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Teaching portfolio of Scott Veirs

A description of my teaching philosophy and experience in 3 sections:
  1. Pedagogical philosophy, strategies, and objectives
  2. Summary of past and present teaching responsibilities
  3. Description of steps taken to evaluate and improve teaching


I believe that a scientific understanding of one's place -- at home, as a national citizen, or on a planet in the universe -- constitutes a resilient intellectual foundation for peace and progress. The best way to learn how science can lead to understanding is to practice science while contemplating how the scientific method differs from other ways of knowing.

In teaching introductory science, I value taking a practical approach with attention to the role of science in human society. The history of science provides examples of how science has solved difficult problems and explained diverse, complex phenomena. Current events, especially those related to the impact of the human population on the Earth's systems, also illustrate the utility of scientific problem solving. As for the future of the scientific enterprise, it is truly awesome, and as such is a great motivator of basic concepts and introductory lessons.


I am just beginning to learn a wide range of alternatives to the lectures and discussion groups which dominated my own educational experience as a student. My strategy to learn more about alternative approaches has been to attend workshops, observe innovative educators, and begin to study the pedagogical literature and issues in collaboration with my peers.

My recent teaching strategy has been to initiate the design of an introductory course that utilizes both information technology and innovative techniques. Steps towards realizing this course have been experimentation with new techniques during field cruises conducted by the non-profit Ocean Inquiry Project, and a survey of information technologies to be disseminated through a seminar during the 2001 spring quarter.


  1. Strive to convey not only the concepts that have been derived through the scientific process, but also how the process generates new information and insight.
  2. Utilize a wide range of teaching techniques in pursuit of problem solving skills and the comprehension of a scientific world view.
  3. Emphasize emulation of scientific activities: observation and data collection; data processing and synthesis; formulation of questions and alternative, testable hypotheses; experimental design; collaboration and cooperation; information presentation and electronic communication.
  4. Utilize computers and information technology to make learning more exciting and interactive.

Present and past responsibilities

(In reverse chronological order...)

Autumn quarter, 2000/Spring quarter, 2001: Lead Teaching Assistant, University of Washington School of Oceanography
Facilitate the New TA Orientation; organize mentors and peer groups; revise TA evaluation procedures; attend seminar on teaching techniques.

August, 2000: Flow Mow cruise scientist and instructor
Lead a team of scientists and high-school teachers during a 2 week research cruise. Deliver presentation on hydrothermal plume theory and observations. Assist high-school teachers in completing individual research projects.

Winter quarter, 2000: Introductory oceanography laboratory teaching assistant
Refine, setup, and deliver 3 weekly lab sessions (~20 students/session). Design and grade weekly homework assignments associated with lab. Hold weekly office hours. Attend all lectures and provide multimedia assistance.

Summer, 1999: Assistant scientist, Sea Education Association
The Sea Education Associtation excels at involving undergraduates in the scientific process. I was stunned at the ability of individual students and small student groups to formulate their own questions, persevere while at sea on a sailing vessel to obtain the observations needed to answer their questions, and to ultimately assess the degree to which their questions were answered and their answers were true. There is no question in my mind now that a sailing vessel offers many lessons in conservation ethics, oceanographic awareness and scientific education, and diverse problem solving.

Autumn semester, 1998/Spring semester, 1999: Oceanography laboratory instructor, San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences
At San Francisco State University, I have enjoyed the freedom to try a wide variety of activities both in the laboratory and computer laboratory, and during field trips and an oceanographic cruise. In particular, I relish the challenge of balancing the benefits of computational resources and multimedia with the value of hands-on measurement and observation of the ocean and earth.

September, 1997: REVEL oceanographic cruise scientist and instructor
My roles as both graduate student and teacher of K-14 educators during the REVEL Program enabled me to see the value of bringing into the classroom a sense of the scientific process -- its excitement, difficulties, and wonders.

Sample teaching materials

Introduction to Oceanography Lab
A science distribution for non/science undergraduates at San Francisco State University.
The Exploraquarium
A suite of introductory information and activities about the oceanography of the Puget Sound region and beyond...

Examples of student work and interactions

Evaluation and improvement

Efforts to improve my teaching abilities

  1. AGU Workshop, Fall 1996: Innovative & Effective Teaching in the Geosciences
  2. UW TA Training Program development, 1999-2000.
  3. GSA/NAGT Workshop, November, 2000: Preparing to Teach -- A Workshop for Graduate Students
  4. AGU/NAGT Workshop, December, 2000: Preparing Graduate Students for Teaching-- What Departments Can Do
  5. Monitor and participate in on-line teaching tools

Educational research

  1. Poster presentation, GSA, October, 2000, in session T140: Research on Teaching and Learning in Geoscience. A PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT OF FACTORS THAT MOTIVATE INTRODUCTORY OCEANOGRAPHY STUDENTS TO LEARN.

Documentation of non-academic teaching activities

  1. Mountaineering
  2. Sailing
  3. Kayaking