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Teaching Philosophy
  • Kelsey Lane

Teaching Philosophy

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

I have been drawn to education since my youth. My father was an educator and led trainings on active learning and field-based science education. I didn’t realize then, but I was absorbing these lessons, in particular the lesson to live filled with insatiable curiosity. My teaching philosophy is to encourage curiosity and critical thinking about the environment, while evaluating humanity’s role in the ecosystem. I aim to foster a student-centered, inclusive classroom with opportunities for independent research. I aspire to lead field experiences focused on undergraduates.

My teaching philosophy is shaped by many years spent in experiential and environmental education settings working with K-12 and undergraduate students. Spending days or weeks on end with students in field settings taught me to focus on the whole student and person, not just the intellectual scholar. When I teach in a classroom setting, I retain those lessons: each of my students have unique and diverse life experiences that need to be respected and acknowledged as we all learn and grow together. My experience in leadership development, group management and risk management have helped me create classes that facilitate successful group work, engaging field trips and opportunities for students to lead. I prioritize an active learning environment with opportunities for group discussion, group work and inquiry-based learning.

A woman in a warm jacket with boots, standing with a cup of coffee on a ship's deck.
Preparing for an oceanographic deployment during an SEA cruise

In the summer of 2021, I was faculty and Chief Scientist for a Sea Education Association (SEA) Semester teaching three undergraduate courses and sailing with 18 students into the North Pacific Gyre. I had worked at SEA for many years, but never as faculty before. As my first program, I built from a well-established syllabus, putting my own spin on a few assignments and projects. I assessed learning through group-based, independent research projects culminating in a student research conference where students communicated their results to each other and the ship’s crew.

During the course, I found that some of our best conversations came out of student-led discussions around climate change risks and solutions. The students were excited and eager to engage on these challenging subjects around how to build resilient and adaptable communities and ecosystems. I realized I could reshape the course to encourage these conversations sooner. I revised the program to incorporate more exploration of student’s sense of place within the ocean, leading to a conversation around difference and power in climate risk and ocean governance. Ocean science does not occur within a vacuum outside of the societal framework, and undergraduate students are ready to delve into these topics.

I am also excited about the potential of online education to increase the accessibility of ocean science and climate science education. As an educator in an online classroom, I’ve been able to facilitate discussions around which country should be responsible for the impacts of climate change with students from India, Ecuador, Germany, and the United States all in one Zoom room. We would have never been able to have that conversation in a traditional face-to-face college classroom. I was highly reviewed for my ability to build community online. One student said, “She is full of grace, empathy and kindness and was the binding force of our group. The lab sessions were a safe space to get to know others in my group, discuss the class content in an open, accessible, judgement-free space.” Online education provides a unique opportunity to bring together a global community of diverse students at different life stages and accommodate their complex lives.

Through coursework during graduate school, I have sought out formal training in education and pedagogy. I have pursued training in undergraduate teaching through the Graduate Certificate in College and Undergraduate Teaching program at Oregon State University (OSU). During an internship, I improved my teaching through peer review. I learned about better practices for an inclusive and innovative undergraduate classroom. I’m part of a community of graduate students and faculty at my college engaging on how to unlearn racism in geoscience, an NSF-funded national initiative. We are brainstorming the best practices in the earth sciences, especially around co-management and fieldwork. These practices can be carried out in fieldwork and field-based courses taught at OSU, and I will take these practices into my future roles.

Inspired by my father, I am an educator inspired to fostering insatiable curiosity in my students. In my classroom, I aim to help students learn to think critically and pursue independent research in an inclusive space that welcomes all learners.

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