Equity in Education

As with most of the work we do, equity is the most important quality to pursue while designing, planning, and implementing lessons at all levels of education. As the "-isms" of social justice persist in most oppressive higher education systems, many instructors may feel a sense of powerlessness in ensuring large-scale and long-term change toward more equitable education. While we rely on the morality of university administration for some commitments of social change on college campuses, what we do have direct and unabated influence over is how our classrooms maintain a community environment that promotes inclusion of all students regardless of their background. In a well designed classroom differences among student life experience is a strength, not a hinderance.

Because of the systemic oppression engrained in many higher education institutions, maintaining an equitable classroom with anti-racist practices can be a challenge. However, as the instructor, if we do the work to foster a positive experience for all of our students, we can be part of the most important equitable education movement we have seen in recent history. We should always be thinking about how to make our classrooms, and the material we teach, more accessible, more equitable, and more engaging. This process is ever-evolving and never stagnant, it requires us to revisit our lessons to improve modality on a regular basis - as you learn, edit your courses. Early and often. It is our responsibility as the instructor to ensure that our lessons reach students across intersectional minorities and help promote their success in STEM education.

Story of my Philosophy

As I sat in a giant lecture hall, I was nervous about how I would tolerate my first Ecology lecture. I was pre-med, I didn’t think I was interested in the environment and just saw the class as a required stepping stone to unlock upper-level Biology courses. I did not expect to fall in love with Ecology, but that is exactly what happened. 

Dr. Crawford began the lecture with 2 words spoken nearly at a whisper, exótatos oikos. In the silence that followed you could hear the frantic scribbling of 300 pens on notebook paper. He started speaking again, this time his voice boomed while passionately recounting Henry Beston’s writings as he depicted Earth’s ecosystems as our outermost house (exótatos oikos). He continued captivating all 300 students as he spoke about the beauty of the natural world, describing lakes as the iris of Earth’s eye. All of this before a single scientific fact about Ecology was uttered. He immediately drew me in with the beauty of nature and sparked my interest in understanding how natural systems can be so resplendent, but also so quantitatively mechanistic and logical. Dr. Crawford became a beacon of how I wanted to think. Without the experiences in his Ecology class, I would not have had the opportunity to live the joys of teaching ecology myself.

 

I love to interact with my students, it is the best part of my career choice. While I have quickly built a reputation of having high expectations for my students, many past students highlight their appreciation in how much time I devote to them – using words like caring, respectful, and enthusiastic when describing my teaching style.

My teaching philosophy centers around active learning and project-based inquiry. These pedagogical strategies encourage inclusion and promote a cooperative atmosphere, while also emphasizing community-based problem solving and collaborative learning in the classroom. Such teaching strategies work well in lab settings. However, active learning can be implemented in large courses by using active discussion and other innovative teaching techniques. Active discussion is a practice for which studies show to be beneficial for reinforcement and retention of concepts. Active discussions encourage students to interact in a targeted and positive way, while also breaking-up lecture information into mentally digestible pieces. By elevating the classroom with discussions, I can decrease the density of information flow and encourage students to discuss what is being covered. 

I work under the philosophy that in introductory level courses, especially in lab settings, it is the instructor’s job to lay the foundation of good science for students. I encourage use of project-based inquiry in biology curriculums because it supports the strong foundation we are striving to establish in our students. In my courses I use project-based lessons aimed at weekly repetition and practice of experimental design, interpretation of analysis, and application of basic biological concepts through writing. These practices promote meaningful student success while applying an assessment tool that is more tangible than multiple-choice exams.

Teaching experience and goals

As an instructor I have experience teaching the following courses:

Plant Ecology - Lecture and Lab

General Biology II (Organismal focus) - Lecture and Lab

Flora of Minnesota (Framed as Plant Taxonomy for native plants of MN) - Lecture and Lab

Ecology - Lab (with COVID-19 limitations)

Quantitative Ecology (Co-instructor) - Data analysis implementation

In an effort to promote open education, I welcome lesson plan collaboration and free exchange of lecture/lab material and resources I use or have created for selected courses.

Please contact me (via email or social media) if you are interested in collaborating to build publicly available course material, or if you would like to view my personal material for use in your course.