Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important aspects of teaching and learning in a STEM classroom. It is well known that STEM fields are not a safe space for all people and have historically been and continue to be exclusionary towards people from diverse socioeconomic, racial, gender, sexual orientation, ability and ethnic backgrounds. I believe that having students from different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences in the classroom is extremely valuable. For example, including diverse perspectives in scientific fields makes learning opportunities and research less biased and more representative of the society we currently live in. Making science accessible to everyone is something that I am passionate about. I am working to be part of the required systemic change by encouraging young people from all backgrounds to pursue STEM careers, participating in programs that create opportunities for underrepresented groups in science (e.g., LSAMP), and presenting the process of scientific discovery in an accessible way.
In my teaching, I strive to create an inclusive and engaging learning environment by catering to different learning styles, using teaching methods that are student-centered, and setting clear expectations and learning objectives. I want my classroom to be about meeting the needs of the students so I start by getting to know them, and asking what they want to get out of the class. For example, I have students introduce themselves and fill out a written quiz about interests and learning preferences. To make courses accessible to students that come from diverse backgrounds, I incorporate flexibility, autonomy, and variable activities with a universal design approach. I provide core information in advance and in a variety of formats (e.g., readings, lectures, homework, in-class activities) so that students are exposed to it multiple times. To allow flexibility and autonomy, I outline basic requirements for projects, but allow students to pick their own topic and/or method of presentation. In a science course where the assignment needs to meet certain learning outcomes such as writing or data presentation, I allow flexibility in the subject matter. To set expectations, I provide clear and organized rubrics with levels of competency and use scaffolding when giving feedback throughout the term.
In my future career in college teaching, I will work to prioritize DEI actions and initiatives. I acknowledge that I have a lot to learn and am actively doing the work to be more inclusive and supportive of individuals from underrepresented groups. This starts with acknowledging my own privilege as it pertains to the classroom. While pursuing both of my college degrees, I was able to pay tuition through grants and scholarships and due to a large amount of family support, I did not have to work full time to support myself. I recognize that not all students are coming from this place of security and have unique experiences, responsibilities, and struggles. Therefore, it is important to make accommodations and design the learning environment and syllabus in a way that gives all students an opportunity to succeed. This means creating an inclusive and engaging classroom environment, planning and allowing for flexibility, and giving students options.