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Colby Moore - Student, Researcher, Award-Winning Teacher

April 1, 2013

BIO 1401: Current Issues in Human Biology, better known as "Biology for Non-Majors," is a required course for many freshmen. With organisms invisible to the naked eye and terms that are literally in another language, taking a biology course can be a daunting task for students who major outside of the sciences. For students in Colby Moore's section, those fears are put to rest.

Colby Moore

"Her enthusiasm for the material was contagious," says Jess Wentworth, a former student. "I couldn't help but find myself enjoying a subject I had originally feared."

Wentworth is not alone in her praise for Moore. Dr. Jacquelyn Duke, a lecturer in Biology and Baylor's Interdisciplinary Core program, notes that Moore is "clearly an instructor of distinction."

What might be surprising then is that Colby Moore is not an tenure-track professor with a long history of success in the classroom. No, Moore is a graduate student - a doctoral candidate in Baylor's Biology program. She is also one of the most recent recipients of Baylor's Outstanding Graduate Instructor award.

Like many students at Baylor, Moore has been given the opportunity to teach as part of her graduate studies. As a Teacher of Record, Moore assumes all the classroom responsibilities of professor while she conducts her own research - the kind of preparation offered at Baylor that mirrors academic life beyond the degree.

But, giving students the opportunity to teach does not mean that Baylor is willing to sacrifice quality. In fact, data compiled by university through student evaluations shows that Teachers of Record perform at a level on-par with their tenure-track counterparts. Some of that comes from preparation; some of it from individual talent.

"Baylor offers all kinds of resources to teachers and graduate students," Moore says. "The Seminars for Excellence in Teaching (SET) offers about ten opportunities each semester to learn best practices. One of the sessions I took was from Dr. Duke, and it focused on incorporating different modes of teaching in science."

In addition to the SETs, Moore recognizes other resources that helped her.

"I took a great class called Teaching in Higher Education (EDA 6302) with Dr. Laine Scales," Moore says. "Her class challenged me to evaluate the best teaching methods and even teach a chapter to the class while being videotaped, which is really nerve-racking for anyone."

Moore adds that the class's readings opened her mind to changing from the traditional, lecture-based style of science classes to a more balanced approach that incorporates lecture and discussion.

"Teaching science, especially to non-majors, is difficult because most classes are lecture-based," Moore says. "Those of us in the scientific fields bring to class a lot of additional background knowledge, so we can keep up. We have a lot of prior learning that we can build upon."

"With non-majors," Moore adds, "I've noticed they usually prefer discussion-based classes. They are often approaching the subject for the first time, and it helps to work collaboratively with others who are learning, too."

The results have been overwhelmingly positive for Moore, for her students, and for Baylor.

"It's just a great opportunity," Moore says. "I feel like I was prepared for success. The Grad School is a great help for any graduate student interested in teaching or becoming a better teacher."

For more information on these and other programs, visit the Baylor Graduate School website.

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