I am committed to engaging in activities which enhance diversity and equity efforts on campus and in STEM. Throughout my research, teaching, and service activities I always strive to keep equity in mind, and possess an intrinsic aim to achieve inclusion which guides my plans and actions.
My work on accessibility and inclusion was highlighted in the CU Independent news:
I believe that everyone should have equal access to an education. As such, I applied and was awarded a Universal Design Fellowship from the Office of Information Technology at CU Boulder. As a result of this, I learned a variety of Universal Design principles to incorporate into my classes. To create accessible materials and support multiple points of entry, I regularly use these principles to create lectures, caption videos, and convert content into several accessible formats. To evaluate whether students benefit from these practices, I conducted a research project to use data analytics in order to track student usage of accessible versus non-accessible materials, as well as paired it with qualitative surveys for mixed methods. I found that the small amount of time it takes to create accessible materials, is WELL worth it for the amount that students benefit (Pinzone in prep). Thus, I currently encourage and support other faculty in incorporating universal design principles into their teaching.
Teaching with the School of Continuing Education, my class population usually consists of a number of students who are first-generation, on academic probation, non-traditional, international / English as a second language, or many are from groups who are underrepresented in STEM. As a first-generation college student myself, I rarely felt a sense of belonging in a stadium-seating classroom with 1,100 other students. Because of this, I aim to create a community of practice, where students work together toward common goals and get to know each other. I have had students comment that mine is the first class where they will truly miss their classmates.
I intentionally design my courses to support accessibility and inclusion, through in-class practices, active-learning, and course policies. I recognize that there are systemic inequalities that affect whether or not students can succeed, that are external from their work in my class. As such, I conduct pre-assessments to evaluate the strength of student background knowledge, and provide resources and extra help for those catching up. During my participation with a College-level group, Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity at the University of Georgia, we explored the myth of meritocracy in which each person is a diverse set of privileges and disadvantages, which add up to create different starting points regardless of how hard the individual works. Thus, I mainly focus on low-stakes assignments, so that students can succeed with sincere effort, and those that had a really slow starting point are not further left behind, while maintaining intellectual challenge through the support of their peers.
I use active-learning techniques largely because of the evidence that these help to narrow achievement gaps for disadvantaged students, such as those in underrepresented minorities and with low socioeconomic status (SES) (Haak et al. 2011), while still enhancing learning gains for more advanced and advantaged students over traditional lecture methdods. One thing I have observed however, is that focusing mainly on activities in class can sometimes disadvantage certain students who may have a hard time attending, such as those with young children, disabilities and long-term illnesses, or long commutes on public transportation due to low SES. To overcome this, so that all students can gain from active learning and participate equally in the academic environment, I have devised a make-up policy where students who attended class can earn extra credit by helping students who were absent to engage in the activity. Therefore, students are able to enjoy the same learning experience in an equally effective and inclusive manner with equivalent ease.
Finally in my role as a Science Teaching and Learning Fellow, I have had the opportunity to advocate for students with extreme personal circumstances, and find resources for those in need of extra help. I would have benefited from having someone to discuss issues with in college, and am extremely grateful that I am able to serve in that role for others.
I have presented work on accessibility at a variety of venues:
“What can YOU easily do to make your teaching more inclusive and accessible?”,
9th Annual STEM Symposium, Center for STEM Learning, Fall 2017 CU Boulder
“Teaching Evolution & Biology to a diversity of learners: Accessibility & Inclusion”,
Society for the Study of Evolution, Evolution Conference, Summer 2017, Portland, OR
“Making a Flipped Course Fully Accessible”, presented both at the Teaching with Technology Symposium, hosted by ASSETT in Spring 2017 at CU Boulder, and also at the 2017 Diverse Learners Awareness Week, CU Boulder (see above press story)