Tuesday, March 22, 2016

FWS Student Highlights: Melissa Fuerst

I am currently continuing my work with Dr. Reid Schwebach and a mixed group of grad, undergrad, and post-grad students on a supplementary text for BIOL 213, Cell Structure and Function. In an attempt to bridge the gap between well-versed biology students and students who need refreshers, this book will act as a “Spark Notes” with study guides, study activities and tips, illustrations, and online resources. In order to function most effectively on this project, I was trained as a Learning Assistant (LA) within the College of Science and also perform typical LA duties such as review sessions and tutoring. I use the information I gather from these tasks to inform my writing and activity development.

A large portion of what I do involves interacting with students. Often times I engage students in discussion for feedback on subjects covered in lecture and I hold office hours for students to ask me questions in person. Every few weeks, I co-lead review sessions with the other learning assistants and test the content we have developed. Additionally, my team and I are often developing outlines on the many chapters we cover, subsequently developing critical questions and other activities.

One thing I will discover this week is students’ feedback on LA events of last semester. This information is super helpful in that it helps us understand what worked for students and what did not. We can translate this to book content by creating study activities and tips based around the most effective and well-liked teaching methods.

Last semester was all about gathering data and content from students and lecture. This semester’s goal is to solidify chapters and get the book to a state it can be edited and eventually published by this summer. In order to meet this goal, we intend to create at least one example chapter for each test and give extra credit to students who use the chapters and give us written feedback on the content.
One of my undergraduate goals is to become familiar with teaching a wide range of age groups from elementary students to adults. As a Conservation Studies major, I believe that education is one of the best ways to preserve natural resources and our ecosystems. This research position is allowing me to dive deep into how college level students and adults learn most effectively in an academic setting. I hope to be able to apply this to future careers, whether conducting research, working at a nature preserve, or working at a university.