CoS Award for Teaching Excellence

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Dr. Wilkinson is a passionate educator. With input from the Biology Core Committee, Dr. Wilkinson redesigned the Principles of Biology I (BIOL 30) course to engage students in evidence-based learning practices and ensure student engagement through the use of in class clicker questions, pre-lecture quizzes on assigned readings, and use of a Canvas discussion board. Instead of rote memorization, students focus deeply on different topics and learn how to analyze real research data and learn the importance of controls. Additionally, research from the COS faculty research labs is incorporated into each lecture to connect what students are learning about to real applications which encourages student involvement in research at the Freshman level. To facilitate this course redesign and the redesign of the second course in the Biology series, Dr. Wilkinson wrote and was awarded a CSU Program for Education & Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB) Curriculum Development grant with two other professors in the Department of Biological Sciences: Dr. Cleber Ouverney and Dr. Susan Lambrecht.

Dr. Wilkinson has also taught classes at all levels for both Biology majors and non-majors, including six different lecture classes, three laboratory classes, and one activity section. She has been heavily involved in course development and redesign to use evidence-based teaching techniques to try to improve student success. She developed or co-developed four entirely new classes for the Systems Physiology Concentration: Vertebrate Neurophysiology Lab (BIOL 136L), Cardiorespiratory Physiology (BIOL 167), Special Topics in Pain Physiology (BIOL 255P), and Integrative Physiology (BIOL 178) in collaboration with Dr. Shelley Cargill as the capstone class. She also significantly redesigned three additional courses: Vertebrate Neurophysiology (BIOL 136) and Principles of Biology I Lecture and Lab (BIOL 30).

Dr. Wilkinson’s teaching has been recognized by her professional society with the 2017 American Physiological Society's AD Instruments MacKnight Early Career Innovative Educator Award. She also received an SJSU Provost's Innovative Course Redesign Grant to “flip” her Vertebrate Neurophysiology course. To flip the course, she recorded a series of short videos of her lectures for students to watch before class. She then used classroom time for problem solving sessions, discussions of primary research articles, discussion of ethical issues in neuroscience, and virtual laboratories involving computer simulations. This semester she introduced a new Vertebrate Neurophysiology Laboratory (BIOL 136L). She ran the lab as a Course Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE). Students started by doing some simple electrophysiology experiments on insects to teach them to take electrical recordings from neurons and muscles, and give students time to develop their own hypotheses and projects. Then, the majority of the course was spent with student teams working on projects they designed and developed themselves. Their final 'exam' was a poster presentation of their research, and some groups are considering writing up their results for submission to Impulse, a neuroscience journal run by undergraduates. Dr. Wilkinson’s thoughtful approach to teaching and engaging students in research in the classroom is inspirational.