Importance of Studying Nutrition
The study of nutrition is vastly important in today’s world where both obesity and malnutrition are important public health issues. Creative solutions are needed to combat both of these issues. Accurate knowledge in the face of media distortion is critical for understanding the causes of public health problems and for implementing solutions to those problems.
In the field of nutrition, being a scientist involves a great deal of community outreach. Often our lay audiences are genuinely interested, and this provides us with wonderful teaching opportunities for the research. After all, if we don’t write about our research, a blogger will…and will probably get it wrong.
As a nutrition scientist and teacher of nutrition concepts, my teaching objectives are
- insuring students understand foundational nutrition concepts,
- modeling expert problem solving,
- developing students’ critical analysis skills, and
- developing persuasive scientific communication skills both to technical and lay audiences.
Objective 1: Insuring Students Understand Foundational Nutrition Concepts
Learning is a developmental process. Students must learn how to formulate questions, conduct research, and communicate professionally both orally and in writing. My courses will provide ample opportunities for the students to engage with me and each other. Nutrition concepts will be introduced through traditional lectures and enforced with interactive sessions with a graduate TA. This will provide students with the opportunity to discuss the material presented in class with their peers in a more equal environment. Student understanding will be assessed in classroom via iClicker questions and small group activities.
Objective 2: Modeling Expert Problem Solving
As a teacher, I will model expert problem solving through a progression of case studies which will correspond with the lecture materials. Some of these case studies will demonstrate nutrient interactions in the maddeningly complex system of the human body. Others will showcase what can happen when nutrition programs are implemented poorly or without proper testing. It is very important for students to understand the negative consequences of improperly conducted nutrition research/policies.
Objective 3: Developing Critical Thinking Skills
The case studies will also give the students the chance to develop and exercise their critical thinking skills. They will be taught how to analyze nutrition literature and judge whether a particular idea has scientific merit. Teaching the concept of causality and under what conditions causal relationships can be claimed will be the primary focus of this objective.
Objective 4: Developing Persuasive Scientific Communication Skills
To address my final learning objective, students will submit persuasive writing samples at the beginning of the course. Each teaching unit will include a writing assignment that will require the students to analyze scientific literature and respond to an incorrect nutrition claim. They will write two versions of a scientific critique of the article: one to a scientific audience and one to a lay audience. They will be encouraged to post the lay response on the original blog and respond to feedback from real people. This teaching objective will be accomplished with cooperation from the university library and writing center.
The field of nutrition faces some unique challenges when it comes to teaching. Everyone eats, so everyone has an opinion on what constitutes proper nutrition. Students will enter the classroom with preconceived notions of what nutrition is. It is my job to teach them how to critically evaluate their own preconceptions as well as media portrayals of nutrition.
One way that I will address challenges that come up during my teaching is to engage in formal critical reflection of my teaching methods at the middle and end of each course. Critical reflection is hunting assumptions that interfere with my teaching and my students’ learning. Critical reflective teaching requires me to recognize and analyze how power complicates my relationships with students and to challenge my “common sense” assumptions. In addition to my own reflection, I will ask more experienced professors to attend a lecture and give me feedback on my teaching technique.
Research and Teaching
The role of a higher educator must involve both teaching and research because each process informs the other. Doing quality research depends on the ability to clearly form and communicate ideas. Continuing to teach and learn about teaching sharpens this ability to communicate difficult concepts to other scientists and to the public.
The role of higher education is to teach students not only what to learn but how to learn. It involves helping students to understand how to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired to real problems that the world faces. This “science of engagement” is the reason universities were such a big part of American life. Now higher education has lost that sense of engagement with real world-changing problems. Higher education has the responsibility of being a place where people can come together and problem solve with the support and resources they need.
Please see my Course Design page for more information.