CTL Course Development Fellows Program

In summer 2021 we launched the inaugural CTL Course Development Fellows.

In summer 2021 we launched the inaugural CTL Course Development Fellows. This opportunity was open to faculty who had completed the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) Effective Online Teaching Practices course during the 2020–21 academic year. The CTL Course Development Fellows joined the CTL summer team to apply learning from the ACUE course to a course design/re-design, and we are honored that they will be continuing the effort in this fall and/or spring through the implementation of their redesign, mentoring others who teach the same course to incorporate changes, collaborating at department level to share and implement changes, and through contributions via the Center for Teaching and Learning.

The inaugural CTL Course Development Fellows are Patricia Cai from Health and Nutrition Sciences and Phillip Staniczenko from Biology.

Read below to learn more about their inspiring work.

Patricia Cai, DC, MSACN

Patricia Cai, DC, MSACN

Patricia Cai, DC, MSACN

Lecturer/Doctoral Scholar in the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences

I teach human anatomy and physiology (A&P) in the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences. My initial reaction toward online teaching was resentment; it flung me back to be a rookie when I felt I was just getting good at teaching. But the pandemic made it necessary and forced me to refocus and to learn. I took courses about online teaching, one of which was held by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE).

This summer I redesigned A&P, implementing learning and teaching strategies presented by ACUE. I applied for Course Design Fellow at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to share these approaches with my colleagues who teach the same subject, and to get feedback from them for further improvement.

I approach course design with two foci, course presentation and pedagogy.

I wanted the course material display on Blackboard to be inviting and easy to navigate. In the content area I created items such as “lecture session link” and “Unit 1 Course Documents” for clear direction. I provided tool links, such as “Calendar” and “My grades,” to show due dates and keep students informed of their grades. I published the course schedule in a calendar to give an overview of monthly assignments. I made weekly folders containing listening to the recorded lecture, taking the quiz, and attending the Zoom session, the same sequence of activities for every week, to help students establish a study rhythm. I uploaded a course banner to make the course look welcoming and to distinguish the lab section from the lecture. I attached different images to exams and lecture sessions as visual cues to different tasks.

The goal of pedagogical design is to engage students to make learning disciplined and active. To help students manage the substantial amount of information and concepts, I divided each chapter into several micro-lectures of 15 to 20 minutes each. To encourage notetaking, I provided a skeletal outline for each lecture. To help develop study skills, I posted study tips. To motivate regular studying, I gave low-stakes quizzes, two attempts for each and with feedbacks, before each synchronous session. When wrong answers are checked, the related topic with its page number in the text would be indicated. To help understand the material and apply textbook concepts, I posted discussion questions for each chapter, and I required students to explain answers to their peers and to answer each other’s questions during weekly synchronous sessions. For easy navigation, I took advantage of the link function and compiled the recorded lectures, skeletal outlines, “what did you learn” questions, discussion topics, and study tips to one PowerPoint file for each chapter.

Working on this course design, I gradually came to realize that these strategies are relevant beyond online teaching. They remain effective when eye contact and body language return as an integral component of the teaching.

Phillip P.A. Staniczenko

Phillip P.A. Staniczenko

Phillip P.A. Staniczenko

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Brooklyn College, and Ph.D. subprogram in ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior, CUNY Graduate Center

Whose ideas become textbooks?

My attempt to include more diverse perspectives in a lecture-based ecology course.

Who is science for? Who gets to pick what’s studied? Who says what’s right? Scientists have only just begun asking these questions of themselves, let alone examining how their answers might influence teaching practices.

Back in 2018, a paper on “100 articles every ecologist should read” [1] caused uproar in the research community when the Twitterati noticed that 97 of the 100 articles in the list were first authored by White men, overlooking the substantial role that women, persons of color, and indigenous peoples have played in defining ecology as we know it. Watching as the conversation unfolded in cyberspace, I couldn’t help but wonder how my own research and teaching was biased by what I assumed was worth reading.

At Brooklyn College, I teach an upper-level undergraduate course, BIOL3083 Principles of Ecology, that traces the big ideas that make up the backbone of the discipline. My lectures start with natural selection, delve into mathematical models of predator-prey dynamics, and finish with community assembly and decline. Yes, these are the basics every ecologist should know, but I’ve come to feel that I’m doing my students a disservice by not mentioning where those ideas come from and who has shaped our thinking about ecology.

The CTL Course Development Fellowship has allowed me to revisit the course and revise it to be more inclusive, exciting, and relevant. I started by cutting the bloat from my lecture materials, around 25%. This freed up class time that I could devote to research articles by authors whose ideas, although foundational, are too often mentioned in passing and almost always without due credit.

After considering hundreds of articles, I settled on seven pairs of papers to focus on. The compilation runs parallel to my existing lectures and provides some additional, research-centered context for familiar textbook subjects like survival of the fittest. We discuss Charles Darwin’s views on race and gender [2] together with the harrowing experience of Roger Arliner Young, the first Black woman in the United States to earn a doctorate in zoology [3]. When covering global biogeography, we read two seminal Science articles—Gretchen Daily’s “The value of nature and the nature of value” [4] and Georgina Mace’s “Whose conservation?” [5]—and debate who really benefits from modern conservation efforts. My mother is Indonesian and my father is British and a former land surveyor, so I simply had to include a paper on maps, politics, and power in the forest territories of Kalimantan, Indonesia [6].

As the course approaches its end, I turn our attention to contemporary research. In addition to urban ecology and science communication, we chart the intellectual passage from Garrett Hardin’s 1968 “The tragedy of the commons” [7]—in which he remarks there is no solution to the inevitable spoiling of shared natural resources like clean water and fresh air—to Elinor Ostrom’s pioneering work in the 1970s and 1980s on governing the commons [8]. Ostrom was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics and although her award was met with indifference by many in her discipline, her legacy includes one of the most important paradigm shifts percolating through ecology today, namely, that the world’s most pressing environmental issues cannot be separated from human activities and are therefore best described as socio-environmental issues.

Our students deserve to see themselves in the process of knowledge creation. For too long, who has shaped ecology has been ignored under the overreaching guise of scientific objectivity, and potential role models have been overlooked due to unconscious (and sometimes conscious) biases. Revising a single ecology course will not redress decades of injustice and missed opportunities, but I hope my attempt can serve as an example of a manageable first step that leads to more reflection on what is taught as science and, crucially, who deserves the spotlight.


[1] Courchamp, F., Bradshaw, C.J.A. 100 articles every ecologist should read. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2, 395–401 (2018).

[2] Rose, S. Darwin, race and gender. EMBO Reports, 10, 297–298 (2009).

[3] McNeill, L. How a brilliant biologist was failed by science. BBC article  (2020).

[4] Daily, G.C. et al. The value of nature and the nature of value. Science, 289, 395–396 (2000).

[5] Mace, G.M. Whose conservation? Science, 345, 1558–1560 (2014).

[6] Peluso, N.L. Whose woods are these? Counter-mapping forest territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Antipode, 27, 383–406 (1995).

[7] Hardin, G. The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162, 1243–1248 (1968).

[8] Ostrom, E. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press (1990).

Brooklyn. All in.