Teaching experiences and philosophy

I have been teaching at undergraduate level and above in the areas of zoology, animal behaviour and marine biology (including statistics and research methods) since 2007. My teaching experiences include FE (16-18) and devising high school level sessions for visits by schools. In addition to lecture theatre teaching I have led tutorials, laboratory and aquarium based practicals. I have taught using project based learning (described below), team based learning (in my current position) and initiated student led learning as part of my routine learning techniques.

My field work teaching includes month long expeditions to Malawi (of which 4 students paid for by a Zoological Society of London grant win), numerous terrestrial based ecology trips and UK coastal field work. I am presently supervising an MPhil student (nautilus behaviour) at the University of Sussex in conjunction with Brighton SeaLife and keen to keep expanding my postgraduate teaching experiences. Grant winning can be part of the undergraduate experience, having won grants that have taken students to Africa, mentored and supervised numerous small (circa £1500) animal welfare grants (e.g. University federation of animal welfare) I am keen to keep this a feature of my teaching. My last position was course manager for an FdSc programme which gave me additional responsibility experience and course design at higher education level.

Teaching has always been a passion and I spent a significant portion of my PhD (behavioural ecology) exercising this desire. This love of teaching was recognised during my role as aquarium manager, where I was given time to develop lectures and practical’s/field work in addition to my animal management duties. In recognition of my passion for teaching I was awarded a student led teaching award in 2014. I am presently completing my PGCert in Learning in Higher Education at Anglia Ruskin University, where I manage modules in Animal Training and more.

During my time at Bangor University, Wales (PhD student and aquaria manager), I was responsible for four undergraduates becoming authors in peer reviewed publications (Tyers et al., 2013; Tonkins et al., 2015; Cooke and Tonkins, 2015; Greenway et al., 2016). I believe that many undergraduates are capable of publishing work with the right project and the right guidance. There still remains a great deal of ‘low hanging fruit’ in the zoological/marine biology sciences, success in tractable basic science can raise aspirations of students and gives the associated HEI a great deal to be proud of, alongside being a useful marketing tool.

Whilst there is still a need for lecture based teaching due to its cost effective nature, it can be modernised in such a way as to engage all types of learners, not just the visual or auditory types. Active learning during classical teaching routes, such as lectures, using modern interactive technology (e.g. polling software) is something I believe is vital. With modern animal management techniques many exhilarating species my now be kept with ease and introducing these species can delight and excite students. For example, jelly fish have never been easier to obtain and keep in small/cheap and sustainable systems and they can be an incredible tool when educating complex reproductive life histories and ecological processes. The world has never been a smaller place and my vast experience of field work in unusual places allows me to invite students to participate in exciting field trips in a safe yet adventurous manner.

Student led problem based learning is a real passion, whilst it does not easily transpose onto UK undergraduate programmes smaller scale projects are possible. For example, in 2009 I won a Zoological Society of London grant which took four students to a remote and never studied satellite lake associated with Lake Malawi. We were able to conduct bathymetry/limnological surveys, collect live and preserved fauna and flora for later UK laboratory based investigation. Each student had a role and research topic that could stand-alone but benefited from the others whilst working as a team to ensure the whole project made sense and answered higher level questions. This work led to the aforementioned publication (Tyers et al., 2013). This teaching style can easily be replicated or similar projects created with a little imagination and ambition.

I have created bespoke behaviour based workshops for the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the European Association of Zoos and Aquarium. As an expert in animal welfare practices and law, I see economic value in organising UK Home Office training courses for non-typical protected model organisms which can bring additional revenue.

Greenway, E. Jones, K. Cooke, G.M 2016 Environmental Enrichment in Captive Juvenile Thornback Rays, Raja clavata (Linnaeus 1758): Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Volume 182, Pages 86–93

Cooke, G. M & Tonkins, B. M. 2015 Behavioural indicators of welfare exhibited by the common European cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis). Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research 3(4)

Tonkins, Belinda M., Alexandra M. Tyers, and Gavan M. Cooke. 2015 “Cuttlefish in captivity: An investigation into housing and husbandry for improving welfare.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 168 (2015): 77-83.

Tyers, A.M., D. Bavin, Cooke, G.M, C. Griggs, and G.F. Turner.  2013.  Peripheral isolate speciation of a Lake Malawi cichlid fish from shallow muddy habitats. Evolutionary Biology doi:10.1007/s11692-014-9277-4