University of Calgary

Kyla Flanagan

  • Senior Instructor
  • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Research Interests

I believe instruction at the post-secondary level should be: 

1. accessible to a diverse community of learners; 

2. an active and engaging process to achieve ‘higher level’ learning objectives; 

3. assessed fairly and regularly in an adaptable manner considering the rate of learning, interests and level of understanding of the class as a whole. 

At the heart of my teaching philosophy is the notion of student centered learning, where the learner is central and not peripheral to either the course content or instruction. In student centered learning the emphasis in the classroom is on the interests, needs, abilities and learning styles of the students. Each learner is recognized as unique and instruction is delivered in a variety of ways to complement different learning styles. In my classroom, I consciously focus on presenting material in diverse ways and via different mediums to appeal to the widest range of learners. I also structure my lecture to vary in terms of ‘doing versus watching’ activities, with differing levels of student involvement throughout the lecture. With growing class sizes at the post-secondary level, I also believe to facilitate student centered learning instructors need to make conscious efforts to personalize learning. For me, this begins on the first day of lecture by getting written feedback from the students regarding what they expect to learn in the course and modifying my emphasis for the semester. I also continuously try to personalize learning throughout the semester by relating course content to questions or interests expressed previously by students and fitting examples to the demographics of the class. All of these techniques are aimed to shift the emphasis away from instructor focused teaching and place it on student focused teaching with my goal of making the content of the course accessible and relevant to all learners. 

Critical to effective instruction is the acknowledgment that to acquire, retain and apply knowledge students must be actively engaged in their learning. To me, being actively engaged in learning requires students to be participants rather than observers in the classroom. This may be through behavioural engagement (think-pair-share, group work, solving a problem, discussions) or simply through cognitive engagement prompted by good question asking and the structure of the lecture. On the first day of class, I present the students with the current literature on how active learning in the classroom leads to greater student understanding and improved student outcomes. The evidence of the effectiveness of these techniques increases the student ‘buy-in’ to my lecture style and convinces even the most skeptical scientists to become involved in my class. Without student engagement in the classroom, the opportunities for learning, particularly for ‘higher level’ understanding where students are expected to evaluate, analyze and apply material, are minimal. To apply active learning techniques to my lectures, in my lesson plan for each class I have scheduled activities designed to engage the students and get them involved through direct participation, answering questions, discussions with peers or actively working on a problem. It is through these activities that gaps in understanding and unclear concepts become apparent to both the students and me. I encourage students to reflect on their understanding of the content as they participate in activities and often this becomes a starting point for discussions of key concepts fundamental to the course and my objectives. Engaging all students in the classroom is a major focus of my teaching; to do so requires on-going creativity, enthusiasm, and a connectedness to the students’ interests. 

For me teaching is the most rewarding, fun and challenging profession I could have. Being an instructor at the post-secondary level allows me to interact with students during some of the most formative points in their adult lives. It is during this important time that I hope to inspire, encourage, and spark a love of science and learning. I aim to develop student’s confidence in their own ability to learn through a relationship built on trust and mutual respect and develop students that are capable, confident, independent learners.

Teaching Awards and Nominations

·         2015 University of Calgary Teaching Award (Instructor)

·         2014 Faculty of Science Early Career Teaching Award

·         2014 (Nominee) Students Union Teaching Excellence Award

·         2013 (Nominee) Students Union Teaching Excellence Award

·         2012 Students Union Teaching Excellence Award

Selected Publications

  • Google Scholar Link

  • Flanagan, K.M. and E.McCauley. Experimental warming increases CO2 saturation in a shallow prairie pond. Aquatic Ecology. DOI: 10. 1007/s10452-010-9313-0 

  • Flanagan, K.M., and E. McCauley. 2008. Warming and depth interact to affect carbon dioxide concentration in aquatic mesocosms. Freshwater Biology 53: 669-680. 

  • Flanagan, K.M., E. McCauley, and F. Wrona. 2006. Freshwater food webs control carbon dioxide saturation through sedimentation. Global Change Biology 12: 644-651. 

  • Flanagan, K.M., E. McCauley, F. Wrona, and T. Prowse. 2003. Climate change: the potential for latitudinal effects on algal biomass in aquatic ecosystems. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 60(6): 635-639. 

  • Flanagan, K.M., and S. Rasheed. 2002. Population viability analysis applied to Woodland Caribou in Jasper National Park. Research Links 10: 16-19.

Published Case Studies


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