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.
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.