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
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
See a sample of Dr. Shaffer’s teaching here
– Read Dr. Shaffer’s article on teaching a course for the first time in the American Association of Anatomists November 2017 newsletter. Read more here.
– Dr. Shaffer’s community outreach work was highlighted in the American Association of Anatomists 2016 yearly review. Read more here (page 14).
– Dr. Shaffer was awarded the 2016 Biological Sciences School Golden Apple for Excellence in Teaching. Read more here.
– Dr. Shaffer’s research was profiled in the American Association of Anatomists July 2016 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.
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!
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.
- Lieu RM, Gutierrez A, Shaffer JF. Student perceived difficulties in learning organ systems in an undergraduate human anatomy course. HAPS Educator. In press.
- Shaffer JF. Scorpion versus mouse: A tale of venom and action potentials. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. In press.
- Lieu RM, Wong A, Asefirad A, Shaffer JF. 2017. Improving exam performance in introductory biology through the use of pre-class reading guides. CBE-LSE, 16:ar46; doi:10.1187/cbe.16-11-0320.
- Shaffer JF. 2017. Boning up on active learning exercises for teaching skeletal system anatomy: Pre-class accountability is key. HAPS Educator 21: 44-47.
- Shaffer JF and Sun S . 2017. Anencephaly in Yakima: Lots of questions, few answers. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.
- Shaffer JF. 2016. Student performance in and perceptions of a high structure undergraduate human anatomy course. Anat Sci Ed 9: 516-528.
- Shaffer JF, Dang JV, Lee AK, Dacaney SJ, Alam U, Wong HY, Richards GJ, Kadandale P, Sato BK. 2016. A familiar(ity) problem: Assessing the impact of prerequisites and content familiarity on student learning. PLOS One 11: e0148051. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148051.
- Sato BK, Alam U, Dacanay SJ, Lee AK, Shaffer JF. 2015. Brewing for students: An inquiry-based microbiology lab. J Microbiol Biol Educ 16:223-229.
- Shaffer JF. 2014. Plotting cranial and spinal nerve pathways in a human anatomy lab. CourseSource. doi: 10.24918/cs.2014.9.
- Shaffer JF. 2014. The sad but true case of Earl Washington,: DNA analysis and the criminal justice system. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.
- Shaffer JF. 2013. “Recombinant protein of the day”: using daily student presentations to add real-world aspects to a biotechnology course. Biochem Mol Biol Educ 41: 269-272.
- Shaffer JF. 2013. From cow juice to a billion dollar drug, with some breakthroughs in between. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.