Students enter my classroom to begin their journey through the visual system. My goals are to facilitate students’ excitement about the field of vision science, and to prepare them to be vision scientists, optometrists, or ophthalmologists. If not those professions, they gain skills necessary to be scientists, to critically analyze scientific journal articles, to design experiments, and to present their work effectively. I accomplish this by establishing a positive learning environment, incorporating active learning during lectures, and assessing the mastery of learned skills through presentations, laboratory activities, and tests.
To start students on their vision science journey, I create a friendly learning environment in my classroom that is established with an introductory “ice breaker” activity and opportunity to know their classmates. Classroom policy is that every question and every idea has merit, and that following the wrong path is part of the learning process. In a friendly and welcoming environment, students participate in active learning in the form of group activities, small discussions, and scientific journal article discussions to gain critical thinking skills. Through discussion, students discover and relate course material to diseases causing blindness and treatments as I guide them through the visual system during lectures. Additionally, I have exciting interactive demonstrations during lectures, and include hands-on laboratory experiments, such as eye dissection and electrophysiological nerve recording, that supplement lectures to encourage fun discovery of knowledge. Laboratory activities conclude with students writing a report, as would a scientist write a manuscript about their research for publication. Through the writing process, I provide students with constructive feedback to build a cohesive and concise story about their laboratory experimental data. Similarly, I give students an opportunity to practice their presentation skills by presenting a scientific journal article about their favorite topic or disease related to vision science that was not discussed in class. This activity encourages students to think critically and build analytical skills, and present their topic to practice their professional communication skills. Student presentation skills are assessed through feedback from their peers and myself.
To assess the mastery of learned skills, at the beginning of most lectures, I have a low stakes quiz to find topics that students have not learned and topics that I need to review again. Before ending a lecture, I provide time for questions and clarifications or ask students to write down on an index card something they learned and something they did not understand. I make sure the students understand the fundamental material and why they are relevant before moving onto new topics because the visual system is interconnected. I assess student’s learning by midterm and final laboratory practical and written tests.
Just as I provide feedback to guide students in mastering skills, I ask them to provide feedback to me halfway through the semester to see that I am effectively guiding them with appropriate activities that foster their learning. Feedback from the students helps me change active learning activities, if needed. I want to challenge students with the material and not inhibit their learning because an activity does not work for them.
I want to be an approachable teacher in and outside the classroom so that students have access to learning. Outside the classroom, I have an open door policy, but with set office hours and by appointments. I want all students enrolled in my vision science-related courses to learn the fundamental principles of vision science, optometry, and ophthalmology while having fun. When students complete their journey through the visual system in my classroom, they have critical thinking, analytical, writing, and presentation skills necessary to be successful budding scientists and eye professionals.