Jayme Dyer, an adjunct professor from the Institution or Organization Affiliation: Durham Technical Community College, has been selected for the 2022 Innovation in Education Award winner. She will present the talk “Grading in the Biology Classroom: Impacts on Learning, Behavior, and Equity” on Sunday, December 4, at Cell Bio 2022 in Washington, DC.
The American Society for Cell Biology gives this award to an individual who has demonstrated innovation in education. Innovation is defined as a novel educational accomplishment that has significantly impacted progress in achieving ASCB’s mission based on work done within three years before the nomination. The innovation should be aligned with the core tenets of the ASCB Declaration on Effective and Inclusive Undergraduate Biology Education.
Research statement: One of the things I’m most focused on right now is Alternative Grading. I have experimented in my classes with Collaborative Grading (a version of Ungrading) and Multiple Grading Schemes. These policies are designed to increase flexibility, align the final course grade with evidence of student learning instead of behavioral compliance, and give students with diverse strengths equal access to success. In collaboration with the Math Department at Durham Tech, we are investigating the equity impacts of Multiple Grading Schemes.
My other primary focus is on incorporating the Nature of Science into Introductory-Level Biology classes. I use data-centered narratives to introduce basic biology concepts, and incorporate data analysis throughout the Introductory curriculum. I created a YouTube channel (https://youtube.com/YouTooBio) to produce the types of data-centered, engaging science videos I could not find elsewhere. Last year I received mini-grant funding to lead a summer internship program with a handful of Durham Tech students where they learned to produce high-quality science education videos that meet the pedagogical needs of faculty in the Science Department. By incorporating real data from fascinating studies throughout the Introductory curriculum, I aim for students to concomitantly develop an understanding of the Nature of Science alongside an understanding of foundational scientific concepts.
Statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion: I have copied here a portion of my Teaching Statement, which is focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
I center Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in my pedagogical choices.
As a first-generation college student, I know what it feels like to be an academic outsider. I make pedagogical decisions that have been shown to reduce the achievement gap and invite all types of learners to achieve success and feel welcome in the classroom.
I design my courses around principles of active learning and high structure, which have both been shown to disproportionately improve classroom performance for students traditionally excluded from STEM (3, 4). Students in my classroom build their knowledge through hands-on activities, drawing and writing exercises, small-group discussions, and repeated retrieval through no- and low-stakes assessments. I also design my courses to have high structure, including regularly-spaced low-stakes homework assignments.
I believe in choosing course topics that can impact student attitudes and beliefs, especially related to race. When students learn about genetic variation within and between racial groups, they demonstrate fewer cognitive forms of prejudice (5). For this reason, I explicitly teach about genetic variation within the human lineage, coupled with a discussion of the historical basis – and limitations – of race-based medicine. Additionally, to counter stereotypes about who has access to a career in science, I assign Scientist Spotlight homework assignments, which have been shown to increase students’ ability to personally relate to scientists (6).
Many students enter the classroom with assumptions about the apparent conflict between evolution and religion. Coupled with a disproportionate paucity of religious representation among scientists, many Christian students perceive negative stereotypes about their ability in science (7). Thus, to increase inclusivity for religious students, I briefly and explicitly address the apparent conflict between religious belief and evolution in my Introductory courses (8).
To encourage students to make connections between biology and their values and interests, I created an “Independent Project” assignment where students demonstrate their understanding of course learning objectives in the context of any topic of their choice, using any format of their choice. For example, one student explored the evolutionary history of raccoons in the context of explaining her unique hobby: making bone jewelry, including raccoon-jaw earrings.
Finally, I have recently begun to shift my courses away from traditional grading practices. Informed by the books Grading for Equity and Ungrading (9, 10), I have experimented with using Multiple Grading Schemes and also collaborative grading (a version of ungrading). These policies are designed to increase flexibility, align the final course grade with evidence of student learning instead of behavioral compliance, and give students with diverse strengths equal access to success. Based on my experiences with alternative grading, I have shared equity-related considerations and implementable policies with faculty through several talks at Durham Tech, at the Annual Meetings of the North Carolina Community College Association of Biology Instructors, as well as at a national-level meeting, The Grading Conference. Non-traditional grading policies are relatively new and still lack significant published evidence to inform their impact on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. However, I am an active participant in online Alternative Grading communities, including a Faculty Mentoring Network and a monthly reading group, and I will continue to develop and update my grading policies to align with current evidence and published best practices.
3. E. J. Theobald, et al., Active learning narrows achievement gaps for underrepresented students in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 117, 6476–6483 (2020).
4. S. L. Eddy, K. A. Hogan, Getting Under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structure Work? CBE—Life Sci. Educ. 13, 453–468 (2014).
5. B. M. Donovan, et al., Toward a more humane genetics education: Learning about the social and quantitative complexities of human genetic variation research could reduce racial bias in adolescent and adult populations. Sci. Educ. 103, 529–560 (2019).
6. J. N. Schinske, H. Perkins, A. Snyder, M. Wyer, Scientist Spotlight Homework Assignments Shift Students’ Stereotypes of Scientists and Enhance Science Identity in a Diverse Introductory Science Class. CBE—Life Sci. Educ. 15, ar47 (2016).
7. K. Rios, Z. H. Cheng, R. R. Totton, A. F. Shariff, Negative Stereotypes Cause Christians to Underperform in and Disidentify with Science. Soc. Psychol. Personal. Sci. 6, 959–967 (2015).
8. J. M. Truong, M. E. Barnes, S. E. Brownell, Can Six Minutes of Culturally Competent Evolution Education Reduce Students’ Level of Perceived Conflict Between Evolution and Religion? Am. Biol. Teach. 80, 106–115 (2018).
9. J. Feldman, Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms, 1 edition (Corwin, 2018).
10. Blum, Susan D., Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead) (West Virginia University Press, 2020).
About the Author:
This post was collaboratively written by several ASCB staff members.