HomeFacultyJustin Shaffer

Justin Shaffer


Justin Shaffer, Ph.D.
Assistant Teaching Professor

4234 McGaugh Hall
University of California Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697

Tel: (949) 824-2801
Fax: (949) 824-4709
Email:
j.shaffer@uci.edu

Courses taught (click on the links for sample materials):
– Bio Sci 93 (DNA to Organisms)                                                           Syllabus      Lesson      Exam
– Bio Sci D170/D136 (Human Anatomy)                                              Syllabus      Lesson      Exam
– Bio Sci 9B (The Biology and Chemistry of Food and Cooking)     Syllabus     Lesson      Exam

Recent news
– Dr. Shaffer was awarded the 2016 Ayala School Golden Apple for Excellence in Teaching. Read more here.
– Dr. Shaffer’s research was profiled in the American Association of Anatomist’s newsletter. Read more here.
– Dr. Shaffer was profiled in the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. Read more here.


As an Assistant Teaching Professor in Developmental and Cell Biology, I have three main goals: 1) to provide undergraduate students the best educational and classroom experience possible; 2) to study how students learn science; and 3) to provide professional development opportunities for graduate students and postdocs.

Teaching Philosophy – I want to get students excited to learn about science
This short statement sums up who I am as a teacher. Everything that I do as a teacher all comes down to the fact that I want my students (and society as a whole for that matter) to appreciate, understand, and ultimately be excited about science. I believe that student excitement and engagement are the foundation for improving scientific literacy, building solid critical thinking and analysis skills, and preparing for successful scientific and technical careers. For those students that already really like science, I want to cultivate their interests and help them prosper into the scientists, researchers, doctors, and engineers of tomorrow. I like to say that I know that I won’t ever find a cure for cancer, but maybe I will inspire a student who will someday do just that.

Teaching Style
If you are a student in my classroom, I want you to leave every day saying “that was fun and I learned a lot!” I start every day with learning objectives, so that you know exactly what I want you to be able to do in the course. During class, you’ll be exposed to the course content through real-world situations that apply in some way to your daily lives so as to make the course material more relevant. You won’t just be sitting quietly and taking notes in my class either, I rarely lecture for more than five minutes at a time (and even when I do lecture it is more like a conversation than me speaking directly at you). Rather you will be actively engaged in the learning process and applying your knowledge by answering clicker questions, working with your classmates to brainstorm or solve problems, and analyzing data from scientific research articles. I do all of this for a reason, and that reason is that tons of research has shown that you will learn more if taught this way! I guarantee you’ll have at least a little bit of fun too!

Educational Research
In addition to using evidence-based principles when I teach courses, I am also interested in researching how students learn science. I am interested in assessing the efficacy of high structure teaching practices in a variety of college science classes. (High structure teaching involves pre-class assignments, in-class active learning, weekly review assignments, and multiple cumulative exams.) Specifically, I am studying the impacts of in-class active learning exercises and out-of-class assignments on student performance and attitudes in a variety of contexts (upper vs lower division, majors vs non-majors, introductory biology vs human anatomy, etc).

Professional Development for Graduate Students and Postdocs
I am committed to assisting graduate students and postdocs with professional development opportunities, including career exploration, development of teaching skills, and mentoring. To address the latter, I offer a mentoring workshop (Becoming an Effective Mentor) that aims to train graduate students and postdocs to be effective mentors of undergraduate students in the research lab.

Recent Publications