I interviewed Denise Evert, a neuroscience professor at Skidmore College, about her instructional design. I chose to interview Denise because when I took her introductory neuroscience class I noticed that she used many different tools and activities to explain the concepts in the course.
Denise emphasized an approach to course design that involves both independently brainstorming and sharing ideas with other instructors. Where direct discussion isn’t an option, examining syllabi for other similar classes can suffice. This point of collaboration, however, is something Denise cited as generally being understated when discussing methods for designing courses, and something that most instructors could greatly benefit from. In addition to taking tips from other instructors, independent brainstorming is also an important process. This involves evaluating what students should be getting out of the class and how that can be assessed. At the end of a course outcomes and evaluations are factored into this see if the instructional goals, assignments, and outcomes align. Denise emphasized the importance of student evaluations on her process for improving her courses, cross referencing what students said with her own notes taken throughout the course allows her to make important improvements to her courses.
We also spoke about choosing or creating models and activities to represent molecular activity. Visualizing molecular activity is an incredibly helpful task, but finding ways to do so easily without sacrificing accuracy is often challenging. While there are many software companies attempting to aid in this, Denise pointed out that many of them are lacking something. In general, she emphasized the importance of using dynamic models as opposed to static images, and using a variety of them. She also often creates her own models, which layer the information allowing them to be dynamic without becoming overwhelming.
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