Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB)


Anonymous Student Evaluations

Shawn was very knowledgable on the subjects we discussed in class and led a great discussion when the professor was absent. He truly cared about the student’s performance in the course and offered to meet with students to discuss the final project outside of office hours. He was really helpful when we had questions about our final project and gave us insightful feedback. ––3rd Year UCLA Undergraduate

Very good TA that was knowledgable of course material, very proactive and engaged with student learning, and responsive. ––4th Year UCLA Undergraduate

Shawn was an approachable and helpful TA. I felt comfortable asking him questions about the class and the material. ––3rd Year UCLA Undergraduate

Teaching Statement

My philosophy of education is rooted in ensuring equitable access to every aspect of the learning process for all types of learners. Throughout my development and education, I personally struggled in situations relying on massed learning of large quantities of information in stressful environments. My academic accolades were best represented in project-based learning environments that allowed for the utilization of my creativity, to elucidate my understanding of complex concepts, in a spaced learning format. Additionally, my high school’s lowly-funded science-education program, coupled with their choice to exclude Advanced Placement (AP) courses and examinations from our curriculum, prompted project-based teaching styles that relied on long-term, spread out multidisciplinary projects that spanned multiple dimensions over numerous weeks. My undergraduate education in the life sciences came with the sudden shock of high-stakes examinations that covered dense amounts of material, something that my learning preference and prior knowledge did not support well. My past experiences have shaped me into an educator that seeks to assess and cater to a wide array of learning styles.

Educating students in the sciences requires flexibility in teaching pedagogy, as students all hold varying levels of prior knowledge for core concepts essential to building a strong foundation in the sciences. Therefore, it is imperative for me to assess each students’ prior knowledge in order to effectively establish a strong breadth of the relevant core prerequisites before exploring the depths of our curriculum. In doing so, I strive to establish a safe learning environment for all students to question their previous beliefs and to ask questions that foster a growth mindset. My ideal criteria for a safe learning environment are a safe space in which students have the ability to reflect upon identity. The identities would stay in the safe space, but the lessons learned would leave the safe space in order to encourage growth beyond the classroom setting.

I strongly believe in a set of 3 principles that promote a learning environment instrumental in providing various opportunities for success:

  1. My role as a teacher is to serve as a springboard for students’ learning both inside and outside of the classroom.
  2. Lessons must be designed to engage students in active learning activities where they are prompted to access their prior knowledge to solve problems instead of being told the answers directly.
  3. I must provide various mediums for students to engage in problem solving and seeking out help so that all students have an equal opportunity to ask questions and share answers.

I strive for students to be active learners during class, to foster collaboration through dialogue instead of debate, and to promote a sense of community within the classroom. My community expectations will be unanimously agreed upon during our first meeting, and students are expected to be accountable for them until our last meeting: ASPIRE (Assume good intent, Speak one at a time, Participate, use “I” statements, Respect confidentiality, Esuchar). Students will strive to challenge their prior beliefs and understand more about their surrounding world than they did when they first entered the class. Upon leaving the classroom, students will engage in their community as citizens seeking to promote social justice through scientific literacy and cultural awareness in whatever context they find themselves in.

Given my teaching philosophy centered around a flexible learning environment, I believe in implementing a balance of formative and summative assessment to cater to a variety of learning styles, as both are required to effectively evaluate student learning. These forms of assessment will be designed around my implementation of effective, evidence-based teaching practices. Courses that I teach will be created using backward design to ensure that all aspects and goals of my curriculum are chosen with intent and purpose to maximize both in-class and long-term learning beyond the term of instruction.

I will provide and promote an inclusive environment for this learning to occur. I will provide students the opportunity to learn more about their peers through actively engaging in group work. I will encourage students to actively think about social identity threat and personal privilege so that they are more aware of others’ visible and invisible identities and potential drivers of task underperformance. I will foster an environment where students either make space or take space during classroom discussions so that a student’s courage to participate is not hindered. Additionally, I will refer to all students by their preferred name and ask more about each student’s individual personal experiences to consider the backgrounds they each have when approaching topics that may be divisive during in-class discussions.

My teaching philosophy is bound together by that of a memorable instructor of mine. In August 2011, nearly 8 years ago, I heard a quote that would give me a new perspective on education and integrity. M.M. told our first-year high school class the importance of learning and summarized it as follows: “don’t ever get in the way of somebody else’s learning.” Having never thought about education in this way before, I knew that from that moment, education – and being an educator – was going to be a part of my identity for the rest of my life. In my classrooms, I will ensure that nobody ever halts another’s learning, whether it be through distractions, talking, bullying, or discussion dominators, to name a few. Everyone, regardless of sex, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religious or spiritual beliefs, deserves and is guaranteed the right to equitable access to a high- quality education in safe learning spaces. If a student ever gets in the way of another’s learning, or even of their own learning through self-destructive behavior, I will make it a priority to find and establish common ground with my students who may need intervention as motivation to maintain a strong interest in life-long learning.