Reforming Biology Education
For the past 10 years I have worked to understand and dismantle the barriers preventing my students from achieving academic success. In interrogating our system of higher education, I’ve become convinced that the proximal challenge our students face is a deeply held belief that they are not meant to become creative and independent scientists and thinkers. The deficit mentality that pervades science education convinces students that many of them will fail, and the only hope is to memorize what the instructor has said in order to get the right answers on the test. Working against this mindset means rethinking and expanding the types of learning activities that occur in the classroom to include not just oral and written communication, authentic research, and service learning, but also self-reflection on learning, development of metacognitive skills and a growth mindset, relationship building, culturally-responsive teaching, and activities to help students develop a sense of belonging in the university and in the scientific enterprise.
Student-Centered + Inquiry-Based Learning
My fundamental goal as an educator is for my students to be engaged, thoughtful, and critical participants in science and society; in other words, to construct their own knowledge. To achieve this goal, I foster student-centered and equitable learning environments that allow each and every student to reach their full potential as individuals and scholars. I use two main approaches in my teaching to help students embrace their inner-scientist: (1) attention to the psychosocial environment of individuals and groups to ensure that all students feel welcome and engaged, and (2) evidence-based learning activities that develop critical thinking, communication, and research skills.