Virginia Tech Teacher of the Week
The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Takeshi Fukao, assistant professor of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, for his dedication to designing an effective instructional approach that enhances students’ understanding of complex biological concepts and to encouraging students to apply basic concepts to address various real-world issues.
Dr. Fukao teaches Crop Physiology and Ecology (CSES 4344) to 20-30 students per semester. This upper-level undergraduate course highlights the basic concepts of plant physiology and ecology, which are relevant to crop production and management. Areas covered in the course include: plant development, water transport, mineral nutrition, energy production (photosynthesis) and consumption (respiration), plant hormones, and stress tolerance. This course emphasizes the application of fundamental physiological principles to solve practical problems in production agriculture.
At the beginning of each lecture, Dr. Fukao provides some examples of real-world problems that commonly occur in agricultural systems in the U.S. and other countries. Then, he explains the physiological concepts and mechanisms that are relevant to the national and international issues. At the end of the lecture, students discuss possible solutions to the real-world problems using their acquired knowledge, thus stimulating students’ motivation and aiding in long-term memory retention.
Some topics in plant physiology (e.g., metabolic pathways and water relations) are complicated and difficult to follow. Dr. Fukao’s lectures take advantage of visual aids, including animations and videos, to enhance students’ understanding of the complex mechanisms underlying physiological phenomena in plants. He often uses a whiteboard and color pens to illustrate the dynamics of physiological activities in plants, allowing complex concepts to be organized and reduced to make a point clearly and concisely.
Students appreciate Dr. Fukao’s teaching strategies. For example, one student commented, “Dr. Fukao explained really well. He drew simple figures and pathways on a whiteboard. Because the figures that he drew in the class are the simplified version from the note, which makes them clearer [sic].” Another student mentioned, “I like how the class was straight to the point on what needed to be learned which I think made the class a little easier and was very effective because unlike other class[es] I still remember the majority of the information from that class. Excellent teaching system.”