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College of Science & Mathematics

Dayalan Srinivasan: Committed to Learning

Being a professor in higher education isn't limited to assigning tests, creating lesson plans and mandatory office hours; for assistant professor of biology Dayalan Srinivasan, being a professor is about adapting and implementing new teaching styles for the betterment of students' education.

Having been named National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences by the National Research Council for the 2013-2014 academic year, Srinivasan joins a dedicated class of professors consisting of Dr. Michael Grove, Dr. Luke Holbrook,  Dr. Cristina Iftode, Dr. Alison Krufka and Dr. Courtney Richmond, who were fellows for the 2011 through 2012 academic year. 

"When you look at higher education on a national level, you can see that we're not producing enough students from the fields of science, technology and engineering," Srinivasan said. "As NAE fellows, we try to figure out where the problem is."

Last summer, Srinivasan applied to the National Academies Summer Institutes, an organization that aims to develop teaching skills at five-day workshops to transform the undergraduate classroom. The Summer Institutes model the scientific teaching principles they teach drawing on the expertise of participants, according to the academies' website. 

"We came with an idea of ‘Backwards Design,' where we look at our end result being student success, and work backwards from there," Srinivasan explained.

Over 50 members from New England to Florida convened with leaders in science pedagogy to discuss backwards design, which consists of lesson plans that are designed from the result, rather from the material. With student success in mind, lessons plans are designed to give students a chance to work with the material so that they have the knowledge and abilities to further themselves in their disciplines, said Srinivasan.

"For me, I'll plan a lesson with what I hope my students will take away. Then I figure out what I should teach in class so they can get some information on the material. In my labs, I'll have them practice and witness what I am teaching, so that when an exam comes, the students are well prepared not only for the grade, but to move on to the next step," Srinivasan explained.

Knowing that his class is but a fraction of the science, technology and engineering population, Srinivasan has presented him and his fellows' findings to the biology department.

"Our department is a very forward thinking and progressive department," Srinivasan said.

Thought textbooks are important to the acquisition of course material, he wants students to know that it's not necessarily the textbook that's important, but also the experiment. While Srinivasan has helped to develop new teaching methods, he knows that this is not the end.

"I want students to come out with things they'll hold onto," Srinivasan stressed. "There's still more I can do; being a fellow doesn't end with the award, it's a continued process in developing abilities."