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Laura L.

Klein
Teaching philosophy
Learning occurs in myriad different ways; my creativity and ability to forge strong interpersonal
relationships help me impart comprehension of and appreciation for biology with my students. I love
teaching because I must develop strategies to deliver knowledge in an interesting and digestible
manner, and it is ever-evolving with each class of students. As a biologist with a fondness for art, I
enjoy visual and theatrical elements of the classroom, but it also keeps me in touch with my own
wonder for the natural world. Through lecture, lab, and field instruction, I hope to infect my students
with this wonder for biology. My immediate goal with a class is to create a safe and fun learning
environment. I want my students to feel comfortable asking basic questions or respectfully
challenging others and still smile at the end of the period. Beyond cultivating classroom etiquette and
biological appreciation, though, it is critical to train majors and non-majors alike to think critically
and be proficient in scientific writing, discussion, and oral presentation. I harness my experience as a
mentor and a variety of teaching techniques to train students to think as scientists and interpret their
every day lives through a biological lens.
As a teacher, I begin with clear learning objectives as the foundation of course design. Backwards
course design not only keeps me organized as the instructor, but also provides important structure and
clarity for students. With the scaffolding in place, I can then use discussion and feedback from
students to tailor material to their interests. Effective engagement includes developing projects or
topics that the students are most curious about, and designing student-led discussions or lectures on
topics of their choosing. I am a strong proponent of using primary literature in the classroom to
increase scientific literacy and comprehension. I have found Think pair share activities or in-class
assignments aimed at identifying hypotheses, interpreting figures, and critiquing research outcomes in
peer-reviewed papers as effective ways to increase critical thinking. As a continuing effort, I will
prioritize learning and adapting my methods to reach those students that dont learn the way I do, or
the way I choose to present my material. Learning is a dynamic process, requiring constant reflection
and external evaluation, built on a platform of explicit objectives and analytical thinking.
I have taught and mentored students in a variety of settings throughout my graduate career. My
passion for teaching first sparked when I led a section of field botany for non-majors for three
semesters. During this course, I was fortunate to develop and implement lessons and assessments
independently. My greatest awards were those students who reported to me that they couldnt walk
outside anymore without appreciating the plant life around campus. I had the invaluable experience of
reprimanding students cheating on an exam during my first semester as well. I am no less rewarded
by those culprits who not only apologized but worked in earnest for the rest of the semester. At Saint
Louis University (SLU), I have been fortunate to work with eleven undergraduate research assistants.
In training these young scientists, I have learned to allow for exploratory learning, giving support
only when asked for it. Also during my SLU tenure, I served as the teaching assistant for both
introductory biology and botany labs. Introductory biology is a critical stage to foster scientific
thinking. Every class period, I separated my students into groups to produce research questions and
hypotheses for testing, which we would then discuss as a class. As the Biology of Plants and Fungi
lab TA, I had the liberty to write the lab assignments and some exam questions in addition to course
design input. We integrated a semester-long project in which student groups chose plants of interest
to research various aspects of that plants biology, ending with a group paper and a presentation to the
class. By allowing student creativity, students interests translate into broader understanding of major
concepts in botany and biology.
While firsthand teaching experience is irreplaceable, I have also gained experience in classroom
management and course design through my participation in Saint Louis Universitys Certificate in
University Teaching Skills (CUTS) program. Throughout the two-year program, I attended eight
seminars designed to provide new teaching techniques and learning considerations, such as selfdirected learning styles, mental health and disabilities in the classroom, social media applications, and

2 Laura L. Klein
Teaching philosophy

small group learning strategies to name a few. With the guidance of a Reinert Center for
Transformative Teaching and Learning instructor, fellow participants and myself discussed and
developed critical teaching documents such as a course syllabus, an assignment, and assessment
criteria. Feedback from the instructor and my fellow participants helped me to reflect critically on my
teaching and consider diverse perspectives. The CUTS program has enhanced the suite of tools I use
to furnish learning and assessment.
I am eager to share my passion for biology by teaching a number of different classes, including
introductory biology, botany, field botany, evolution, genetics, and ethnobotany. As a teaching
assistant I have contributed to the implementation, design, assessment, and management of many of
these courses already. My experience as an undergraduate mentor and the CUTS program have
prepared me for developing original content in courses that are closely related to my research on the
population genomics of economically important plant species. As an instructor, I will take care to
share my research with students, providing field experiences and sharing my data so that they can
learn interpretation skills and think as scientists.
Most of all, I want people to gain an appreciation of basic biological principles and their relevance for
global issues (at least once) after leaving my classroom. With these goals in mind, effective
assessment of student learning depends on content developed as a class, but also size. While larger
classes tend to limit exam styles to multiple choice or short answer, they can open opportunity for the
inclusion of technology or the addition of small quizzes to gage the students comprehension, gather
feedback, or engage participation. These activities are useful for smaller classes as well, but include
more opportunity for more project-based work, student-led efforts, and essay exams to more deeply
assess higher order thinking. By employing these methods, I seek to imprint on students how to think
scientifically, understand complex biological processes and different levels of biological organization,
while placing these themes within the context of their lives.