Grad School through the eyes of a PRISM fellow

By Alex Poplawsky, Field Reporter

Originally published February 2009.

As all other graduate school recruits,  my interests were to be accepted to a  high caliber academic institution and to  develop myself as a future professional  in the neuroscience  field. To me, this meant joining  a rigorous research program  while being given the  opportunity and support to  further myself as an instructor.  I realized at that time that no matter who I worked for, university, industry, the government,  etc., half of my job  would be to communicate facts  and ideas to others. Emory  quickly caught my attention as the only  university that I toured to emphasize the  availability of and to encourage the use  of several programs offered to graduate  students that would strengthen me as an  instructor.

Alex Poplawsky
Alex Poplawsky

In my fourth year as a graduate student,  I became a NSF funded GK-12 graduate training fellow in the Problems  and Research to Integrate Science and  Mathematics (PRISM) program here at  Emory. As a PRISM fellow, I am currently being trained to implement problem-based learning (PBL) in a high  school chemistry class. PBL is an emerging technique that constructs a plot driven story around a purposely ill structure  problem  that must be solved  by small student groups. During  this process, students must  identify issues that they do not  fully understand, research these issues,  create hypotheses and ultimately make an  informed decision that will serve as a  solution. Conversely, the teacher acts to facilitate the students as they learn instead  of spoon feeding answers. In my experience, the students are actively engaged  in daily classroom activities, as  opposed to passively listening to the instructor,  and are highly motivated to  learn. They also walk away from the lesson  with a greater understanding and  experience on how to become autonomous  learners, which is a primary  goal of my emerging  teaching philosophy. Ultimately, I believe that PRISM  is providing me with the formal  knowledge, tools and experience  to become the effective  instructor that I hope to  be. For more information on PRISM,  view http://www.cse.emory.edu/prism/index.cfm. feb102009

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