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When is a good time for mentoring? All of the time.

Karen Petersen
University of Washington | Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Biology
Seminar date:
Monday, October 5, 2020 - 12:00 to 13:00

As a lecturer, and now an Associate Teaching Professor, I have benefited from numerous mentors who inspired me, taught me new ways of teaching, and gave me opportunities to take on new challenges. In turn, I have mentored faculty members, post-doctoral fellows, graduate teaching assistants, peer facilitators and undergraduates. These interactions are not unidirectional. The feedback and collaborations from each of these groups has informed my teaching and thinking. Multi-layered interactions between undergraduates, peers, TAs, post-docs, new faculty and myself, have enriched our understanding and often led me to develop new teaching tools or new approaches to topics. Peer facilitators play a particularly important role in those nuanced interactions with undergraduates in our classes. I want to share my experiences and mentoring ideas with you today.
I have been privileged to mentor a few new faculty members, sometimes by co-teaching courses with them. Dr. Barbara Wakimoto gave me an opportunity to mentor post-doctoral fellows program that was part of her UW-HHMI grant. Dr. Merrill Hille and I became the coordinators of the Future Faculty Fellows program for several years. My graduate teaching assistants have opportunities to develop their own lectures, get feedback, and mentor peer facilitators. In turn, some of the graduate TAs have created new study tools for use in the laboratory. The peers are role models for undergraduates; the undergraduates want to become peers. The peers are empowered knowing that their graduate TA depends on their skills and prior knowledge of the course. Teamwork within a group of peers and between peers and their TAs are a critical part of their training. Undergraduate teamwork is an essential component of active learning in my upper division courses, and group study sessions in Biology 118 encourage group learning.
Since 2015, I have been part of the University of Washington in the High School program. I work with high school teachers who want to offer Biology 118, Survey of Physiology at their schools. These mentorships with highly trained professionals are fascinating, they have all the pedagogical tools for active learning and smaller class sizes; yet are intimidated by the college level title. These teachers give students a richer experience that the UW can with large 350-400 student class sizes. Dr. Casey Self and I train teachers annually, observe each teacher at least once a year, and review course materials. We challenge them to incorporate more graphical analysis and reading of figures, and provide them with lots of resources. Our goal is to expand the program to serve more low income or first-generation students because Biology 118 is a gateway into many of the pre-health professional degrees program.

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