Why ASM’s Teaching Undergraduate Biology Webinar is Worth the Investment

Feb. 5, 2020

ASM offers several webinars on teaching and research. We invite you to explore our offerings and join a learning community around writing manuscripts or undergraduate teaching! Although these series have already started, it’s not too late to register – you can view recordings of any missed webinar.

At many institutions, the ability to teach effectively carries substantial weight in hiring and tenure/promotion decisions. However, trainees, like graduate students and postdocs, may not have access to training on teaching students using evidence-based practices. ASM’s Teaching Undergraduate Biology webinar series helps you gain teaching skills. Here we interview webinar speaker Dr. Laura MacDonald, who is an Assistant Professor at the Hendrix College, on her teaching journey and the benefits of taking the Teaching Undergraduate Biology webinar series. 

Tell us about your teaching journey.

My teaching journey began with the American Society for Microbiology. In graduate school, I quickly realized that I wanted to work at the undergraduate level, but I was also really concerned about being able to do it well. My graduate mentor was very encouraging and got me involved with ASM early, and as part of my career progression, he encouraged me to take an online course on teaching. At the time, it was called the Science Teaching Fellows program, now the Teaching Undergraduate Biology series. I still feel like this online course was one of the most impactful trainings I’ve had because it gave me a framework for good pedagogy. I still rely on a lot of the practices, like backward design and active learning that were covered in the webinar series. It was also a springboard into the education community, which has always been most welcoming and collegial.    

Why should people take the webinar series?

The webinar series provides foundational and practical guidance for your teaching. Over time, it has evolved to provide novel and comprehensive coverage of the most important practices for student engagement. It’s an especially good series for individuals just starting out in their teaching practice and can serve as a gateway into the scholarship of teaching and learning. Even seasoned veterans are likely to find something novel and exciting to reinvigorate their practice. Every year that I participate in the series, I continue to grow as an educator. The biggest thing I apply in my everyday practice is without a doubt backward design. I also use active learning and am eager to use new techniques often described by the webinar facilitators, but backward design has been a guiding principle since I started the series.

What’s one piece of valuable advice you provide in your webinar?  

Teaching is always a work in progress and there is always something new to change or adjust. Don’t be afraid to try risky, innovative practices in the classroom. We always tell our students that it’s ok to fail in science, but I think it’s important to model this behavior as professionals as well.  

Author: Laura MacDonald

Laura MacDonald
Dr. Laura MacDonald is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Hendrix College