Teaching Philosophy

My greatest ambition and challenge as a teacher is to motivate and inspire students to use their skills and knowledge to actively engage in environmental and social problems. As a professor, the foundation of my teaching philosophy is based upon two fundamental approaches that I valued in my own instructors as an undergraduate student: (1) courses that emphasize active, project-based learning, and (2) a genuine concern for the success for every student. Through my experiences as both a student and teacher, I have come to believe that fostering active, project-based, and interdisciplinary learning is critical for encouraging students to further their education and work for social change. I believe it is critically important for experiential learning to begin in introductory science courses, because while some students will succeed in lecture and fact-based introductory courses, students with poor science backgrounds and alternative learning styles can quickly become alienated before they are able to appreciate the excitement of practicing science. My primary approach to teaching is to provide students with authentic learning opportunities to take part in the scientific process: making and interpreting observations, developing hypotheses, analyzing data, reading and thinking critically, and writing. Although often frustrating at first, several of my past students have told me that these projects got them excited about doing science, as opposed to simply studying science, thereby encouraging them to pursue research and graduate school. I am motivated by the belief that active, experiential learning not only develops students’ intellectual skills and perspectives, but also gives them the confidence and tools to tackle difficult problems. I have involved students in local environmental justice projects in an effort to show them the power of environmental science for positive social change in issues that directly affect their communities. Examples of this include community-based water quality monitoring, our campus composting program, and ecological restoration projects. I truly believe that this sort of experiential education can transform the world by encouraging students to become agents of positive change.