Instruction and Mentoring


"Question everything, learn something, answer nothing." - Euripides


“Learning is experience.  Everything else is just information.”

– Albert Einstein


"A college professor is someone who talks in other people's sleep"

- Bergen Evans


I have a 35% instruction, 60% research appointment. Between 2005 and 2017, I have developed and instructed four annual courses for undergraduates: Animal Behavior (BIOL/WILD 3700), and Herpetology (WILD/ECOL 4040/6040), Gateway Seminar to Natural Sciences Research (HONS 3070H), and Sustaining Human Societies and the Natural Environment in New Zealand and Australia as part of UGA’s Discover Abroad program in the South Pacific (ANTH/FANR…4271/6271).  In 2012, I developed a study abroad version of Animal Behavior (BIOL 3700) in New Zealand and Australia that is taught concurrently with the Sustaining Human Societies and the Natural Environment (ANTH/FANR…4271/6271).  I also adapted my Gateway seminar into a Freshman Year Odyssey seminar, Odyssey into the Natural Sciences (FYOS 1001).  I also teach one biennial professional development course for doctoral students in Developing University Teaching Skills (FANR 9995).  Student evaluations of my instruction have been consistently high (above 4.6 among all courses and years for categories such as stimulating interest and concern for student learning), and student comments regularly remark that I am an invested and creative instructor who engages my students, challenges them, and stimulates them to further study. 


Awards and Distinctions in Instruction and Mentoring

  • 2008 Herrick Superior Teaching Award

  • 2010 Gamma Sigma Delta Junior Achievement in Teaching Award

  • 2010 Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award

  • 2011 Richard B. Russell Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.  The Russell Award is the University of Georgia’s highest distinction for early career excellence in teaching.

  • 2016 inductee University of Georgia Teaching Academy

  • 2017 named Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor



My approach to instruction and mentoring is based on four student objectives: (1) students should develop a complete understanding of a subject’s foundational theories, concepts and approaches; (2) students should become literate citizens by understanding the application of a particular field to issues of human concern; (3) students should frequently practice problem solving, making decisions, and communicating and defending their ideas; and (4) students should develop an awareness of their own motivations for inquiry and the capacity to ask and answer their own questions.  I am a strong advocate for student-centered learning models, with high amounts of student autonomy and the use of writing to develop “discipline specific ways of knowing”. I use peer-to-peer instruction, expert writing, public speaking, and self-directed inquiry.


I use a variety of interactive, student-centered learning approaches in my courses.  In my large lecture courses we use small group simulations and peer discussions to break up traditional instructor-centered lectures and move toward student-led problem solving and social learning.  In my smaller classes, we use a jigsaw model where student groups develop and teach small components of lectures or labs to peers.  The process of deconstructing materials to teach them to peers promotes a much higher level of student literacy and develops student confidence in their ability to learn independently and to present materials to an audience. I use course wikis, expert essays, popular science articles and online book reviews to give students a large volume of substantive writing experience, to expose them to a wider range of perspectives, and to practice producing materials for more diverse audiences. Expert essays place students in the role of making judgments about real world scenarios to inform a group of stakeholders.  These essays provide a means for students to synthesize and apply information and practice the use of evidence in developing judgments.  I use structured peer review activities as an opportunity for students to practice reflection and revision planning as a habit of effective writing. 













Beyond the classroom, I have been committed to mentoring graduate and undergraduate students in research and scholarship.  Our obligation as mentors is to help students find the place where their passions and skills collide, and once they find that place, to foster their confidence to go farther.  I am where I am today because I was afforded numerous heuristic experiences as an undergraduate. Not providing similar opportunities for students would be to ignore the value it had in my own career. To date, I have mentored 45 undergraduates in research including three CURO Apprentices and four Honor’s thesis students.  I have chaired 25 graduate committees (13 masters, and 12 Ph.D.). 


Scholarship on Teaching and Learning

Throughout my academic career, my passion for teaching has expanded to include active scholarship on teaching and learning.  Beginning in graduate school, I completed a Certificate in College Teaching that including advanced courses and leading workshops on pedagogy.  At the time, such programs were novel among research universities.  Upon arriving at UGA, I was a member of the inaugural Writing Fellows Program to focus on creative ways to use and improve student writing experiences.  I have supervised 6 Ph.D. students in pursuit of UGA’s Interdisciplinary Certificate in University Teaching including the development of scholarly research projects on effective teaching.  My scholarship on teaching includes collaborative research on the effectiveness of WIKIs to increase student engagement, development of interactive activities to teach new concepts, studies of student needs and perspectives on effective writing instruction, and studies of the effectiveness on autonomous activities on student learning outcomes.  These activities have been presented at regional and international meetings and have resulted in several papers recently accepted or in review.  I have several additional papers I will be submitting soon on student confidence on writing in the sciences, and on student attitudes and the effectiveness of autonomous learning models.


Scholarly papers on teaching and learning:

  • Lee, E. and J. C. Maerz.  2015. Writing stories in the sciences.  Journal of College Science Teaching 44:36-45.




  • Sterrett, S.C., D.P. Domizi, L.P. Larson and J.C. Maerz. 2014. Assessing perceptions and confidence and skills of undergraduate science writing. Warnell Symposium, Athens, Georgia.


  • Lee, E., J. C. Maerz, & B. R. Altman.  Research narratives to engage in learning the processes of science. 2013.  University System of Georgia Teaching and Learning Conference: Best Practices for Promoting Engaged Student Learning, Athens, GA.


  • DeVore, J.L., K.K. Cecala, and J.C. Maerz. 2010.  Wikis in the classroom: Properties and potential uses of this collaborative learning tool. Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA.