Jacob Burnett Teaching Philosophy

    Statement of Teaching Philosophy

    Jacob Burnett

    As a holistic biologist, one must not solely concentrate on the creation of new knowledge, but must be equally committed to the dissemination of knowledge into society, thereby ensuring the next generation can continue advancing human scholarship and discovery. Educating college students is an exceptional way to accomplish this goal.

    While the reasons for pursuing a college education are multivariate, I believe all college-educated citizens should be globally engaged stewards of the planet. Thus, they should have a fundamental understanding of biology, enabling them to contribute to worldwide conversations regarding increasingly relevant issues, such as species conservation, stem cell research, human genetic engineering and genetically modified foods. As an educator, I seek to ensure all students have a conceptual understanding of biological phenomena, such as the levels of biological organization; the impact of human behaviors on natural ecosystems; and the principles of genetics regarding evolution, heredity and development.

    I believe students’ attentiveness in a class is maximized when teaching is conducted in a dynamic way. Thus, my approach in designing and implementing biological science courses is to include multiple formats of student learning, comprising focused lectures, question-based discussions, and group-designed experiments with individual writing components. Maintaining a single strategy in a course encourages students to become relaxed and accustomed, where they seek the path of least resistance, which often only involves simple memorization and recollection of facts. By applying multiple teaching strategies, students are encouraged to think critically.

    Consistent student feedback is paramount in resolving professor-student miscommunication. I conduct weekly “minute paper” activities in which students write down their least understood concept for the week. These are reviewed over the weekend and are searched for commonalities between students’ submissions. This allows me to modify my delivery of a certain concept to a more appropriate level.

    To reach maximum effectiveness as an educator, it is my view that one must have a passion for both the subject and the students, as my most valued classes were taught by professors who were visibly happy to be in class and eager to lecture. Such professors responded to students’ questions with encouragement rather than impatience, and they were accessible both in and out of class. As a professor, my utmost personal goal is to exemplify these traits on daily basis, to ensure I am creating an environment that maximizes student growth.


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