As a student, one of the greatest challenges in learning is the expectation of absorbing and recalling vast amounts of highly specific information with no clear connection between these facets. In my field of molecular biology, this is exceptionally notable as it is possible to require a student to memorize the intricate details of countless pathways as individual units. A more active, engaging, and generalizable way of teaching, which I have adopted in all of my instructional experiences is a more reductionist philosophy of learning. Through the specific emphasis on first principles and underlying causes, students can grow to understand how and why biological processes might occur and then apply that new framework to specific cases to interpret and critique the existing literature while also developing novel hypotheses of their own. Through my experiences in the liberal arts and in the context of a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary lab environment, this has come to comprise my core value of teaching – to provide students with a basic framework in which to evaluate more nuanced specifics. This is also an extremely valuable skill for the aspiring young scientist as it enables higher orders of dissection of the knowledge we think we have about the world around us.
Through a more deductive approach to teaching, it becomes easier for students to understand the logic of the various pieces that have been discovered in any field of biology. This methodology strongly emphasizes the role of the liberal arts in constructing knowledge and to emphasize the interconnectedness of disciplines. Central to this interconnectedness is the incorporation of diversity in all its forms in the classroom – because we focus on drawing connections and using metaphor and comparison to learn, all students have the resources to contribute from the very first day of class. This is true even on topics that can be as overwhelming with detail as DNA replication, where foundational awareness of “what does DNA look like,” with no knowledge of what it does or how it works, can immediately spark intuitive and correct assumptions about what might be required to duplicate a tightly wound, templated double helix.