–Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Philosophy–
Ruminations. My teaching philosophy was conceptualized through observation of my mentors and colleagues, successful completion of pedagogy workshops, and experimentation during my tenure as a doctoral student and now faculty member at the University of Alabama. Amid this process of observing, training, and testing, I developed my own pedagogical style. In doing so, I discovered that teaching is a blend of art and science; an amalgamation constantly refined through personal reflection as well as feedback from students, peers, and mentors.
Curriculum. I believe goal setting is the cornerstone of curriculum development. In developing my learning objectives, I strive for goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, and challenging. At the beginning of each course I provide my students with my syllabus, which explicates my course expectations and learning objectives. During my introduction, I demonstrate to students how each assignment works directly towards the accomplishment of the course goals. I find students appreciate this approach as they perceive greater relevancy of the course assignments.
Bounded autonomy. I adhere to an authoritative teaching style in accomplishing my course goals. Under this paradigm, I establish clear learning objectives that serve as the boundaries for my courses; however, within these parameters I encourage autonomy by offering multiple options for accomplishing the course goals. I have discovered that empowering students in this manner instills within them a sense of ownership over the learning objectives. For instance, when I taught Personal Health Behavior, I delivered an electronic survey to my students that requested they rank-order the amount of emphasis placed on the health topics I covered in the class. Other examples of this technique include permitting students to select from several assignments that accomplish the course objectives or allowing students to determine the teaching method that will be used for a particular topic. Upon first implementing this teaching style, I quickly realized that each class has a unique personality as no two groups of students selected the same set of permutations. In addition, I found this variety helps to keep the course content fresh; both for myself and for my students.
Intermittent feedback. Quality feedback is critical to goal success. At various intervals throughout my courses, I request feedback from students using electronic surveys and focus groups. I apply this bench marking technique to gauge the progress I am making in achieving my learning objectives. I have found this practice allows me to address any learning gaps in real-time, as opposed to waiting until the end of the course to identify deficiencies.
Organic learning. I believe pedagogical experiences are enriched when a diversity of modalities are infused into the educational landscape. To cultivate a rich learning milieu, I employ an array of pedagogical techniques into my courses to actualize higher learning including interactive lectures, classroom demonstrations, in-class and out-of-class activities, role-plays, case studies, and group discussions.
For example, when I served as an instructor at the University of Cincinnati, students in my Lifestyles, Health, and Wellness classes completed surveys that polled them about various health behaviors. Upon completing the surveys, students scored themselves and received succinct, personalized assessments about their health. Next, I engaged the students in large group discussions and elucidated techniques to modify unhealthy behaviors. Additionally, I encouraged peer-to-peer interaction so other students in the class could offer suggestions to their colleagues. This learning sequence engaged the class and personalized the content in a manner that was germane and directly relevant to each student. Similarly, throughout my Applied Statistics in Human Services II course, I incorporated routine use of case studies designed to channel the students into quantitative thinking. Students routinely stated this pedagogical approach helped them understand the applicability of statistics and made advanced data analysis less intimidating.
As a faculty member at the University of Alabama, I have continued to incorporate a variety of teaching techniques into my courses. During each class, I attempt to layer several pedagogical modalities to stimulate student interest and to tap into a variety of learning styles. For instance, to demonstrate the applicability of public health theory, students in my Principles of Health Promotion course complete an instrument I developed that measures theory of planned behavior-based predictors of healthy sleep. Once completed, I collect the student's questionnaires and break them up into small groups where they discuss intervention activities to improve their sleep behaviors. While the students are engaged in this small-group activity, I input their questionnaire responses into statistical software. Once entered, I conduct an interactive lecture in which I review their results, describe how the constructs of the theory are measured, and how the techniques they brainstormed in their small groups could be used to develop evidence-based sleep health recommendations.
Similarly, doctoral students in my Advanced Evaluation of Health Programs course develop skills to systematically analyze intervention research. The culminating project requires students to present their findings in both conference presentation and manuscript formats. Students frequently state they appreciate the practicality of this assignment and consistently provide positive feedback regarding the class structure. At various intervals throughout the course, I incorporate an active-learning teaching style, whereby core content related to evaluation design is delivered using online, audiovisual presentations; class time, then, is devoted to improving data analysis skills in a computer lab setting, drawing upon the examples described in the audiovisual materials. Combining foundational material with hands-on tutorials helps students understand the practical application of the course content while involving them in an engaging activity that stimulates their interest in evaluation methodologies.
Students not only require relevant content; they also need to acquire skills to apply the information they learn to solve real-world problems.
"Knowledge is necessary for, but not sufficient to produce, most behavior changes" (Rimer & Glanz, 2005, p. 12).
This principle is particularly true in the classroom. Ultimately, I believe most students seek a university education in their pursuit to discover a career that will bring their lives meaning and purpose. Upon receiving my bachelor's degree, I spent five years working in both the private and public sectors, during which time I was promoted twice. I believe this experience has provided me with a unique insight into the universal skill sets employers seek in college graduates. These include: (1) the ability to follow directions; (2) the proficiency to effectively communicate through a variety of mediums; (3) the capacity to think critically and solve problems; and (4) the capability to set and accomplish goals. Concomitantly, I structure my assignments to achieve two outcomes. The first is to accomplish my course learning objectives. The second is to foster the skill sets students will need to be successful in their professional endeavors. In describing my assignments to my students, I share this insight with them and articulate how the course projects will develop the professional competencies necessary to succeed in their career ambitions.
