teaching


teaching perspectives inventory


The Teaching Perspectives Inventory is a tool developed to reflect on one's teaching philosophy. I believe it summarizes accurately my approach, highlighting my tendency to focus on the 'developmental' and 'apprenticeship' aspects. I strive to push students toward more complex thinking (a trait shared by 'developmental' teachers) and to create science practitioners (and not just science learners). It does also point out areas that could be strengthened, like “social reform” or teaching to effect societal change. I look forward to learning from the Science and Social Justice group and their future events.


implicit biases


Implicit biases are subtle attitudes and stereotypes that can impact how we behave toward others. A very good summary can be found here. Implicit biases can tint decision-making, judgments, and behaviors.

An effective way of addressing implicit biases is to acknowledge their existence. The folks at Project Implicit developed an online tool to explore one's implicit biases. Below are results of relevant Implicit Association Tests to 'put it all out there'. I try hard to create structures and procedures to minimize their intrusion in my interactions with students and colleagues.

Skin tone

Slight automatic preference for dark skinned people over light skinned people [screenshot]

Gender and science

Moderate automatic association for male with science and female with liberal arts [screenshot]

Gender and career

Strong automatic association for male with career and female with family [screenshot]

Age

Strong automatic preference for young people over old people [screenshot]


teaching statement


As a graduate student, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to teach a course on climate change. I spent the first two weeks preparing by doing what I thought was pedagogically sound, what made sense to me. Then I had my teaching ‘aha’ moment: I would be laughed out of academia if I formulated my research program based solely on what made sense to me, disregarding existing theory and data—in essence, that is what I was doing with my teaching. So I embarked on a quest to find scholarly work on pedagogy/psychology/sociology to guide me. I still follow the literature in those fields and apply well supported principles and approaches in my teaching.

My courses and individual classes are grounded in theory and proven techniques. Based on my experience and reading of the literature, I believe teaching to be a collaborative process between teacher and student. I find that successful learners are actively engaged and are able to integrate and scaffold new information in new contexts, and I strive to make that happen in my teaching. Ultimately, the overarching goals of my teaching are to instill deep understanding of principles and an appreciation for the nature of science.

Logistically, I plan courses and classes following a backward design, first identifying learning goals, then setting learning outcomes and assessment, and finally planning instruction (activities, lectures, etc.) My teaching typically involves active and inquiry- based methodologies. My goal in the classroom is for students to be engaged at all times: quietly thinking, discussing with a partner or group, writing, or conducting an experiment. The key is active participation and ownership of the learning process.

The benefits of active learning practices have been well established (Prince 2004, Handelsman et al. 2007, Wood 2009), and I rely on existing techniques (e.g., think-pair- share, jigsaws, structured problem solving, and others described in, e.g., Barkley et al. 2005 and Handelsman et al. 2007) while also experimenting with some of my own.

Assessment in my classroom takes place at all times. Ongoing (formative) assessment promotes learning and offers rapid feedback on my teaching strategy, which I can then quickly modify if needed. It also helps develop metacognitive skills in students (i.e., knowledge about one’s knowledge), an important aspect of learning that is usually overlooked in science courses (Luca and McMahon 2004). I choose not to rely on sporadic exams as means of summative assessment—in fact, I prefer group or individual final projects for that (which are shown to lead to deeper understanding of material, more advanced critical thinking, and openness to diversity; Cabrera et al. 2002). In addition to the careful planning that goes into all my courses, I am energetic and personable while in the classroom. I have found that creating a social bond with students (even by doing something as pedestrian as getting to the classroom 15 minutes earlier to chat with students) encourages open communication and a sense of community within the group.

I subscribe to the view that learning is best achieved in a “situated” context (Lave and Wenger 1991). Socio-cultural setting and the activities of the people within it are essential in providing students a “community of practice”: students are not simply receivers of information but individuals developing an identity within the community. Thus, I view undergraduate student involvement in research—in the laboratory or in the classroom—as paramount. Students who engage in research reap a variety of benefits, including gains in knowledge, skills, and cognitive abilities, as well as higher retention rates, higher persistence in the STEM disciplines, and higher graduation and post- graduate acceptance rates (Osborn and Karukstis 2009). This was true of all students, but particularly so in minorities. Involvement in research could therefore help in patching the leaky pipeline.


References


Barkley et al. 2005. Collaborative learning techniques.
Cabrera et al. 2002. J. Coll. Student Dev. 43:20-34.
Handelsman et al. 2007. Scientific teaching.
Lave and Wenger. 1991. Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation.
Luca and McMahon. 2004. Proc. 21st ASCILITE Conf.
Osborn and Karukstis. 2009. In Broadening Participation in Undergraduate Research.
Prince. 2004. J. Eng. Educ. 93:223-231.
Wood. 2009. Annu. Rev. Cell Dev. Biol. 25:93-112.