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Equity in Education

Equity in education is a fundamental principle that I am deeply passionate about. As an instructor, I believe that we have a responsibility to design, plan, and implement lessons that promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. Unfortunately, many higher education systems perpetuate social injustices through various "-isms," which can make it difficult for instructors to effect large-scale change. However, we have a direct and ongoing influence over how our classrooms create an inclusive community that welcomes students from all backgrounds.

 

In a well designed classroom, differences among students' life experiences should be viewed as strengths rather than hindrances. It is our responsibility as instructors to create a classroom environment that supports and values diversity. Achieving an equitable and anti-racist classroom can be a challenge given the systemic oppression embedded in many higher education institutions. Nevertheless, we must do the necessary work to foster a positive experience for all students. By doing so, we can contribute to one of the most important equitable education movements of our time.

 

As an instructor, I am committed to creating a classroom that promotes inclusion, equity, and diversity. I firmly believe that anti-racism is a necessary step towards achieving equity in education. We cannot achieve true equity until we eliminate the systemic oppression and biases that exist in many higher education institutions.

 

I understand that creating a non-exclusionary higher education experience can be a challenging task. However, I recognize that I have a unique opportunity and responsibility as an instructor to foster a positive and inclusive environment in my classroom. To achieve this goal, I constantly revisit my lessons and teaching practices, seeking ways to make them more accessible and engaging for students from diverse intersectional backgrounds.

 

I believe that by committing ourselves to this work, we can make a significant impact on the equitable education movement. Let us work towards creating classrooms that celebrate diversity, promote equity, and strive towards eliminating racism and other "-isms" from higher education. Together, we can create a future where every student has an equal opportunity to succeed.

 

To make our classrooms more accessible, equitable, and engaging, we must be constantly thinking about how to improve our lessons. This process is ongoing and requires regular revision and adaptation. As instructors, we must ensure that our lessons reach students from diverse intersectional backgrounds and help promote their success in STEM education. We cannot achieve true equity until we eliminate the systemic oppression and biases that exist in many higher education institutions. Let us commit ourselves to this work and continue to improve our teaching practices. We can collectively create a future where every student has an equal opportunity to succeed.

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 and didn’t have any interest in the environment. Like many pre-med students, I viewed the class as a required steppingstone to unlock upper-level Biology courses. I did not expect to fall in love with ecology, but I did. I did not expect to eventually pursue a PhD in ecology, but I did. I did not expect that I would one day strive to spark a passion about ecology in the minds of students, but that’s exactly what I am doing. I hope I can share my passion about ecology with the current and future students at University of Richmond.

 

Dr. Crawford began the lecture with 2 words spoken at a mere whisper, “exótatos oikos.” In the silence that followed you could hear the frantic scribbling of 300 pens on notebook paper. A full minute passed before he started speaking again. This time his voice boomed as he passionately recounted Henry Beston’s writings depicting Earth’s ecosystems as our “outermost house” (exótatos oikos). Dr. Crawford continued captivating all 300 students as he spoke about the beauty of the natural world. He described lakes as the iris of Earth’s eye and had a way of describing the deep connections we have with the natural world, while not ignoring the concepts needed to understand how it functions. His descriptive introduction of ecology before he uttered a single scientific fact was immediately captivating. In the following months, he sparked an interest in me that I did not know existed. I was hooked. I felt a deep need to understand how natural systems could be so spectacular and profoundly mysterious, but at the same time so quantitatively mechanistic. Dr. Crawford became a beacon of how I wanted to think and teach. Without the experiences I had in his Ecology class, and later serving as a student preceptor, I would not have had the opportunity to live the joys of teaching my own Ecology classes. 

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. 

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