Writing a textbook has enhanced biology professor Dora Cavallo-Medved’s understanding of teaching and learning.
She is lead author of Life Matters: Connecting Biology to Your World, published by Nelson Education. Aimed at a readership of students not majoring in biology, the text focuses on helping them understand the relevance of the field to their own experiences.
“Students like to see the connections to real life,” Dr. Cavallo-Medved says. “Along with the fundamentals of biology, we have mixed in discussions of global issues, like doping in sport, species conservation and designer babies.”
She says tailoring material to a more general audience has given her a new perspective on teaching.
“It has opened my eyes to new ways of disseminating knowledge to students,” she says. “Having to learn a more overall approach just makes me a better instructor.”
Most textbooks for non-majors are adaptations of core texts, but its authors developed Life Matters from the ground up, over a period of about three years.
“Non-majors think about biology and engage with the material differently from majors,” says Cavallo-Medved. “Keeping that in mind, we looked for diverse ways to connect biology to them. Even the cover is unique.”
The book’s opening chapter details how each of the authors “got hooked” on biology. For Cavallo-Medved, that happened as an undergraduate at the University of Windsor, where she took lab courses studying and working with cells. Now cell and molecular biology is her specialty.
She describes working with her co-authors, spread across the country, as a collaborative effort.
“I never thought in a million years that I would write a book,” she says. “It was a neat experience to go through.”
She hopes it will inspire students, especially those in her classes.
“When students see your name on a book, it gives them a sense that their education here has greater value,” says Cavallo-Medved.
Life Matters will enjoy a full launch in 2016.