"Commitment is enhanced when people believe that achieving the goal is possible, and that achieving that goal is important" (Locke & Latham, 1994, p. 17).
My pedagogical style is oriented towards engaging students in the learning process, challenging students to expand outside of their mental comfort zones, and translating theory into practice. For each class I instruct, I reflect upon the feedback I receive from students, peers, and mentors in my ongoing quest to become a more effective teacher. I look forward to continuing to ameliorate my teaching philosophy in new environments and with diverse audiences of students.
Locke, E. A. & Latham, G. P. (1994). Goal setting theory. In H. F. O’Neil & M. Drillings (Eds.), Motivation: Theory and research. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Rimer, B. & Glanz, K. (2005, p. 12). Theory at a glance: A guide for health promotion practice, second edition. (NIH Publication No. 05-3896). Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute.
Teaching Philosophy by Adam P. Knowlden, MBA, MS, Ph.D. - Last Updated: 3/2023
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Research Statement
My research seeks to reify the relationship between sleep and adipose-based cardiometabolic health outcomes through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Cardiometabolic disease pathways associated with sleep and adiposity are often conceptualized as closed systems encompassing a constellation of intertwined biological and mechanistic processes. However, it is my assertion that complex public health problems must consider the cultural context in which the lived experiences of those affected are embedded. As noted by the eminent sociologist Simon Williams:
"When we sleep, where we sleep, and with whom we sleep are all important markers or indicators of social status, privilege, and prevailing power relations"
(Williams, 2005, p. 75).
Subsequently, I believe investigating how the most vulnerable members of society are impacted by sleep and obesity inequalities is fundamental to shaping and defining who we are as a community of researchers, academics, and public health practitioners.
Although progress has been made in modeling the associations between sleep and adiposity, the influence of the social determinants that drive the health disparities within these domains has received much less attention. Accordingly, I am collecting epidemiological, clinical, and free-living data as part of the SLUMBRx (Short Sleep Undermines Cardiometabolic Health) study to begin modeling the up- and downstream demographic and ecological factors that mediate these health outcomes.
This line of research holds substantial promise for public health within a diversity, equity, and inclusion framework; objective, empirical data exploring the interaction between adiposity and sleep, contextualized within a socioeconomic schema, are important for understanding cardiometabolic pathogenesis in diverse populations and for developing public health interventions to prevent its conception and treat its consequences.
Central to accomplishing these goals is my commitment to fostering a sense of trust in the communities I serve. A core tenant of my research philosophy is ensuring participants fully comprehend their rights as study volunteers during each stage of research inquiry. As such, I employ multiple mediums of communication, rooted in health literacy techniques, to ensure research volunteers understand both the benefits and risks to study participation throughout the lifecycle of an investigation.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Teaching Statement
I believe the classroom environment is optimized for education when learning is interactive, engaging, and conducted in a non-threatening atmosphere. To foster a safe learning space, I engender a psychosocial ecology of empathetic listening and compassionate communication within my classroom.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood"
(Covey, 1989, p. 120).
During the delivery of my course materials, I strive to ensure that health issues facing underrepresented communities are at the forefront of my course objectives and assignments. For example, in my undergraduate Environmental Health course, students react to the Anniston Alabama Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) case study in which minority communities were exposed to environmental contaminants through improper disposal of PCB waste products. In addition to assessing the policy prescriptions designed to initiate site remediation, this exercise requires students reflect upon the implications of the Anniston Community Health Survey data which found disproportionately elevated PCB levels among African Americans in Anniston, relative to their White counterparts (Pavuk et al., 2014).
As well, students in my doctoral, Advanced Evaluation of Health Programs course develop skills to incorporate face and content validation techniques to design culturally relevant measurement tools. As part of an in-class, panel of experts round table discussion, students critique methods to evaluate social determinants of health apropos to their specific research foci.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Service Statement
Cultural humility is at the core of all service opportunities I undertake. Whether service initiatives are advanced at the university, community, or professional level, I believe all stakeholders impacted by the results of the service activity have a right to express their voice.
"Cultural humility is a process of self-reflection and discovery in order to build honest and trustworthy relationships. It offers promise for researchers to understand and eliminate health disparities, a continual and disturbing problem necessitating attention and action on many levels" (Yeager & Bauer-Wu, 2013).
For example, when I served as chair of the search committee for the University of Alabama Department of Health Science tenure-track, assistant professor of biostatistics position, I requested the college-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee provide training to all members of the committee. I solicited their coaching as I believed it was our moral responsibility, as a committee, to ensure we operated with cultural competency and sensitivity throughout all stages of the search and interview process.
Concomitantly, when I served as an Associate Editor for the peer-reviewed journal, Health Education & Behavior, I actively sought the expertise of reviewers from a diversity of backgrounds and research perspectives when my finalizing editorial decisions.
Pavuk, M., Olson, J. R., Sjödin, A., Wolff, P., Turner, W. E., Shelton, C., ... & Anniston Environmental Health Research Consortium. (2014). Serum concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in participants of the Anniston Community Health Survey. Science of the Total Environment, 473, 286-297.
Williams, S. J. (2005). Sleep and society: Sociological ventures into the un(known). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
Yeager, K. A., Bauer-Wu, S. (2013). Cultural humility: Essential foundation for clinical researchers. Applied Nursing Research, 26(4), 251-260.
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Philosophy by Adam P. Knowlden, MBA, MS, Ph.D. - Last Updated: 3/2023