Congratulations to Tess Killpack of Salem State University, who was awarded a 2021 Racial Equity Special Research Grant for her project “The Impacts of Antiracist Practices in Gateway Introductory Biology Courses,” with her colleague and collaborator Professor Bryan Dewsbury of Florida International University. The grant comes from the Spencer Foundation, which provides funding for education research. According to the Spencer Foundation website, this specific grant hopes to “support education research projects that will contribute to understanding and ameliorating racial inequality in education.”
The goal of Dewsbury and Killpack’s three-year project is to design and test a curriculum reform model that brings anti-racist pedagogies to introductory undergraduate biology courses.
Killpack says, “Biology faculty are trained as scientists, and we typically focus heavily on content delivery with very little attention spent on social connections to the science we teach.”
She hopes this project will identify connections between intro bio content and environmental and social justice applications. She also hopes to create a framework for educators to dispel the common myth that science is an unbiased enterprise by exploring the historical and social contexts of biology and finding avenues to discuss inequity, racism, and injustice that still exist in the field itself.
In these ways, she hopes to bring an element of humanization into introductory biology courses. In addition to re-thinking course content, Killpack and Dewsbury also hope to help educators be more intentional about building inclusive classroom climates and teaching students how to use their own knowledge of science to transform their own communities in equitable ways.
The pair will have collaborators at other institutions to conceptualize this course reform model in a more theoretical way, and then each collaborator will create their own equity modules to integrate into their introductory biology courses. Killpack and Dewsbury will create an assessment to measure the impact of the curriculum reform on student experiences and mindsets and disseminate the findings to the broader scholarly community.
Congratulations, Professor Killpack!
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