Teaching philosophy

As an educator, I continually pursue three main goals: 1) To foster creativity and a growth mindset as it relates to learning in biology, 2) To encourage students to interact with biology in a way that is relevant, engaging, and effective, and 3) To cultivate an understanding of the value that science has for society. I use a varied combination of evidence-based approaches to achieve these goals and encourage all of my students to adopt a growth mindset in which they acknowledge that their understanding and abilities can and will change from the first day of my courses to the last [1]. Teaching for a growth mindset is shown to not only improve students’ grades, but also their retention in STEM fields [2].

Pedagogy techniques

1. I employ active learning strategies to enhance student engagement with and understanding of the material. I also implement active learning strategies in large introductory-level courses. Here, I use clickers during lectures (or “waterfall chats” during virtual lectures) to gauge student understanding of the material and to provide opportunities for anonymous feedback. I pause my lectures for an open-question forum and break students into small groups to discuss the topic with their peers, which promotes a sense of cohesion and belonging among students within the classroom.

 

2. I foster creativity in the way students think about science by utilizing inquiry-based teaching methods that allow students to explore different pathways toward the same end. This technique is an effective way to demonstrate to students that science is a way of thinking about nature and the world.

 

3. I foster an inclusive and accessible learning environment by providing my students multiple avenues through which they can demonstrate their understanding of the course material. To do this, I use assignments that support and reward multiple modes of learning and communicating. My courses include a combination of low stakes assignments (e.g. quizzes, in-class lightning questions), group and individual work, participation and engagement grades, and exams. Individual work assignments such as papers and open-ended questions are “Improvement Assignments” that allow students the opportunity to receive feedback from myself and/or their peers, revise their work, and resubmit. This method has been shown to cultivate a growth mindset in students by prioritizing their thought processes over their solutions. I communicate to students that the process underlying these Improvement Assignments mirrors the process of manuscript and grant writing, both critical elements of a career as a scientist. 

 

4. I enhance student-educator transparency by providing students with two short documents alongside each of their assignments: an assignment purpose and an assignment rubric. The Purpose contextualizes the assignment within the learning objectives of the course, drawing links between the assignment and what they have learned and read. I additionally try to include a few sentences on a related popular science topic when possible to link topics with relevant current events. The Rubric provides students with clear expectations for each assignment. This transparency demystifies my expectations and communicates to students that I am thoughtfully invested in each of their success.

Certificates and workshops

1. Postdoctoral Short Course on College Teaching in Science and Engineering, Certificate, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan

2. Developing Your Teaching Philosophy, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan

3. Teaching for Accessibility, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan

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Courses previously taught

Introduction to Biological Anthropology

Human Anatomy

How We Eat

Hormones and Behavior

Controversies in Human Biology

Archaeology of Human Dispersals

Courses prepared

The Mammalian Microbiome

mid- to upper-level

Comparative Vertebrate Endocrinology

mid- to upper-level

Evolutionary Medicine

mid- to upper-level