Taking advantage of his passion for art, Indiana University biologist Jake McKinlay is taking a creative approach to his advanced undergraduate course on microbial physiology and biochemistry this semester.
“Humans are really wired to learn by storytelling,” McKinlay said. “Other people have done research on this, so I thought it would be an effective concept to employ in my class.”
McKinlay started slowly changing the curriculum to focus less on memorization and more on understanding information and thinking about it in a different way.
This includes using his own artwork as a visual tool for students. A skilled artist, McKinlay begins most lectures explaining the content through an illustrated storyline. He also is experimenting with five-minute writing activities as a creative exercise.
“Sometimes I will ask them questions,” McKinlay said. “For example, I might say, ‘Pretend you’re a tiny ghost and you travel right through a cell; describe the things you would see along the way.'”
It may be a nontraditional way of teaching and learning, but it still covers the required material.