There is a fine line between high expectations and unattainable goals. I walk this line often. As an innovative and evidence-based instructor, I set high expectations for myself and my students, and know that my students and I can rise to meet them.
My approach to student success is multi-faceted, including engaging students’ prior knowledge and utilizing principles of universal design. I incorporate principles from seminal research and policy in postsecondary biology education, including Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) and the AAAS Vision and Change report (2011). However, my greatest guiding principle is the goal to be student-centered. Students bring important ideas and identities to the classroom. These ideas and identities should be engaged, interconnected to other students, and related to the course material.
I engage students ideas and identities by creating an interactive classroom community. Students frequently work in pairs and small groups (even in a class of over 400). I also provide students complete and comprehensive access to course material. Students engage with course concepts in a variety of forms (in PowerPoint slides, clicker questions, stories, and on discussion boards). Videos are closed captioned and re-posted online. Class notes are provided in digital and hard copy. I also select geographically and culturally relevant examples, including local species and ecosystems and worldwide health issues like diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and the Ebola outbreak.
Reflective practice is also an integral part of my student-centered instructional practice. I engage in formative assessment throughout a course and make adjustments to my instruction to improve student outcomes before a course ends. Sometimes homework or clicker results indicate that the students do not understand a concept. It is my responsibility to provide additional opportunities to help students learn that material before moving on to another topic. Likewise, class activities sometimes do not go as planned. It is key in these instances to use students’ ideas to improve the activity in the future.
Teaching is a challenge, but it can be done successfully through engaging students’ ideas, using a variety of student-centered, research-based activities, and through reflective teaching practice. I know that through setting high expectations for myself and for my students, I can create meaningful learning experiences and provide students the support they need to succeed. Student success is my passion. I look forward to the opportunity of sharing and growing that passion at my future institution.