As an educator and researcher, my aim is to engage students through inquiry-based learning. It is my belief that the academy not only serves in creating new knowledge but also as a means to help people develop a new global perspective. It is my strong belief that an inquiry-based approach best prepares students to meet the challenges that await them after college, while creating a more satisfying and enriching education experience. My teaching philosophy is based on the following principles:
1. Teach with compassion and enthusiasm for student growth. Students range on a scale of engagement from completely disinterested, anxious to perform well and everything in between. My overall aim as an educator is to build self-efficacy and self confidence in my students. I accomplish this aim by challenging my students academically while providing assurances that they are capable of meeting the challenges. Studies have shown that this approach is particularly important when teaching and mentoring underrepresented students in science and first generation students (Cohen, Steele, and Ross, 1999). Similarly, today’s student calls for an interaction with the professor that is genuine and sincere. I believe making an effort to get to know my students is an effective tool for stimulating educational satisfaction.
2. Encourage metacognitive thinking. In addition to learning course material, my aim as an educator is to encourage students to think about how they engage the material and become proactive in directing their learning. Many students engage material passively (re-reading and memorizing notes). For some students, the passive approach is effective but at some point in a student’s college career, the approach eventually fails, leaving the student feeling frustrated and powerless. I use learning tools such as exam wrappers and open-ended questions to increase awareness of how students can improve study habits while also giving students a sense of ownership in their learning process.
3. Balance structure and flexibility in the learning environment. Students expect and want consistency and structure in the classroom for the purpose of feeling safe in the learning environment. They also want the freedom to be creative. In both my teaching and mentoring, striking the right balance between structure and flexibility is my constant goal. I have set expectations in the past by using the syllabus as a contract of engagement; allowing students to contribute to what is expected of themselves and the teacher. I have also used group work as a means of encouraging creativity but within clearly defined guidelines. For example, in group discussions on scientific essays, I emphasize the mutual goal of the discussion is a deeper understanding of the text and go over rules for group discussion (listen, be respectful, use the text and lecture notes to support statements, ask for clarity).
4. Inform daily lives with science. I believe it’s important to expose students to the different ways which ecology and evolutionary biology is applied to address environmental and societal concerns while also highlighting the importance of basic scientific research. Most notably in this goal is my use of citizen science in my research and teaching. Additionally, I highlight current research in my lectures and group discussions with videos and essays. It is through these efforts that students are exposed not only to how ecology and evolutionary biology impact their lives but also recognize that science is an ongoing and dynamic process.