I believe that for students interested in forensic science, early engagement in hands-on, real-world experiences through fieldwork, laboratory analysis, research, and internships are the most effective ways for students to identify their strengths and shape their academic career path. In academic settings, interconnected systems of teaching, research, and forensic casework are conducive to memorable classroom experiences, integrated relationships with local communities, and professional growth.
My experience working with students at all academic levels, researchers, law enforcement, medicolegal professionals, and academics from around the world has shaped my approaches for effective teaching to difference audiences. Logistically, my role as an instructor is to select appropriate content, organize information logically, present it in the broader context of the discipline and the world, and assess competency.
In practicality, my most important roles are to inspire interest, make connections, challenge assumptions, and encourage the productive struggle that is required to integrate new knowledge. Beyond course content, I want my students to develop the cognitive framework and skills needed to continue learning and critically evaluating information after they leave my classroom. I also want my students to be aware of careers where their skills are needed, be able to communicate effectively with professionals, academics, and the public, and understand the ethical challenges that they face as forensic scientists.
My teaching experience consists of forensic science and forensic anthropology courses for current and future forensic anthropologists forensic scientists, investigators, and law enforcement, including Intro to CSI, Forensic Anthropology, Medicolegal Investigation, Outdoor Scene Processing, and Forensic Investigation Research Methods. In these courses, I use case studies and research examples from my own work to reinforce concepts from the readings and discuss the realities of working in the field and laboratory. Rather than focusing on memorization, I emphasize higher order skills, such as application, analyzation, and evaluation, as ways to better remember and understand information.
For example, when teaching how to search for human remains, I use an activity in which small groups of students develop realistic search plans based on a series of randomly assigned variables (e.g., focus of search, manpower, terrain, vegetation, search area size, available resources). The scenarios and search plan are presented to the class and discussed. This exercise generates increased engagement and more meaningful understanding of the material as compared to a lecture about the same material. Similar exercises involving real-world scenarios, teamwork, and group discussion work well for many levels of students and professionals.
In line with my focus on teaching critical evaluation skills and real-world application of concepts, my biological profile methods course that I taught at two institutions emphasized the underlying principles necessary to evaluate and select methods rather than simply providing a cookbook approach to skeletal analysis. As forensic discipling continue to produce an increasing volume of literature every year, my students must be able to accurately apply the best methods available today, but also effectively utilize the better methods developed tomorrow. Teaching workshops and short courses, attending professional conferences, cultivating professional networks, reviewing articles, and conducting research allows me to constantly integrate new concepts and techniques into my courses.