Faculty Learning Strategies: Core Biology

May 5, 2016 - Audriana Stark

This months Faculty Learning Strategies comes from Mrs. Cara Lea Council-Garcia, with the Biology Department.
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Cara Lea Council GarciaSTEM Gateway would like to recognize Cara Lea Council-Garcia as this month’s Faculty Highlight. Mrs. Council-Garcia is responsible for designing and coordinating all of undergraduate biology major labs, and up until 3 years ago, the biology labs for health-related majors and biology labs for non-majors biology courses for 11 years. She works closely with the many Teaching Assistants and undergraduate students she advises. She has been an active member on two of the Biology Course Redesign Projects: BIO 202 Introductory Genetics and BIO 203 Ecology and Evolution Lab and Lecture. Cara Lea Council-Garcia has been a top attender of professional development programming aimed to improve instruction of STEM courses and is dedicated to designing and implementing curriculum that engages students in meaningful ways. Her love for teaching and commitment to student success makes her STEM Gateways’ May Faculty Highlight.
Cara Lea Council offers the following advice to students wishing to succeed in Biology-
  1. Confirm you are in the correct class - both with your major and with your semester scheduleIt's easy to assume that when needing to take a class, you start with the first one in the catalog, but that's not always the right one for your major or your program. Make sure you are familiar with your degree/program/major requirements and the class descriptions to make the best choices for your schedule. Once you have your semester schedule, take some time before classes begin to locate your classes on campus. This will save you time (and headaches) that first week of school. Once you are in class, pay attention and ensure that you are in the class you expect to be in. Rooms are not always numbered consecutively and classes do get moved at the last minute.
  2. Attend lectures and take notesUnlike secondary school, college is a privilege that costs money (it might not always be the student, but someone does pay). Honor that privilege by attending class and paying attention. Don’t fool yourself that you will be able to remember what was said in lecture. Take detailed notes that record as much of the material covered as possible. Don’t ask whether a particular topic will be on the exam. If it was discussed in lecture, it is important enough to appear on an exam and thus important enough to write in your notes.
  3. Regularly review and modify your notesA college semester is very short. At UNM there are 16 weeks of classes and if you only meet 2 times a week, that's 32 class meetings maximum to share everything there is to know about one main topic. That means stuff doesn't get repeatedly reviewed in class - it's up to the student to go back, review information and make connections between lectures or lecture and lab.
  4. Ask questions!! If students don’t, instructors don't know what's being missed. There is no such thing as a stupid question….as long as it is asked. Science is all about questions, especially "Why." Most STEM instructors welcome inquisitiveness, especially if the student has already taken the initiative to try and discover the answers on their own.
  5. Study actively and change up your study techniques: It has been shown that just looking over notes is ineffective. Following the same study routine also decreases study effectiveness. Try to incorporate different study techniques to keep your brain constantly challenged. Think of studying like a gym workout plan - the best, most effective plans regularly change up the routine so that your body doesn't get stuck in a rut. Same with studying - following the same pattern, lulls your brain into a sense of comfort and security while not allowing your brain to be challenged and remain sharp. For example, find a classmate to quiz the material with; teach other people (family members, friends, your cat, etc.) what you are learning in class; come up with funny ways to remember difficult processes; find a new location to study in.
  6. Get involved - Biology program or club, research lab, tutoring, science library, etc.: It's important to build connections and resources while in college. Not only with this help you with your classes, but with any future plans you might have. Joining a Biology club or program creates associations with peers who will be taking or have taken the same classes you are. Getting involved in research opens doors for future career paths and recommendations. Working with other departments on campus can open doors to possibilities that you might not even know existed when you first decided to study Biology.