Q&A with Dr. Bryan Dewsbury

Dr. Bryan Dewsbury is the visiting keynote speaker for Memorial's Teaching and Learning Conference 2019, May 1-2.

An assistant professor in the department of biology at the University of Rhode Island (URI), Dr. Dewbury is interested in how students develop perceptions of the world and others, and how these perceptions might affect their engagement in course content, their career choices and ultimately their academic performance.

He uses a variety of methods to determine the effects of these forces, and partners with schools and URI to implement interventions that have proven to be effective.

In alignment with the conference theme, Dr. Dewbury will address attendees on teaching for meaning and purpose. In his keynote address, he will lay out the fundamentals to an inclusive approach to classroom instruction, and describe ways in which this approach can be assessed for its relationship to academic performance.

In addition to his keynote, Dr. Dewbury will conduct a conference breakout session on the role of privilege in social positioning , and how it can be a powerful predictor of how students navigate the higher education experience.

CA: Tell me about yourself and your background. Why did you become an educator?

BD: I am originally from the Republic and Trinidad and Tobago. I came to the USA for college, and became an educator after I fell in love with teaching during graduate school.

CA: In your blog article, The Soul of My Pedagogy, you write that the paradigm on teaching approaches has "rightly" shifted in science courses. Can you explain what you mean by that, and why the shift is a necessary one? Does this shift in teaching approaches extend beyond STEM courses?

BD: I meant that traditional lecture-only approaches have given way to a better mix of active learning and lecturing. I think the shift is necessary because it opens the door to more explicit incorporation of student voices. I think other courses have been doing active learning long before we made it 'cool' in STEM. Ever had a literature class where the professor read 'The Sound and Fury' aloud for 50 minutes? We have some catching up to do in STEM.

CA: How can we prepare faculty to serve an increasingly diverse student body at Memorial?

BD: We can ensure that faculty have the resources (time, financial support, etc.) to engage in the kind of reading, self reflection and curriculum work necessary to provide inclusive experiences for a diverse student body.

CA: What steps should an educator take if they want to teach inclusively? What does an inclusive approach look like?

BD: An inclusive approach is one in which all students in the course have an opportunity to become better versions of themselves. For that to happen, instructors need to have a complete understanding of themselves, both their content expertise, as well as the social context they bring to the classroom. They should also know as much as they can about the students' background in order to design a classroom experience that speaks to the whole student.

CA: From your perspective, what are the fundamental ways in which universities can facilitate student success?

BD: There are many ways this facilitation can happen. Supporting instructors to be inclusive practitioners is one way. But the institution can also think more carefully on how other types of programming (residential life, multicultural programming, etc.) are administered such that there is diverse representation, but also robust opportunities for critical dialogue.


Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning

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