EAR 225: Fall 2020
“Volcanoes and Earthquakes”
Instructor of record for an intro-level, non-majors geology course of 119 students. The course focused on volcanoes and earthquakes viewed through a lens of plate tectonics theory and geohazards. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the lecture portion of this course was entirely online, with both synchronous and asynchronous components. As part of the course students completed three-mini projects, working in groups to investigate plate tectonics using Google Earth, prepare earthquake hazard mitigation recommendations for a city using real data from a variety of sources, and analyze GPS data to forecast volcanic activity.
Before teaching this course, I had been wanting to teach my own class for years, but I always wondered if I would still want to teach after facing the reality of teaching. Now I can say confidently that yes, I do very much want to keep teaching! I faced no shortage of hurdles while teaching this class – very limited prep time, navigating a new university and learning management system, a global pandemic, and a personal tragedy in the first week of class. Nevertheless, putting into practice everything I had learned about pedagogical techniques and best practices in inclusivity was immensely satisfying. Of course I didn’t get everything right, and there are a million things I would do differently next time! However, I found that keeping in constant and meaningful communication with my students was key to solving problems that inevitably arose. What I found most rewarding was working with several students who struggled at the beginning of the semester who, once given the time, space, and resources to do so, ultimately landed on their feet and successfully completed the course. Most students reported that they thoroughly enjoyed the course and learned important new information about volcanoes and earthquakes and, crucially, how earth science can connect to their daily lives.
Selected comments from student evaluations
- “Patricia MacQueen is an amazing professor. She was so enthusiastic about the course material and managed to keep me engaged but I wasn’t struggling to keep up with the workload at all. I was dreading taking this class and she made it super enjoyable.”
- “It was very interesting applying what we learned into real world things and actually thinking about the process in which they occur and what people do to prevent as much damage as they can.”
- “The one main takeaway from the class was how devoted the instructor was to her craft. She spent extra time trying to build a creative and engaging environment that allowed students the best possible scenario to succeed. Having this type of devotion was critical during the a global pandemic which has impacted education in ways that had to be adapted. Being cared for as a student is such a big factor in liking a course and the instructor was able to go above and beyond to provide that to each and every student.”
- “The professor was very understanding towards what was happening outside of the course. When we suffered the loss of two students this semester she went out of her way to acknowledge that she was here for us and that if we were in close relation to those who had passed and needed a day off, she was willing to grant that. Engagement in the classroom was there and students felt comfortable coming forward with questions!”
EAS 6920: Fall 2019/Spring 2020
“Graduate Experience in EAS”
Worked with Prof. Natalie Mahowald to reform this course from a more passive, lecture based format to an interactive series of workshops covering topics solicited from the graduate students themselves. The goal of this course is to equip students with the soft skills needed to navigate their graduate experience and set them up for success on graduation. Topics covered included (among others) “How to write a proposal” (featuring peer-editing of student’s proposals), “How to Give an Elevator Pitch”, and “Careers Inside and Outside of Academia”.
This was my first experience really getting to shape a course, and I learned quickly just how many variables had to be accounted and planned for. It was particularly rewarding to see how the transition from lecture to workshop format helped to form a cohort mentality among the incoming graduate students, and created links between incoming and senior graduate students.
EASC 620: Fall 2013
Simon Fraser University
Taught the lab section of a senior undergraduate/graduate course in volcanology, including teaching and facilitating hands-on lab exercises, facilitating a capstone volcanic disaster simulation, and assisting on field trips.
The two things I learned from serving as a TA for this course were 1) I actually enjoy grading if I get to design the rubric and 2) how to quickly adjust if I have misjudged the background knowledge of the students! I developed the strategy of checking in with my students to make sure they were comprehending my instructions, and being patient about backing up to fill in gaps in their knowledge, so that everyone had a fair chance of completing the labs.
EASC 101: Fall 2012
Simon Fraser University
Taught multiple lab sections of this introductory geology course, including several hands-on labs.
In my first experience running a lab section by myself, I quickly learned the joys of “aha” moments, responding to students’ surprising and often challenging questions, and running with my students when they wanted to move beyond simply doing the labs. One tactic I developed early on was to rotate regularly through the class, taking special care to check on the quieter students who I knew were more reluctant to ask questions.
Selected comments from student evaluations
- “TA was great! Always encouraging us to ask questions and understand the material.”
