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Highlights from Richard Cyr’s Talks on Faculty Careers, Large Classes

Posted by on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 in News.

Richard Cyr (Biology, Penn State University) came to campus yesterday as a guest of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL).  He gave two talks, an informal lunch discussion of faculty careers in the sciences and an afternoon presentation about teaching large science courses.

The Center for Teaching attended both talks and “tweeted” a few highlights during the presentations:

Faculty Careers in the Sciences

  • vandycft: sitting in on lunch session w/richard cyr of Penn State. topic is academic careers in the sciences.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: challenge 1 for new STEM faculty is setting up a lab. get advice on this from colleagues who have done so recently.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: challenge 2 is managing one’s time. be very selective about committee work at first. focus on cmtes that interest you.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: challenge 3 is obtaining grants. bring a postdoc grant w/you to your new faculty job, if possible.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: when on the job market, how many years of postdoc work is less important than the rate of publications per year.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: new faculty should plan a six-year teaching program. don’t teach a course you won’t teach again 1-2 times.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: the first time you teach a course, it’s rocky. the 2nd and 3rd times are much better. plan for those.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: start dates can be tricky. at some places, 1/1 start date starts the tenure clock the prior august, for instance.
  • vandycft: good questions here at the richard cyr talk: the two-body problem, leaving tenure-track positions, and such.

Teaching Large Science Courses

  • vandycft: richard cyr keynote starting on teaching large science courses, revising intro biology courses over time.
  • vandycft: richard cyr describing Bio 110 at Penn State: over 1500 students per year, in sections w/up to 750 students each.
  • vandycft: cyr’s bio 110 learning cycle: pre-class online work (content, quizzes), in-class clickers + peer instruction, after class homework.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: one challenge was that the home-grown course mgmt tool developed wasn’t sustainable as Web standards changed.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: moved to using wikis for sharing course content online. the wiki is the course textbook. online and open-source.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: students pay a little for a “digital coupon.” that money goes into a fund for sustaining, improving the wikibook.
  • vandycft: richard cyr: for in-class learning, uses clickers to generate small-group discussion. [see CFT resources:]
  • vandycft: richard cyr: when asking 700 students to pair up and discuss a clicker question, things get loud quickly!
  • vandycft: richard cyr: peer tutors trained in 1-credit course. they often later become asst TAs, undergrad TAs, and sometimes BS/MEd students.

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