Teaching Philosophy

Mark Badminton

I genuinely enjoy teaching at the undergraduate level, and have been involved in introductory biology, ecology, vertebrate zoology, animal behaviour, community ecology and ornithology courses. Aside from my formal teaching duties, I am a strong proponent of bringing Science to the public, afterall it is the public who ultimately fund Universities and the research that we conduct. I regularly give "bat talks" to school groups, naturalists organizations, service clubs, the Science Center etc. Bats and goatsuckers are perfect vehicles as they are often misunderstood and thus can be used to make a case for why apparently "esoteric" research can have an important impact.

I truely enjoy the time that I spend in the classroom and recognize the importance of a professors's obligations to students in this regard. However, I feel strongly that in Science, too much time is spent "covering" topics, rather than exposing students to the dynamic nature of scientific mystery. Afterall, it is the mystery that has drawn many of us to Science in the first place. That is, the things we don't know capture our interest. Therefore, I try to bring the research of other scientists as well as my own to the classroom. My emphasis is that Science is exciting, dynamic and fun, not dull dry textbook stuff. I am not at all afraid to say in response to a question in class - "I don't know if we know that"?

I believe that good lecturing must have some entertainment value to keep students awake and interested. To be sure, organization and clarity of presentation are very important, but the delivery needs to be such that students look forward to learning. I try to accomplish this with frequent changes of pace, anecdotes, direct class participation and by conveying my true passion for my work.

Although there has to be a professional "distance" maintained between professor and students, I think that in many instances this distance is far too great. I believe that we are all students, those with PhD's simply having been at it a little longer. As an undergraduate student I remember perceiving professors as a group of unapproachable gods. If you needed help, the T/A's were the place to go. By making the classroom a less formal place, I try to encourage more students to feel that they can come to me and discuss the course material and how it is being presented. In fact, some of the best ideas about how to teach a topic have come to me through students struggling with it. I maintain an open door policy and do my best to always make time for students when they have questions or concerns. It is imperative that faculty remember that students are our clients. Although our experience and position mean that we must ultimately decide how best to educate, we should also be prepared to listen to our clients with a view to improving our product.