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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

David Lally


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes David Lally, instructor of Biochemistry, for practicing student-centered design that emphasizes active learning in his content.

Mr. Lally is currently teaching “Introduction to Biochemistry,” which is a required First Year Experience (FYE) course for all freshmen Biochemistry majors, and loves it. With more than 150 freshman interested in a degree in biochemistry, he designed it to introduce them to the university and to the biochemistry community of practice. The objective of the one-credit course is to enhance students' skills to think critically and creatively, to collaborate and communicate effectively, and to connect students to the people and resources at Virginia Tech that will help them to be successful in their studies. To help achieve this, he hired 12 upper-level Biochemistry students to be peer mentors and interviewed each of them to learn what they thought would be the most valuable content for freshmen Biochemistry majors. Mr. Lally thinks extremely highly of his mentors, stating “they provide invaluable feedback about which content will be most impactful to the students, while developing their own teaching and leadership skills. It is inspiring to see them interact with freshmen and help to support their transition into the VT community.”

Initially assigned a lecture hall, Mr. Lally then requested one of the SCALE-UP classrooms in the New Classroom Building, which has 11 large round tables that make it easy for students to work in groups. Mr. Lally uses backward design to decide what he would like students to get out of each lesson, and then plans learning experiences that will reinforce the content being introduced in the class. He also designs his current class around five current narratives, which incoming students would have some knowledge of, and in which Biochemistry is playing a central role. Within each of these five modules, Mr. Lally introduces the following elements: a biochemistry tool or technique, a core or threshold concept in biochemistry, a visit from a faculty member from biochemistry or related discipline, a thinking skill (ethical, scientific, systems, design, computational, etc.), and success strategies and VT resources that will help students achieve their goals as VT students.

For the 12 years prior to last March, when Mr. Lally started his current position in Biochemistry, he ran the Partnership for Research and Education in Plants and primarily taught genetics and plant biology to high school students working with VT scientists on their research. His first teaching experience was in the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching business and math in the Solomon Islands. In graduate school, he was a National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellow, and for three years, spent 2 days a week in a primarily Latino high school helping to set up a biotechnology program.

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