As instructors, we often gripe about students not completing our assignments despite the marks attached to them. We’re even more upset when we have spent so much time creating the assignment, one which we know would really help students learn if they would only do it.
An amazing class that exceeded my expectations in many regards especially in terms of the professor’s passion for the subject material, and his desire to help students think about this material beyond the four walls of a lecture hall: these are my sentiments after having taken Fundamentals of Microbiology (BIOL 140) with Dr. Josh NeufeldI entered BIOL 140 with two goals in mind: to fulfill a degree requirement and not to fail the biggest exam (with it being potentially worth 70% of my final grade) I would ever write at university. I came out of BIOL 140 having accomplished so much more than the latter two things: I gained a basic understanding of and interest in microbiology as a discipline, and discovered a new way of studying and thinking about the world around me.
One of Dr. Neufeld’s unique teaching methods was partially responsible for these pleasantly surprising outcomes. Early on in the semester, Dr. Neufeld announced the initiation of an art gallery, to which he encouraged all BIOL 140 students to submit artwork (e.g. drawings and paintings) having some relevance to the course. At the end of the semester, the BIOL 140 students would vote for their favourite gallery submission, and the winning artist would receive a prize. In preparing a submission for the gallery, I was forced to think about how I could create a piece of art that was relevant to microbiology, demonstrated my uniqueness as an artist, and would be capable of winning over my classmates – after all, they were the ones ultimately deciding which gallery submission would be named the class favourite. After some thought, I came up with an idea for a painting that I thought just might satisfy the aforementioned criteria. By combining two concepts that I hoped my classmates would be familiar with (bacteriophage and the “iPod dance”), I created an art-piece that was amusing to both my classmates and my professor.
The microbiology art gallery was not only effective in helping me engage with course material during the term, but also inspired me to be creative in studying for my final exam. I documented this creative process in the form of a stop-motion video to show fellow students that there is so much more to studying than memorizing course material in the days leading up to an exam. Similarly, there is so much more to teaching than having a professor stand at a podium and deliver one discourse after the next. I appreciate Dr. Neufeld giving the BIOL 140 students a chance to be creative in a class in which people wouldn’t –or at least, I know I didn’t – expect such an opportunity to arise, and I encourage other professors to do the same (or be willing to try an unconventional teaching method from time to time).
H. BSc. Candidate in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. You can see Lauren’s artwork in the Daily Bulletin.