I teach students to take control of their learning, provide safe spaces for intellectual growth, and engage students with the natural world.
My teaching philosophy is that students only learn something when they discover it themselves. I believe that knowledge is constructed by the students themselves rather than received from an external expert. This belief is supported by the mounting evidence for the effectiveness of active learning practices. I cannot learn for them, I cannot take their tests, but I can share my insights as an experienced learner. I can provide them a safe space in which to fail and to push the boundaries of their knowledge. I can help them see the connections between concepts and give them the opportunities to make their own connections. Thus my role as an educator is to demonstrate to students how to learn, to direct them towards existing information, and to inspire them to find new information.
- Instructor: Evolutionary Biology - Syllabus, Scientific Writing (graduate) - Syllabus, STEM Pedagogy (graduate) - Syllabus
- Teaching Assistant: General Biology, Conservation Biology - Syllabus, Biometry (graduate/undergraduate), Evolutionary Biology - Syllabus
- Other: Lead Graduate Teacher for Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, NSF GK12 Project EXTREMES Fellow, Chair and Workshop Organizer for Evolution Outreach Committee
- Love Stowell, S. M. & Martin, A. P. (2016). Cutthroat trout in Colorado: a case study connecting evolution and conservation. CourseSource
- Love Stowell, S. M., Churchill, A. C., Hund, A. K., Kelsey, K. C., Redmond, M. D., Seiter, S. A., & Barger, N. N. (2015). Transforming graduate training in STEM education. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, 96(2), 317-323
- Hund, A. K, Scordato, E., Love Stowell, S. M., McCreery, H., Faist, A. M., Ng, J. & Bowers, D. Mentoring for graduate student success. In preparation.
- Love Stowell, S. M. & Russell, G. A support group model for dissertation completion. In preparation.
Training & Skills
- Active learning, flipped classrooms, scientific pedagogy, case study development, mentoring
1. Enable students to take ownership of their learning
Students in my classes are given the tools to guide their own learning. I use a classroom model that puts the onus for reading material or watching lectures on the students outside of class. In class, students work collaboratively on case studies or research problems. At the end of class, students reflect on the progress of their own learning and the behaviors that contributed or hindered it. This metacognitive practice encourages accountability for their own actions; rather than blaming their peers or their instructors for their performance. Students are involved deciding the topics for the course and in setting the behavioral norms for in-class activities. At the start of the semester or unit, I provide students with options for the case studies and examples we will use. As a class, the students generate a learning contract that covers behaviors that help or hinder their learning and the learning or others.
Outside the classroom, students are invited to participate in my research and to design their own research projects. Conservation genetic research is well suited to undergraduate involvement, first and foremost because it connects students to local and problem-based research on charismatic organisms. With some lab experience, undergraduate researchers are capable of the library preparation methods that make genomic data available for non-model organisms. Discipline-based education research can also be adapted to include undergraduate researchers. Undergraduate researchers learn how to ethically conduct research on human subjects and apply for institutional review, how to craft effective surveys, and how to analyze qualitative data. With laboratory and analytic skills I enable my students to learn, they are prepared for academic, agency, and industry pursuits as engaged citizens.
2. Train students to evaluate evidence, confront uncertainty, and use failure for growth
3. Help student develop a connection to the natural world
My love for the wild places of the West led me to pursue biology as a career. When I am hiking across an alpine meadow or considering my route through a wild whitewater, I am most myself.
Evaluation of evidence is a key process skill for the core competencies of applying the process of science and using quantitative reasoning. Accounting for uncertainty is a challenge for many students whose experience in science courses with canned data sets has led them to believe that there is a clear right answer to scientific questions. Real data has error and uncertainty. Different kinds of data and different analyses may lead to vastly different conclusions, in applications from climate modeling to taxonomic designations. In the case studies and problem sets I use, students practice confronting uncertainty to gain confidence and competence in how to handle uncertainty in different contexts.
My research is guided by this sense of connection: I pursue questions that have practical applications to stewardship of the natural world. I want to inspire this love in my students. I want them to discover a place or an organism or a process in the natural world that draws them. Teaching biology is an excellent way to do this.