“…if a student revolts against “The Establishment” before he has familiarized himself with the analytical and integrative skills of relativistic thinking, the only place he can take his stand is in a simplistic absolutism. He revolts… against heterogeneity… he rejects the second-level tools of critical analysis, reflection and comparative thinking…”
Perry 1968/1970 Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: A scheme. Orlando FL: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich pg 73
I began my journey into education through a yearning to understand the natural world through science. The way most of us make a living as scientists is through teaching at the college level. My path was no different: after joyous years of trampling through jungles from Panama to Papua New Guinea, I settled into a teaching position in Texas where I was also able to keep a small research program going. Since then, I have taught at six different institutions of higher education ranging from four-year teaching colleges (private and public) to research-oriented flagship campuses of state universities, with a focus on teaching science to “non-majors.”
My job in those classes was always three fold: I must teach students basic content in biology, I must teach them what science “is,” and I must convince them that they can “do” science. I came to recognize that the last, rarely explicitly discussed, was the most important and the most difficult to manage, and went in search of help. That search lead me to the Educational Leadership program at the University of Vermont, where I studied with Jill Tarule and Judith Aiken, learning about contextualized, learner-centered curriculum design and cognitive development in adult and young adult learners. Further reflection and study lead to the realization that the stumbling blocks for learning are remarkably similar whether we are learning new ideas or managing institutional change. Confronted with challenges to our existing knowledge, we respond with emotional dismay. Only when we have understood that reaction and come to terms with our fears can we begin working through new content, making personal meaning and incorporating the new knowledge into our future actions. Going through this process myself as I discovered how little I knew about teaching and learning, the guidance from my mentors was key to my development as a relativistic thinker.
My goal as a facilitator of educational change is to help faculty and administrators work through this cycle of learning to find the most appropriate means to help their students develop as professionals within their discipline, critical thinkers capable of working in a range of settings and within the cultural diversity of the twenty-first century.
My full resume is available here for those who wish to know more about my experience and educational background.