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September 21, 2023

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BGSU changes teaching philosophy for undergraduates

Through technology and classroom additions, students at the University may be experiencing a learning makeover.

Students in classes like Eileen Underwood’s introductory biology, a course she’s taught for over 20 years, are already seeing many of these changes.

Underwood, an associate professor of biology, is always looking for ways to re-structure her 180-student lecture to make it more engaging for the large class.

She represents a growing change in teaching philosophy throughout campus, as the University looks to reform undergraduate education.

“It’s hard to do activities and hands-on class activities that will help cement learning when you have that many students,” Underwood said. “I’m enjoying the constant change we see in how we’re encouraged to teach.”

Since this past semester, Underwood has introduced learning assistants into her classrooms, undergraduate students who assist in coursework they are knowledgeable of.

Underwood has four learning assistants who help with class group activities. Assistants can better engage the groups in critical thinking, Underwood said.

“Students can relate back to them better,” she said.

Such assistants are just one way to reform education by utilizing active learning, said Sue Houston, vice provost for undergraduate education.

“It has the potential to interact well with students,” Houston said.

The learning assistants even provide feedback on the course to Underwood.

Alyse Batvinskas, a junior marine biology major, is one of the learning assistants for Underwood.

Batvinskas, who plans to continue as a learning assistant next fall, has enjoyed applying her major to helping her fellow peers.

“It tests my own knowledge on the subject and it makes me feel good to help out the other students,” Batvinskas said.

These initiatives hope to build off past programs, such as first-year seminars like BG Experience and Connecting the Undergraduate Experiences, Houston said.

Other changes in undergraduate studies will deal with freshmen classes, as the University will work to link students of the same major to take classes together, Houston said. This will better connect students to their major and school programs, she said.

The University also aims to improve areas such as student advising and campus technology, she added.

Advising can be improved to better communicate with students on what classes they need to take and when, Houston said, while technology such as Canvas is already being integrated into some classes.

Faculty looking to change their courses can also make use of the available teaching grant program, a program started this past spring to improve course structures.

Houston also emphasized the importance of the experiences students have outside of class, such as study abroad programs.

“These kinds of opportunities really enhance the experience, but also enhance the ability of students to go on when they leave BGSU,” she said.

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