Stefan Kanzok, PhD
Associate Professor of Biology
BIOL 466: Advanced Biochemistry
“Consider your audience” is one of the golden rules for any presentation. This is especially true for mentors and instructors in the MAMS program since our students come from very different backgrounds and stages in their careers. It is therefore important to me that the subject of my lectures is not only accessible and interesting for the students, but relevant, exciting and thus worthwhile studying and understanding. To this end I am using few slides with even less text. But each slide and each concept is carefully explained and placed into the higher level concept and the overall big picture. I frequently return to these concepts and ideas using analogies and examples. Often I include new findings and concepts from research, including my own. If students approach me after a lecture asking questions that not only relate to but go beyond the topics I covered I leave the auditorium happy. For responses and comments from students during and after lecture are the prime indicators of whether my explanations made sense or if I have to adjust my approach for the next lecture.
Teaching is learning
What excites me most about teaching is the learning aspect. Together with the students I make new connections, improve my understanding of concepts and ideas, discover new ways to explain complex topics, and find new pieces to the puzzle that we call “the big picture”. Since this “teaching is learning” aspect is so valuable to me I frequently encourage students to form study group and explain concepts to each another. During discussion sessions I give students and study groups the opportunity to explain topic to me in their own words. One of my best teaching tools is finding now and fitting analogies from everyday life. Finding a good analogy is an excellent way to evaluate one’s understanding of a concept. The next step is then to explain or teach it to someone else. With the help of the students I gain new insights during every lecture.
Excitement is contagious – so is boredom
Utilizing the diverse background of the MAMS students I encourage them to share their insights into specific topics since my expertise is naturally limited. Motivating the students to add their expertise adds motivation and excitement during lecture. Together these insights, comments and questions from students as well as colleagues allow me to update and optimize future presentations. Not two of my lectures on the same topic are identical, as I constantly update and modify my slides and slide shows in order to reflect new approaches to complex topics, student input, new data, and new presentation techniques. One of the most rewarding comments from a recent MAMS graduate was “Dr Kanzok, you unlocked Michaelis-Menten for me.”
My ultimate goal during class is to win and keep the attention of my audience for the entire lecture and to help them understand key concepts and ideas. If I succeed in making a lecture interesting, relevant and just a little bit rewarding for the students in the classroom I have done my job and look forward to come back for the next lecture.