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Karen Woodfork, Ph.D.

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Graduate School, Degree(s):
West Virginia University, Dept. of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellowship(s): Dept. of Pharmacology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, WV

Faculty Rank:Associate Professor

Research Interests:

  • Influence of student learning styles on effectiveness of teaching methods
  • Engaging students in distance learning environments
  • Creating team-based learning activities
  • Using simulations to provide active learning exercises
  • Developing interprofessional education activities for students in multiple health care professions

Is there a particular population of students (e.g., ethnicity, spiritual, sexual orientation) that you would particularly like to advise?

I am interested in advising any student.

What does a typical day in the life of an academic include?

My position an education-focused faculty member consists primarily of teaching, creation of educational materials, and curriculum development, with service to the school and education-based research as secondary and tertiary components. A typical day can involve teaching lectures and/or small group sessions, attending various education-centered committee meetings, writing/grading exams and homework assignments, preparing new lectures and student activities (and updating existing ones), meeting with students and providing assistance, and reading to keep up with new developments in medical education and pharmacology. I generally have an online course running at any given time have been known to answer student emails in the wee hours (I am not a morning person!).

Briefly describe your teaching philosophy.

I believe that the best teaching occurs in environments that are inclusive, engaging, interactive, and collaborative. One way that I attempt to provide this is by utilizing different teaching methodologies to engage students with different learning styles. For example, a visual learner might learn most effectively by looking at a diagram of a process, whereas an auditory learner would need to hear a spoken description of the process, and a kinesthetic learner would benefit from drawing a flow chart of that process by hand. Despite our best efforts, no one teaching style can meet the needs of every learner, and it is difficult to ensure that all material is presented in multiple styles. Because of this, I try to help students to take their learning style into account in the way that they study course material.

I also feel that it is important to consider the changing role of the teacher in a world where a wealth of information is only a mouse-click away. The instructor's role is no longer simply to convey accurate information in a clear and coherent manner. Instead, the added value for students occurs when instructors create activities that engage them, help them to understand the significance of the information that they are learning, and teach them to critically examine sometimes-conflicting sources.

Do you have any summer opportunities for students in your laboratory?

I don't have a laboratory, but I am interested in working with students to develop and evaluate new learning activities.

What advice would you give to a student starting medical school?

Don't neglect sleep, exercise, good food, and friends/family while you are in medical school. Keeping a balance in your life will actually help you to learn more effectively and avoid burnout. Learning to study efficiently is paramount. If you encounter problems in a course, don't hesitate to meet with the instructor - our job is to help you learn!

What kinds of help and information can you offer to medical students during their pre-clinical years?

I can offer assistance in study strategies and test-taking skills and can provide my perspective on a career in medical education.