5" here if the link won't work for you).
  3. Spend 10 minutes creating an activity that a student pair can work on together in class (a table to fill in, an exam question to analyze, etc)..
  4. Bring all of your notes and be ready to discuss how you might move content out of your lectures.

Week 7 (for Feb 18): Holiday



Week 6 (for Feb 11): Writing exam questions 2

  1. Read the rest of the "How to Write Good Multi-Choice Exam Questions" white paper.
  2. You will be assigned to write a comprehension, application/analysis, or synthesis/evaluation question from the sample lecture from D103 we used last week: : Powerpoint or PDF. If you have time left in your 30 minutes, draft a start to each of the three levels.
  3. Optional. I've emailed two research articles on nuclear localization that you can use if assigned the synthesis/evaluation question:
    Gai et al. 2011. Nuclear localisation sequence of FUS and induction of stress granules by ALS mutants.
    Zhang and Chook, 2012. Structural and energetic basis of ALS-causing mutations in the atypical proline-tyrosine nuclear localization signal of the Fused in Sarcoma protein (FUS).
    If you are intrigued at the idea of creating exam questions from journal articles, you can skim these and start planning before Monday.

Week 5 (for Feb 4): Writing exam questions 1

  1. Read the first half (through Step 2) of this "How to Write Good Multi-Choice Exam Questions" white paper we developed.
  2. Download this sample lecture powerpoint from the current BioSci D103 Cell Biology course: Powerpoint or PDF. Browse through the slides, and see the summary slide at the end. What do you think are the learning goals for this lecture? Write down three.


Week 4: Clickers

  1. Read the second section of the Wood 2009 paper referenced below.  The critical part for this activity is the discussion of clickers, covered in the section  “In-Class Learning Activities: Listening and Note-Taking versus Active Engagement,” found on pages 103 to 104. I’ve skipped over some sections – feel free to go back and read as time permits.
  2. Here is a pdf of four questions from an old Bio 93 exam. Download. Choose ONE. Modify it so that has either a) more than one right answer, or b) the answers can be ranked in order of occurrence or order of likelihood or order of complexity.
  3. Submit your modified question to this Google Form by Monday morning (Jan 28) at 8am. We will use the new iClicker2 to answer the questions and talk about clicker use as a teaching tool.


Week 3:  Monday Holiday



Week 2: Research-based Teaching

  1. Download this article:Wood, WB. 2009. Inovations in teaching undergraduate biology and why we need them. Ann Rev Cell Dev Biology 25: 93-112
  2. Read the first three sections: Defining the Challenge, History and Current State of Disipline-Based Educational Research, and How Students Learn.
  3. Become familiar with the following vocabulary words: scientific teaching, DBER, constructivism, formative assessment, summative assessment, metacognition, novice learner, expert learner
  4. Stop after 25 minutes, and write a 5-minute summary of what you have learned.