David Gross, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB), has been named the recipient of the department’s first Normanly Award for Leadership and Innovation in Teaching, established recently to recognize exemplary teaching and service by its faculty. He will be recognized at the department’s annual awards ceremony on May 2.
Among the efforts he is recognized for include redesigning two courses to employ evidence-based, student-centered teaching. He was an early adopter of such new techniques as team-based learning, enhanced classroom technologies and “flipped” teaching, where instructors present much of the lecture material online and students are encouraged to view it before attending the face-to-face class. This opens the classroom session for student activities such as problem-solving, or what used to be considered homework, he explains
Normanly says, “Dave has been my teaching mentor from day one. One of my first teaching assignments 24 years ago as a new assistant professor was a course that I had the good fortune to co-teach with Dave. Over the years, I have followed his lead on the many teaching innovations that he introduced into the BMB curriculum. I am honored, humbled and very pleased to be able to acknowledge Dave’s outstanding contributions to the department’s teaching mission with this award.”
Dean Tricia Serio of the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) says, “Your outstanding efforts in the design, development, implementation and careful assessment of STEM pedagogy has been inspiring to your faculty colleagues and enormously beneficial to students. David, I am so pleased that your contributions to inclusive, effective and engaging teaching over the past two decades are being recognized.”
Gross has organized and led three on-campus summer institutes on student-centered teaching for over 80 UMass and Five College faculty members, co-led a faculty Fellowship in Innovative Teaching program and presented webinars on student-centered teaching for regional and national conferences and groups. He has also participated in several off-campus summer institutes on Scientific Teaching sponsored by the National Academies.
He says, “I have been in the faculty business for over 30 years. In that time the focus on the instructor in front of a class has changed to students at the center, passive lecturing has been replaced with active exercises in class to promote learning, and students facing forward has become students engaging. This didn’t happen overnight, nor did it evolve in a vacuum. Many, many excellent educators explored different styles of teaching, shared their findings, and showed us what worked well and what didn’t. It is from this solid base, founded on evidence from the classroom, that I have developed the teaching and mentoring efforts that I use now.”
His other accomplishments include launching, in collaboration with Patricia Wadsworth in biology, one of four new courses designed to bring more quantitation into the biology curriculum. He received CNS’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2012.
The new, non-endowed annual award is supported by an anonymous gift in honor of department head Jennifer Normanly. The BMB department head chooses the recipient with help from an advisory committee.
The Normanly award’s annual focus will alternate between service and teaching, recognizing a pre-tenure or post-tenured faculty member in the department who exhibits exemplary undergraduate teaching, to recognizing a pre-, post- or non-tenure track faculty member who exhibits extraordinary efforts in service to the department.