Although research has taken up most of my time and
effort during my science career, I have a strong passion for teaching. I have
immense respect for teachers because they pass on knowledge to others and
knowledge is sacred in my culture and religion. The act of acquiring knowledge
and passing it down to others is the single cause of all scientific advancements.
It is for this reason that I find teaching (and research) satisfying. This is
showcased by the voluntary teaching I did at a rural school in Gujrat, Pakistan
where I taught English, Maths and Science to primary school students, an
experience that was (and is) very fulfilling. I continue to do this till today whenever
I am in Pakistan.

 

My Teaching Experience

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My main teaching experience occurred during my PhD and
postdoctoral years where I was employed as a teaching associate in Monash
Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Australia). My main tasks were to give mini-lectures,
undertake tutorials and practical classes for undergraduate students enrolled
in the Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) and Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science
(BPharmSci) degrees. The subjects I taught were PSC2332 & PSC3042: Disease focused pharmacology and PSC2012: Pharmacology. These involved
several different tasks including computer based learning, small group learning
and 1-on-1 learning. Furthermore, I was tasked to mark student exams and
practicals where, in the latter, I provided thorough feedback to each student.
Lastly, I have acted as a mentor and supervisor for students on several lab and
computer-based research projects for the subjects PSC3332: DDB Research Placement and PAC3512: Current Aspects of Pharmaceutical Research.

 

My Teaching Philosophy

Firstly, my teaching style is simple: I aim to be a
teacher who can convey his message effectively in an engaging manner. This
skill is a very useful skill that can be applied to various scenarios including
small and large lectures/seminars, group teaching and 1-on-1 teaching.
Secondly, I believe in small group learning because this allows the student to
develop in several areas at once including problem-solving, communication,
interpersonal skills, team working skills and creativity. These are generic skills
that the student will find beneficial in everyday life. Furthermore, as each
student is different (intellectually, emotionally etc.), I believe that
spending more time with individual students will help both the teacher and
student understand each other and thus enhance their learning experience.

 

Information
delivery

During my undergraduate student life at Monash
University, I had first-hand experience regarding how teachers gave lectures
and how effective (and ineffective) they were at getting their message across.
I found that most of our lectures were boring, some were informative and some
were engaging. The lectures where I paid the most attention were the ones that
I found engaging. Interestingly, it was mostly these lectures where fellow
students and I asked the most questions as, opposed to those that weren’t
engaging.

 

I believe I have the required communication skills to
convey my message to the scientific and non-scientific community. This is
exemplified by winning the ‘3-Minute Thesis Competition’ during my PhD, a
competition where I had to present my thesis to the lay audience within three
minutes. The audience consisted of fellow scientists, senior scientists, lab
heads and high school students. I created a scenario about heart failure and
how the peptide I was working with could be a possible life saver. This was well
received by the audience. I would like to conduct my teaching at LUMS in a
similar way to that: an easy-to-understand, engaging and effective manner. Similar
to my presentation style at lab meetings, conferences, and departmental
seminars, I tend to walk the audience through my presentation to convey my
message. I believe the same technique can be used to deliver a lecture/tutorial
effectively.

 

Small group
teaching

During my PhD, I was lucky enough to participate in a
workshop by Professor Igor Mitrovic (University of California, San Francisco)
about ‘The Principles of Pedagogy’. I found this to be a very interesting and
informative workshop that really ignited the idea of small group teaching. I
practised this technique during my role as a Teaching Associate in the 3rd
year subject PSC3042: Disease focused
pharmacology. Students were given the task of completing a computer
practical followed by a set of questions related to the practical. I divided
the students into groups of 3-4, and asked them to complete the task within
their small groups. This was quite effective as students were not only able to
think on their own, but they also interacted effectively with their fellow
group members. They found this an engaging exercise and almost every group had
completed the task successfully within the given timeframe.

 

Lab learning

An important
and effective way for students to learn is to move away from the classroom
and/or lecture theatre, and into the research laboratory. I believe that modern
teaching should give students more research opportunities by creating small
research projects a part of their coursework, thus allowing to put into
practice the theory they learn in classrooms. I personally found this to be the
biggest learning curve for me at several levels, scientific and personal. I aim
to continue with this teaching method as a supervisor and as a mentor.

 

I have put
this technique into practice with great fruition by allowing undergraduate students
into my lab to conduct small research projects. As a project supervisor, I aim
to teach and develop the skills and knowledge of my juniors to allow them to do
research and critical thinking independently. For example, as part of the requirement
for PSC3332: DDB Research Placement,
students had to undertake a research project for 4 weeks for which they were
required to write a mini-thesis followed by a presentation of their findings in
front of the department. Over the 4 weeks, my student learned various cellular in vitro assays that he was able to
conduct independently without any assistance. Furthermore, he learned to
present scientific data in front of different audiences (classmates, lab
members and departmental faculty), developed scientific writing skills
(mini-thesis), improved time management and problem-solving skills.

 

As a mentor, I aim to develop logical thinking and independent learning
skills of students. For example, I volunteered to act as a mentor for a 3rd
year B Pharm Sci student for the subject PAC3512:
Current Aspects of Pharmaceutical Research. This project involved
critiquing the literature about a topic that I had chosen for the student. This
was a unique opportunity for me because I guided the student around the topic,
held regular 1-on-1 meetings and gave regular feedback (written and oral) about
the progress of the project. This experience was a good learning curve for me
about teaching on a 1-on-1 basis, especially on a topic that the student knows
little about, and provided insight into the thought process and
problems/hurdles students may face during learning and research about topics
they don’t have a good grasp of.