Diane O’Dowd Visit & Workshop Series

Diane O'DowdIn February 2012, Diane O’Dowd, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and neurobiologist, delivered a keynote address and conducted a series of workshops at WSU about active learning in large classes, teaching in STEM disciplines, mentoring TAs of large classes, and balancing a successful research career with effective and creative teaching. The event was sponsored by the College of Veterinary Medicine-Teaching Academy with support from ADVANCE at WSU; the WSU Graduate School; the Office of the Provost and the Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning.

Dr. O’Dowd’s keynote address and workshops attracted a large turn-out from across campus (WSU News Article). Over 200 attendees packed CUE 203 for the keynote. The workshops were also well-attended; registration filled early for the workshop, “Learn before Lecture: Making more time for active learning in class.” Faculty, instructors, graduate students, and staff from most colleges at the Pullman campus attended the different events. The Vancouver campus, the University of Idaho, and Pullman High School were also represented. See a summary of participation by college.

ATL encourages attendees to follow-up within their programs and colleges.  The PowerPoints and other resources from the keynote and workshops are available below.


Learn Before Lecture: Making More Time for Active Learning in Class

Using before-class short assignments and online quizzes (due 3-4 hr before class) to 1) actively engage students and 2) increase student learning gains. A useful strategy for any topic where students need factual knowledge to discuss a set of ideas or concepts. Learning the basic knowledge before lecture creates time in class for guided application or problem-solving using this knowledge.

Garage Demos: Why Use Physical Models to Illustrate Biological Processes?

Using low-tech, everyday objects to help students visualize, understand, remember. Dr. O’Dowd uses this technique for both biology majors and non-majors. Other disciplines (e.g., Physics) have a long tradition of demonstrating principles in class (e.g., pendulums, etc.).

TA Training: Learning to Teach and Balance the Academic Workload / Managing and Mentoring TAs of Large Classes

Dr. O’Dowd and her TA training team work with multiple TAs who lead independent discussions. Her goal is discipline-specific TA training: TAs learn a variety of teaching techniques (focus on active learning) and try them out in the context of a specific class. O’Dowd’s approach also includes guidance in balancing the academic workload by establishing research goals, applying exercises to reflect on progress, and achieving professional aims.

About Diane O’Dowd

Dr. O’Dowd is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor neurobiologist who also teaches the large gateway biology course at UC Irvine. She has published on her teaching methods and their impact on student learning. She brings exceptional practical experience and resources for faculty teaching large lecture classes in research universities.

Dr. O’Dowd received her BS from Stanford University and her PhD from UC San Diego. At UC Irvine, she has received the Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching, the TA Development Award, and the Faculty Award for Extension Program. She is a National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences.