Engaging the next generation of scientists

Making his classroom a collaborative learning space with modern technology, Adam MacNeil is creating productive learning environments for his students.Recipient of the 2015 Brock University Award for Excellence in Teaching for Early Career Faculty, many believe MacNeil,Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences, is just getting started.Two years ago when MacNeil interviewed at Brock, he immediately impressed department chair Brent E. Faught with his student-centred approach to teaching.“Dr. Adam MacNeil is, without a doubt, a valuable asset for Brock University, who will be celebrated for his teaching and research prowess for years to come,” Faught said.Through his unique teaching philosophy in lectures and hands-on experiential interactions in the laboratory,MacNeil is successfully teaching students and future researchers to reflect on what they are learning and inspiring them to pursue careers in immunology.Student engagement in the learning process is woven through his classroom and laboratory approach to teaching, he said.“I believe teaching and research are not distinct, but merely two important aspects of an academic career.”Being an effective teacher means continually learning and passing on critical aspects of that knowledge to the students. As research progresses, course content needs to change year by year. This way our students will understand what is known and what remains to be determined, MacNeil said.In his lectures, MacNeil incorporates handheld Response Devices or “clickers” as they are known to his students, to provide the opportunity for individual and collective feedback.With the use of clickers, MacNeil includes polls and questions in his lectures to endorse an interactive atmosphere, said medical sciences alumni, Nicholas Gadea.“While other professors have adopted this teaching strategy, it is the type of questions he asks which push his students to think for themselves. He gives us the fundamental tools and critical thinking skills we need to succeed.”In the teaching wet lab, MacNeil uses the latest technologies to enable students to perform and mirror the same activities which take place in his own research lab.“One example of how I have incorporated equipment that provides unique teaching moments is the selection of the TransBlot Turbo instrument which allows the completion of a wet lab technique which normally takes three hours in a matter of three minutes.”Enabling students to witness this highly visual process in action enhances their understanding, which then feeds back into the classroom and research lab, MacNeil said.Mentoring those students with the greatest interest in, and talent for research, primes them to make the most effective contribution they can. It fosters them to push the boundaries of current knowledge, so the institutional community as a whole benefits, he said. read more