- “Patricia was very helpful during lab times and during office hours. She made the lab fun and very interesting.”
- “If you have any questions, she makes sure you understand.”
GEOL 399: Winter 2011
University of Oregon
“Jump Into Geology Sophomore Seminar”
Assisted with a seminar-style course on Oregon geology including a field trip to the Oregon coast.
In this first experience as a TA I had one of the most eye-opening experiences about student engagement I’ve ever had. Midway through the course, a student who was typically checked-out during class sessions got his hands on a rock hammer during a class field trip for the first time. After this field trip, he suddenly became one of the most eager students in the course! Watching that transformation taught me how important hands-on experience could be for encouraging a student to care about their own learning in a course.
Mentoring365: 2018 – 2021
Through the Mentoring365 program, I have now mentored two undergraduate students through the grad school application process. One has completed her first year of a doctoral program, and the other started Fall 2020 with an NSF fellowship! Through the application process I provided basic information on what to expect, reviewed application materials, and talked through communicating with potential advisers, doubts, and difficult decisions.
I am incredibly proud of my mentees, and so honored to have had the chance to mentor them. Through the application process I saw how empowering it was for my mentees when I affirmed their whole identities as a strength, encouraged them to find a program that was good for both their career and their well-being, and developed enough of a rapport that they felt comfortable asking me anything. Seeing them succeed was incredibly rewarding, and has renewed my dedicated to science and teaching.
Pritchard Remote Sensing Lab: 2018-2021
As a graduate student I’ve had the privilege of assisting in advising multiple undergraduate and beginning graduate students doing research in our lab. I primarily mentor undergraduates in the “nuts and bolts” of research, teaching them how to use the main software programs.
I’ve learned from this just how much it means to students when I am open and honest about how much I struggled with learning some of the software, because then they know they’re not innately bad at research. This is particularly important for combatting stereotype threat for female graduate students!
CTI Online Learning Institute
In this short course through Cornell’s Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI), we learned techniques effective, engaging, and inclusive instruction in an online setting. As the capstone of the four-session course I taught a “micro-teaching” session about the scientific method.
Although my trial-by-fire teaching for Syracuse University in Fall 2020 meant that some of the content in this course was familiar, I learned about a wealth of new tools and approaches I hadn’t known about or considered before. In particular, after taking this course I feel more empowered to effectively facilitate group work and student-to-student communication, something I found challenging to do well during my previous teaching experience.
ALS 6015: The Practice of Teaching in Higher Education
In this course I learned the fundamentals of pedagogy, with an emphasis of active learning and inclusive teaching. As part of the course I taught one of the class sessions, designed a sample syllabus, and prepared teaching philosophy and diversity statements.
After taking this course, I cannot wait to put the things I learned into practice! I am particularly excited to try out the several active learning techniques we covered, and see how I could use them to make traditional math-heavy geophysics courses more engaging and less intimidating.
This online course taught both philosopy and practical strategies for inclusive teaching in a diverse classroom. The 5 modules explored inclusive course design, social identity and self reflection, and pedagogical practices that encourage connection across differences.
Note: “MOOC” is short for “Massively Open Online Course”
Other Teaching Experience
Ithaca Astronomy For All
I co-lead a community stargazing series in which, rather than simply pointing telescopes for visitors and inviting them to look, we teach community members to use the telescopes and search the night sky for themselves! We teach anyone who comes, of any age or educational background.
Teaching any and all members of the public keeps me always thinking on my feet, coming up with new ways to deliver the content so that each visitor comes away knowing they don’t have to have a degree in astrophysics to use a telescope! I’ve also learned how to teach even those who come to this convinced they are “not smart enough” – by the end of the night, some of these people have stayed for hours!
Teacher-For-A-Day, Spencer Butte Middle School
Eugene, OR, 2010
I “took over” a local middle school science teacher’s class for a day, teaching an interactive course on plate tectonics using Google Earth that I had designed myself. I prepared extensively, working out course goals, materials, and timing, and saw this pay off with class after class of excited students happily hunting for subduction zones!
This first teaching experience really brought home how important thorough planning was – with a short 45 minute class period, I couldn’t afford not to time my lesson plan! I also learned the importance of establishing long-term with a class, as the middle school teacher was easily able to call his class to attention, whereas I was not!