November 20, 2020

Dear CNS Instructors,

Hang in there.  It looks like CSU made it to fall break without a shutdown.  Kudos to our students, staff, administration and faculty.  I feel we developed an effecting system based on testing and science-based hygiene protocols.  At the same time, we continued to provide world class education.

For this week’s teaching tip, I consider antiracist college science teaching.  I have been ruminating on this topic at least since participating in the Faculty Institute for Inclusive Excellence in 2015-2016.  Tuesday of this week I was fortunate to have taken part in an inspiring workshop on “Creating an Anti-racist Classroom” facilitated by Flo King (TILT and Undergraduate Affairs) as part of the VPD’s fall 2020 Racial Justice Series.

I have participated and even facilitated several workshops on inclusive teaching.  I have incorporated inclusive instructional practices into my courses.  I have collaborated in research demonstrating the greater positive effects of infusing engagement activities in my courses on learning outcomes for students in marginalized groups.  While committed to inclusive teaching, I harbor a nagging doubt that I am not truly practicing antiracism in the classroom.

In professional development workshops and courses for summer research experience programs and community college transfer students, my colleagues and I devote several sessions discussing racism and inequity in science.  However, I have yet to sort out how to intentionally incorporate antiracist concepts in my science content courses. Flo King’s workshop, in particular Flo’s response to a question from Tarini Ullal (DVM, UC Davis) spurred the coalescence of some ideas.  Flo suggests having proactive discussions and assignments delving into racism in science and the contributions of science to racism, historically and in the present.  Further, she urges recognizing the overlooked contributions of marginalized people (non-white male) to scientific knowledge.  Flo cautions against adding these topics as supplemental assignments.  Rather these concepts need to be embedded within the scientific concepts and information covered in the course.  I find this easier to say than to do.  Currently, I employ cancer as my “hook” for why students should care about genetic, cell biology and biochemical concepts.  I have started using beer brewing as a hook, as well.  Perhaps I could infuse antiracist topics in the same way.  Certainly, ample material and resources exist to draw upon. Although I know of no science textbooks incorporating this topic, but perhaps could help build one.

Webpages on non-white male scientists:

Ten Female Scientists of Color Whose Innovations Are Shaping Our World’s Future

Fifteen Famous Black Scientists in History

An Evolving List of Influential Hispanic and Latinx Scientists

Seven Indigenous Pioneers You Need to Know

The SACNAS Biography Project (includes Gilbert John, a CSU Sacnista)

Recognizing the Impact of Indigenous Scientists

Just 18 Really Awesome Native Folks in STEM

Anti-Racism Resources and Articles for STEM Educators by Dr. Kathy Chen, STEM Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (attached pdf).

Antiracist scientific topics include misconceptions about genetic differences between races (a purely social construct) in intelligence, athletic ability, etc., the non-biological basis of race, and the exploitation of Black people by scientists (modern gynecologyTuskegee syphilis study, the source of HeLa cells).  I attended a seminar by Angela Saini, the author of the book “Superior: The Return of Race Science” about the role of modern genetics in perpetuating racial biases and “Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong”, which enlightened my thinking on misconceptions I hold on the genetics differences between human populations.

I believe infusion of antiracist concepts is another important step in combating racial and cultural bias in science.  If any of you have made progress on this in your courses, I would greatly appreciate learning about what you have done.

Thanks for reading this week’s teaching tip and enjoy the well-earned fall break (even if it is only a chance to get caught up before the final semester push).

Cheers, Paul

PS. Please consider participating in one or more of the TILT professional development opportunities this January 2021:

The opportunities include:

1. Facilitated asynchronous one- and three-week courses:

a. Teaching Online: Facilitation & Engagement, $200 honorarium

i. 12.28.20 – 1.17.21, four hours/week, regular version

ii. 1.4.21 – 1.10.21, 12 hours over seven days, accelerated version

b. Create Assignments, 1.11.21 – 1.31.21, five hours/week, $250 honorarium

c. Student Motivation, 3.1.21-3.21.21, five hours/week, $250 honorarium

2. Facilitated 90-minute workshops:

a. Best Practices in Online and Hybrid Teaching: An Introduction, 1.11.21 and 1.12.21, $135 honorarium (after submission of post-workshop implementation reflection)

b. NEW – Best Practices in Online and Hybrid Teaching: Planning for Critical Thinking, 1.13.21, $135 honorarium (after submission of post-workshop implementation reflection)

3. Best Practices in Online and Hybrid Teaching, DIY resourcesvideo tour, plus worksheet and completed example worksheet available on demand at TILT’s Faculty & Instructors page

Paul Laybourn (he/him/his)
Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Director, W2R S-STEM Program
Director, NoCo B2B Program
Co-Director, REU Site in Molecular Biosciences