- Environment 100 – Introduction to Environmental Studies
- Environment 301 – Research Methods in Environmental Studies
- Environment 310 – Data Analysis in Environmental Studies
- Environment 401 – Analysis of Environmental Cases
- Environment 495C – Environmental Issues in East Asia
- Taiwan Study Abroad Program – Exploring Environmental and Social Resilience
Environmental Studies can be a depressing subject to teach and yet as a discipline it also connotes a moral imperative that people should save the environment. As an educator, I find myself grapple with these challenges. Whereas personally I give high priorities on environmental considerations, through the years of teaching, I have realized that education is much broader than the transference of knowledge and values. To me, the goal of education is to prepare students with the skills to explore the world and to ask tough questions, to guide students to find their passion, and to inspire students to be part of the effort for making the world a brighter place shared with all the diverse human and non-human beings.
I am a stronger believer and practitioner of the “active learning” model of education. When students take ownership of their learning, not only are they actively making sense of what they are learning, but they are also applying newly learned concepts into problem-solving in different scenarios. I have integrated various active learning strategies into my teaching. For example, clickers, think-pair-share, problem-based learning, and jigsaw roundtable discussion. I found this type of learning has long-lasting effects in a way that students see the value of class work with new insights. An example is a small-scale group research project for my Research Methods course (ENVIR 250). Students are the ones who came up their own research questions and design. Then, they collected their own research data and conducted analysis and presentation. My students reported that they appreciated this guided opportunity to experience the ins and outs of the research process and the skills they learned can be applied to future projects.
Moreover, my students are trained to be critical thinkers and to ask tough questions about any information presented to them. We now live in an era with exploding volume and speed of information circulating via various media. Rather than believing whatever information at face value, my students are asked to critically evaluate the credibility of the sources, the validity of the claims, and biases in the presentation methods. An example is the critiquing exercise in my Socio-Environmental Data Analysis course (ENVIR 495C). My students are trained to be critical consumers as well as producers of data. The skills of critical thinking and asking tough questions have application far beyond data analysis. These are indispensable skills all students should master in order to navigate the complexity of the real world.
One of my core values in higher education is to guide students to find their passion and at the same time to respect diversity. This generation of students grew up with much more exposure to environmental lessons than any previous generations – to much doomsday narratives not only provide little hope for the future, but also foster apathetic attitudes towards environmental issues. To avoid these unintended downsides of environmental education, I realized that we need to make environmental topics relatable to students’ personal lives and to offer tangible solutions. For example, in my Introduction to Environmental Studies course (ENVIR 100), I guide my students to reflect on their own connection to the various environmental topics we learned and to respect different opinions. In addition to teaching, I am also involved in several leadership and service initiatives on the UW campus, such as the Husky Leadership Initiative and Service Learning through the Carlson Center. Along with my ongoing mentoring of undergraduate capstone students and peer TAs, I have enjoyed this process of guiding students to find their passion and to be an agent of positive change in this challenging world.
Whereas one of my core values in teaching is to guide students to respect diversity – respecting different opinions and keeping an open mind when confronted with opposite opinions, I also strive for providing a learning environment that serves the needs of our diverse student population. I provide diverse learning experience and assessment options for my students to tap into their strengths in different ways and to give students opportunities to practice new skills. Examples of innovative assessments include policy white papers, position papers, group posters, and peer evaluations. By providing a variety of learning experience and assessment options to my students, I make an effort to ensure that everyone is included. I believe that everyone has an equal right to education, and, as a teacher, I should do my best to ensure inclusivity in teaching
Finally, one of my goals in teaching is to develop students’ skills in interdisciplinary collaboration. Environmental issues are never just one-dimensional nor are solutions for addressing these challenges. My students are trained to analyze environmental issues from multiple dimensions and to synthesize information across disciplines. For example, in the Analysis of Environmental Cases course (ENVIR 300), my students practice interdisciplinary synthesis through concepting mapping and roundtable discussion. My students all expressed that the practice broadened their perspectives on environmental issues and enabled them to foster interdisciplinary collaboration.
Teaching, for me, is also learning and the discovery of self. I am grateful for all the students who welcomed me to be part of their journey in education. I appreciate what my students have taught me on how to be a better teacher and mentor. Teaching is also a lifelong process and I aspire to continue keeping up with the latest developments in teaching and learning and to continue innovating my teaching strategies to serve the best interest of students.