- Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology from Binghamton University – SUNY
- B.S. in Biology from Stony Brook University – SUNY
- BIOS 1300 Principles of Human Anatomy and Physiology I (Lecture and Lab)
In his first life, Aaron Perey worked in the R&D and Quality Control labs at Arch Chemicals, Inc. in Rochester, NY where he had the opportunity to gain experience in a wide array of chemical analyses. After several years, he left this role and began his second life by returning to school at Binghamton University to earn a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology. During his time at Binghamton, he studied intestinal inflammation by examining the intracellular mechanisms of cytokine signaling in intestinal epithelial cells. In addition to his research during this time, he also discovered a love for teaching. In the course of teaching several different courses at Binghamton, Aaron began developing an instructional style that would earn him a Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Teaching. After graduate school, Aaron moved on to Mercy College in NY as a visiting assistant professor where he had the opportunity to work with a diverse student body. Now at Ohio University, Aaron continues to develop and improve his teaching style and to strive for excellence in teaching.
In my view, the most important thing I can do as an instructor is to create a positive classroom atmosphere that is based on respect, acceptance, and inclusion and that fosters open communication and cooperative exchanges. Such positive learning environments, in turn, have positive effects on student motivation and learning outcomes [1-3], a claim that I hope most people would consider evident from their own experience. In addition, I believe that student-centered teaching is a critical part of this approach. To foster this type of learning environment, I follow these principles:
Be open with students. The best thing I have ever done as an instructor is to stop reigning in my personality in an effort to maintain an air of authority. I have found that when I freely express myself, allow myself to be seen, and openly acknowledge my humanity, the distance between me and my students shrinks. In addition to this, my willingness to meet students where they are and recognize their individuality allows me to see my students as fellow learners on paths of their own. All of these things can transform the student-teacher relationship, and when this happens, it creates a greater ease and openness in communication and enhances my ability to empathize and thus my ability to identify and respond to students’ needs. In addition, without the need to be on guard, I have more freedom to choose what and how I teach, to show my enthusiasm and love for biology, and to just have fun. My excitement and energy feed the interest of the students, and the satisfaction I get from this approach further contributes to the positive climate.
Meet students where they are (a.k.a. student-centered teaching). I take advantage of the open communication afforded by a positive environment to continually gauge my students’ understanding and adjust my explanations accordingly. In relating concepts, I use plain terms and examples from everyday life and take different learning styles into account by presenting ideas in multiple ways and varying the types of assignments. Meeting students where they are also means viewing mistakes as learning opportunities rather than failures, accepting the ability level of each student, and learning when to focus on progress rather than acquisition of finer details. In addition, I actively and repeatedly welcome and solicit student feedback and questions, which can sometimes result in impromptu student-directed discussions. I place a high value on students’ questions and, when stumped, will often research an unfamiliar topic in order to have an answer the next time class meets.
Make it interesting. Along with showing my enthusiasm, I aim for the “WOW factor” as much as possible. I design visually appealing lecture presentations with cool pictures and multimedia elements, including my own animations demonstrating biological concepts. For laboratory courses, I favor experiments with striking results as well as student-directed, hypothesis-driven exercises and multi-session sequences that progress from skill acquisition to inquiry.
Hands-on, active, and peer-based learning. These types of learning experiences are what I remember most from my time as a student, and I understand the power they can have. In the laboratory, I strongly encourage the full participation of every student and strive to create an environment where all skill levels are welcome and where students feel safe to make mistakes. In lecture settings, I include activities that take advantage of peer-based and active learning.
Foster connections. I believe that learning is enhanced and strongly reinforced when students can see how the subject relates to their own lives and interests and when they can integrate new knowledge into their existing frameworks of understanding, making connections not just within a subject, but across subjects. To facilitate this, I make course material more relatable. I use real-life examples, present biographical sketches of prominent scientists, link topics to larger social issues, and give assignments that help students organize ideas and relate concepts to their own experiences.
Challenge. A positive classroom environment can enhance motivation. To take advantage of this, I challenge my students with depth in the course material, high standards for written coursework, and examinations that require not only knowledge but also understanding and creative thinking.
Develop and improve. I am determined to continually improve my teaching by taking advantage of professional development programs, keeping abreast of new educational research and techniques, and implementing my own ideas. I will continue to create and experiment, keeping my courses fresh and interesting for both my students and myself.
- Meyer, D. K., and J. C. Turner. 2002. Discovering emotion in classroom motivation research. Educ Psychol 37: 107-114.
- Meyer, D. K., and J. C. Turner. 2006. Re-conceptualizing emotion and motivation to learn in classroom contexts. Educ Psychol Rev 18: 377-390.
- Pekrun, R., T. Goetz, W. Titz, and R. P. Perry. 2002. Academic emotions in students' self-regulated learning and achievement: A program of qualitative and quantitative research. Educ Psychol 37: 91-105.
Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Teaching, Binghamton University, 2015
A.C. Perey, I.M. Weishaar, and D.W. McGee. The effect of ROCK on TNF-α -induced CXCL8 secretion by intestinal epithelial cell lines is mediated through MKK4 and JNK signaling. Cellular Immunology 293:2 (2015) 80-86.
B.J. Rafferty, B.L. Unger, A.C. Perey, S.P. Tammariello, S. Pavlides, and D.W. McGee. A novel role for the Rho-associated kinase, ROCK, in IL-1-stimulated intestinal epithelial cell responses, Cellular Immunology 280:2 (2012) 148-155.