I love teaching because I love learning. I'm addicted to those hits of dopamine we get when something clicks for the first time, and I enjoy trying out new ways of making that happen in the classroom.
I am grateful to have been afforded many fantastic opportunities to develop these skills through the Peace Corps and my graduate studies, and I enjoy the continual challenge of making each next attempt better than the last.
My last year of graduate school I designed a first-year writing seminar on astrobiology, and was awarded one of two Buttrick-Crippen fellowships to teach it by the Cornell Knight Writing Institute. This was a fun topic, touching on everything from galaxies and exoplanets to mass extinctions, the origin of life and global warming. It was also a great opportunity to apply various ideas I wanted to implement from courses I had taken on teaching writing in the disciplines. I also spent a lot of time trying to articulate learning outcomes for the course, which I laid out in the Course Syllabus.
There's an extensive literature on how active learning and peer instruction improve learning. Also, it's way more fun. To help prepare for an eassy on global warming in the writing seminar above, I designed an activity around synthesizing facts, removing extraneous information, and building sound arguments. I tried a new way of reshuffling groups that kept everyone accountable and engaged, and I overheard several conversations where students were giving each other exactly the types of comments I had been writing on their previous essays. Encouraged by the outcome, I submitted it to the Cornell Knight Instititute, where it won an award for the best writing exercise across all first-year writing seminars. You can find the submission (including a more extensive reflection) here.
I believe it is important for assessments to purposefully tie in to the course's learning outcomes. In my writing course, I found that creating grading rubrics for the essays helped me ensure I was doing this, and I found that students appreciated having these ahead of time for their drafts and revisions. You can find a sample rubric here.