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Deep teaching in a college STEM classroom: Part 2

At our May 25 meeting, we discussed the second half of the article, “Deep teaching in a college STEM classroom”, by Bryan M. Dewsbury, in Cultural Studies of Science Education (2020) 15: 169-191 (Dewsbury Deep Teaching).  Consider the following questions:


In what way is learning is a social behavior, as proposed in the article? Here are some of our thoughts:

  • This is hard to figure out than it first appears.
  • Learning in person is easier for most people—meaning, there must be social aspects.
  • Student success is better with interaction.
  • Small group learning is generally more effective—why?
  1. How can we communicate more empathy to students?
  • Use courseware to help students master content outside of class in order to free up in-person class time
  • Obtain demographic info on the students prior to each semester (from IR)
  • Give a student survey asking them about their previous experience with science classes, what will help you be successful, and/or their feelings on group work.
  • Do a reflection the first day, “I believe…” They can pick a core value to shape their decisions in life.  Pick one, any value they have.
  • Tell the class why you are doing this.
  • Give them opportunities to get know each other (e.g., small group discussions).
  • Give the students meaningful projects they can contribute to and feel a part of.
  • Try to get to know what they want to do. One participant shared that on the first day of class, asks the students to post a photo of what biology means to them.  She gets interesting photos (ex. butterflies, babies/giving birth, themselves, photosynthesis).
  1. What social assets do the different kinds of students bring to class that can be leveraged?
    • Leverage your own experiences as a model when teaching.
    • Try to make it personal. For example, consider sending an email to students at the beginning of each module with the question, “Does anyone have any experience with this?”
  • When teaching about pollination, one participant discovered that several students had relatives who were beekeepers in their home countries.
  • Another shared how she has asked her Comparative Anatomy students to bring in a photo of their vertebrate pets, or a photo of a vertebrate pet they would like to have.
  • Some students can contribute personal experiences when they do the topic of alcohol production (fermentation) in microbiology.
  • On the topic of ethnobotany the instructor can ask the students about home remedies.


  1. Try to use examples/models that show diversity. For example:

When we discuss research with students, show photos of students who are minorities.

Deep teaching in college STEM classroom: Part 1

At our May 18 meeting, we discussed the first half of the article, “Deep teaching in a college STEM classroom”, by Bryan M. Dewsbury, in Cultural Studies of Science Education (2020) 15: 169-191 (Dewsbury Deep Teaching). Consider the following questions:


  1. What is meant by ‘Deep Teaching’?
  • Connect with students to connect them with content.
  • We may have thought of “higher learning” as in Bloom’s taxonomy, but we must connect with students to get them “there”.
  • Students want to talk about themselves and seem more comfortable doing this online. How can we encourage the level of participation we’ve had online in person?
  • Continue discussion forums
  • 5-minute free-write
  • Think-pair-share


  1. How do we build relationships with students on and offline?
  • Asking about and using preferred pronouns and names
  • The names they tell us may be different from the names they call each other.


  1. How is self-awareness as discussed in the article is important for the instructor and what does that mean to you?
  • Am I welcoming? Reflect on your in-class personality.
  • Do the students feel they can answer?
  • Do I give feedback to colleagues differently than to students? Consider the tone in electronic communication.
  • Know your biases (consider taking Implicit Association Tests on a regular basis. Do we judge our students? Do we make assumptions? Many students take our class to get their degree and become a doctor.  Do we assume they won’t achieve this?
  • We must also deal with student biases. All of us at the meeting are female, some minorities.  Be transparent: “Here’s a bias in science.  Let’s discuss it.”


  1. What are the ways in which you build relationships with your students?

What strategies have been most successful in your STEM courses over the past year?

In our first meeting this semester, participants responded to the following questions. Their answers appear below. The intention was to share ideas about success strategies that have worked well in our STEM classrooms during the past year.

What are the top three things you do that contribute to student success?

• Teach a concept, then give an example, have the students practice, and check their work
• Use an “exit question”/poll at the end of class – is your answer right, and how did you get it?
• Use scaffolding with feedback week by week
• Do research (including hypothesis development and testing) as part of class activities – especially preps the students to get internships (ex. REUs).
• Have students “do math” as part of their learning at every opportunity (including using Excel to organize and analyze data)
• Post a “postmortem” for each exam (video, power point, or written doc)
• Ask students, “How do you know if you’re doing well in the course?”
• Manage student expectations – anticipated time spent on each course activity (including outside of class), how to take notes, how to study for specific courses, etc.
• Provide students with multiple “early warnings” before WN, and offer help
• Have students search scholarly databases to find and then read / interpret primary literature
• Involve students in large-scale citizen science (e.g., using iNaturalist) to help them experience how data are gathered and how science is done

What are the top three things students can do to succeed?

• Read assignments before class
• Ask the instructor for help
• Get to know the professor (office hours)
• Talk to successful classmates and find out how they study

How do we decide which strategies to prioritize?

• Professional development, student research, live interactions, course design, assignments/assessments, creation, etc.—there are so many, and we can’t do all of them every semester.
• Choice of strategies depends on course outcomes, program level, etc. For example, research in class may not be prioritized in a nonmajors course, but probably should be in an upper division majors course.
• Some strategies should always be employed in any course—such as managing student expectations and identifying students who need help early on

What would you like to discuss/read this semester?

• Assigned readings can feel overwhelming for a FIG
• Instead, focus on questions that faculty can respond to and share experiences / ideas
• Share a challenge or success from the current class

With respect to the above, for the next meeting, Kristin will send out a Google Form asking participants to identify a challenge and a success from the previous week for the group to discuss.

Next meeting time TBA (probably in one month—third week of April).