Nicole Shea Receives Graduate Student Award for Teaching


Nicole Shea, a Ph.D. student at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE), received a Graduate Student Award for Teaching from the Graduate School – New Brunswick (GSNB).

The award is presented each spring to two graduate students for undergraduate teaching. It recognizes their excellence in teaching, as well as the contributions they have made to a specific course.

Shea is a teaching assistant for the General Biology course offered by the Division of Life Sciences at Rutgers. She received her bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University in biotechnology, and her master’s degree in molecular genetics from Rutgers. She is now completing her Ph.D. in education at the GSE.

Shea has served as a teaching assistant (TA) for the General Biology 101 and 102 courses for the past four years. Near the end of her second year of teaching, she was selected from the pool of TAs to be the head TA to teach a revised version of the course. These courses aimed to replace the “cook-book style laboratory classes with student-driven workshops.” They are designed to help students improve learning skills while also deepening their understanding of systems and complex processes in Biology. Shea was responsible for helping to “design the instructional activities, materials, and assessments for the workshops as well as teach three sections per week” to a class of 75 students. Her pilot group performed significantly better than students in the standard class; the percentage of students who passed the course with a grade of C or better was 7.66% higher in the pilot course than the standard course.

“This award means a lot to me because it’s a recognition of the hard word that I’ve done over the past four years for the general biology program,” said Shea. “It takes a lot of effort and time to help contribute to the curriculum design, and also to teach and mentor the students. It’s not something I was expecting to receive but it’s great to get the recognition form the GSNB for the work that I have done.”

Starting next academic year, the administrators of the course as well as their TAs will be further developing the curriculum and scaling up the course. Currently, the pilot program runs for approximately 300 students with four TA’s. Next year, the program will accommodate to over 2000 students and about 45 TA’s.

Shea will be finishing her dissertation, and will be graduating from the GSE in May. She will be moving on to work as a research associate for the climate change education project at the University of Delaware.