Eric Ribbens
Western Illinois University
Macomb, Illinois
Dr. Eric Ribbens: Teaching webpage
My Teaching
I'm a botany professor at Western Illinois University. This year I taught Botany 200 in the fall, and I am teaching Biology 100 this spring.
Botany 200 is an introductory botany lab class that is part of our three-course set of introductory courses for students who plan to major in biology, botany, zoology, or a closely related major. My goals for botany 200 were to explore the wonders of plants (emphasizing the differences between plants and animals), and to develop abilities to analyze problems scientifically, in other words learning to think like scientists.

Biology 100 is a biology lab course designed for students who are not pursuing a science-related major, and need a science laboratory course to satisfy their General Education requirements. My goals for this course are to explore the world of biology, have students learn how science works and how itis different from other intellectual disciplines, and to practice applying scientific concepts to their lives.

In both the fall and spring semesters, I taught both a large lecture section (130 or more students), and a First Year Experience (FYE) section. FYE courses are designed for incoming first-year students, and are expected to be writing-intensive classes that also involve a variety of activities outside the class time (co-curriculars).

My teaching philosophy is that I should be pushing students to learn as much as possible. Thus, it is NOT my goal to have students fail. I want every student to succeed, and I will do whatever I can to enable that to happen. I know what it is like to fail college; I was kicked out of college two years after high school, due to a low GPA. However, I also know that it is essential that students learn the concepts of the course, to prepare them for future courses and ultimately for their career path.

I am particularly interested in innovative teaching methods. I love clickers as a classroom management tool, and use them extensively (if you want to know more about me and clickers, read the article I published about them here). I am also a big fan of case studies. Cases are stories that present students with a problem or a set of problems to solve, and in essence turn learning upside down: instead of learning a concept and then trying to apply it to a problem, the students see the value of the concept as it helps them grapple with the problem. I have published more than a dozen cases, including the very popular Chemical Eric, and I am on the editorial board of the NSF Case Collection. This year I am learning how to "flip" a course. Flipping is moving the initial exposure to a concept and learning about it OUTSIDE of the classroom, and instead in the classroom studying the concept and applying it to various problems. Finally, this spring I am using Piazza, an interesting internet site that facilitates discussion between students as well as between students and the professor.

I love teaching, and I've always thought it is ironic that when I went back to college I was debating between majoring in music or biology. I figured I'd never be good enough at music to do anything except teach it, so I chose biology since I knew I never wanted to be a teacher. Now here I am. Much of my job is teaching, I love teaching, I study teaching, and I think I do a pretty good job at it. More than anything else, I identify myself as a teacher.

Here are three documents for those who want to learn more about my teaching:

Fall Botany 200 FYE Syllabus

Spring Biology 100 Syllabus

Fall Botany 200 Student Evaluation Comments (anonymous comments in response to a set of questions I asked my students)
Western Illinois University
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455
United States
P (309) 255-1650
Eric Ribbens
Professor, Western Illinois University