Inclusive Teaching in STEM with Dr. Kimberly Tanner

On February 26, 2019, Dr. Kimberly Tanner paid a visit to the University of Chicago for our Inclusive Teaching in STEM event. Dr. Tanner is a tenured Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University and leads the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory (SEPAL), which investigates the challenges of learning in STEM classrooms, how scientists chose to teach content of their disciplines, and how to make equity, diversity, and inclusion central to science education efforts. For our event, she led a discussion of her paper as well as a workshop titled “Structure Matters: Engaging Students and Making Classrooms Fair and Inclusive Cross-Disciplinary Strategies and Language to Promote Student Success.” The event was widely attended by graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty, instructors, staff, and other affiliates of the Biological Sciences Division, Physical Sciences Division, and Institute for Molecular Engineering.

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In the paper discussion, Dr. Tanner introduced how structuring learning environments promotes fairness and access for all students. Improving structure within a classroom can be accomplished in numerous ways, and participants discussed 21 teaching strategies to promote student engagement, classroom equity, and inclusion, as outlined in the paper. The discussion weighed the pros and cons of each strategy, and how execution of each strategy may be contingent upon classroom size, observed student engagement, student demographics, and other factors. Dr. Tanner also mentioned that these strategies can not only be applied in the classroom but other academic settings, such as group/lab meetings, conferences, faculty meetings, seminars, and grant meetings.


During the workshop, participants grouped into teams and were provided with materials to construct a mobile. Each team presented their mobile to the rest of the workshop participants, and it was during this time it became evident some groups had different starting materials; some groups even had to work without scissors, markers, and other materials to make their mobile. During the debriefing of this activity, participants discussed their awareness of some groups not having the same materials and the implications of this. It was considered how the experience from this activity parallels how students experience classrooms differently from one another, and how these factors should be considered in our approach of teaching.


We again would like to thank Dr. Tanner for leading this workshop and discussion and providing us with many resources to learn and practice inclusive teaching. We would also like to thank the BSD Office of Diversity & Inclusion, Chicago Center for Teaching (CCT), IME Dean’s Advisory Council, and our CCT fellows for their assistance for making this event possible. For more resources on inclusive teaching in the sciences, please visit our Resources page.


– Evelyn Campbell (2018-2019 RPWG Coordinator)

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