Speaker Series: Teaching & Learning in Science through the Lens of Indigeneity, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

This invited speaker series features prominent and influential thought leaders in inclusive STEM education. The series will feature guest speakers who will address topics relating to their expertise in inclusive STEM education that are of interest to the UBC Science teaching and learning community. Speakers will represent various disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, geology, etc.), identities (IBPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+, etc.), and specialties (curriculum, pedagogy, research). This series is sponsored by UBC Science's Strategic Innovation Fund.

Organizers:  General enquiries:
Adele Ruosi skylight@science.ubc.ca
Christine Goedhart  
Jackie Stewart  
Sarah Bean Sherman  





Previous Events

A New-Old Way of Doing Assessment: Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Ungrading in a Pandemic

Angela Letendre and Rebekah Bennetch - March 2023

When: Tuesday, March 14, 12:30pm-2:00pm

Where: Online via Zoom (registration closed)

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has presented educators with a unique opportunity to re-evaluate traditional teaching methods, including their approaches to grading. In response to our changing times, an alternative to traditional assessment, called "ungrading," has been gaining popularity in many educational circles (Strommel, 2018; Blum, 2020). Our presentation will explore the benefits of ungrading, particularly in its alignment with Indigenous ways of knowing: promoting self-determination, reciprocal relationships, and deep thinking, all of which are crucial for student growth (Steinhauer et al., 2020). As two teachers from diverse academic backgrounds, we will share our experiences of implementing alternative assessment methods in both polytechnic and university settings. We will discuss how ungrading has transformed our teaching methods, relationships with students, and the overall learning experience in the classroom. Through discussion and reflection, participants will explore ways to apply ungrading principles to their teaching practices. We will share tips on how to integrate alternative assessment into instructional methods, making grading a more positive and engaging process for both teacher and student. Our presentation aims to demonstrate that knowledge exists across our student population, our educators, and the land we teach on. We believe that assessment can shift from prioritizing recall and grades to fostering more reciprocal learning relationships, aligning with Indigenous ways of knowing, the interests of students, and creating an enriching learning environment.

About the Presenters:

Angela Letendre, M.Ed. has a Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan and completed her Master of Education from the University of Regina and Gabriel Dumont Institute in 2021. She has taught adult education her entire 25 years and is now a Faculty member in the Saskatchewan Polytechnic School of Business, Prince Albert campus. Angela grounds the courses she teaches in miyo wahkohtowin (good relationships) as the foundation for learning and teaching. She is an authentic educator currently studying leadership and pursuing a diploma in Business Management. Angela believes it is important to model lifelong learning and to be passionate about what she teaches.

Rebekah Bennetch is a Lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan's Graham School of Professional Development in the College of Engineering, where she teaches technical communication and public speaking courses. Additionally, Rebekah is a doctoral candidate and will soon start her dissertation research in a cross-disciplinary education program. Her research interests center around implementing trauma-informed teaching practices, developing rapport with students in the classroom, and utilizing narrative inquiry methods to foster connections with fellow faculty. Rebekah also engages with the education community through Twitter, where she can be found at @grrrlmeetworld.

Mind the Gap: Active Learning Improves Equity in STEM Classrooms

Dr. Elli Theobald - December 2022

When: Thursday, December 15, 2:00pm-3:30pm

Where: Online via Zoom (registration closed)

Abstract: Educational inequity remains one of the most persistent and intractable problems in our society. Without equity, the STEM workforce in particular is unlikely to meet the needs of the growing economy and will also suffer from stunted innovation, as diverse groups are more creative and more successful at solving complex problems. Despite widespread efforts to increase access to and inclusion in STEM, minoritized students remain excluded from both STEM majors and STEM professions. The reasons for this are complex but instructors can play an active role in disrupting these inequities. For example, active learning techniques have been shown to improve student performance on average, but can active learning also be a partial solution to achieving equitable student outcomes? In this seminar, I will share recent work demonstrating that opportunity gaps—differential performance between minoritized students (BIPOC students as well as low-income students) and over-represented students—were reduced by 75% in college STEM courses when instructors incorporated active learning strategies, but only when active learning was implemented in a majority of class time. I find these data hopeful, albeit demonstrating only a partial solution to inequity in higher education.

About the Presenter: Dr. Elli Theobald is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington. Prior to her current position, she worked as a middle school and high school teacher, completed her PhD in ecology, and transitioned to discipline-based education research as a postdoc. Currently, the heart of her research program revolves around how to be a better teacher, with particular emphasis on how to achieve equity in college-level STEM classes. 

Strategies for and Barriers to Collaboratively Developing Anti-Racist Policies and Resources as Described by Geoscientists of Color Participating in the Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE) Program

Carlene Burton - November 2022

When: Monday, November 21, 2:00pm-3:30pm

Where: Online via Zoom (registration closed)

Abstract: The Unlearning Racism in Geosciences (URGE) program guides groups of geoscientists as they draft, implement, and assess anti-racist policies and resources for their workplace. Some participating Geoscientists of Color (GoC) shared concerns about microaggression, tokenism, and power struggles within their groups. Analyses of data collected from five discussion groups and two surveys reveal that correcting a history of mistrust relating to racism and anti-racism action is key to implementing and assessing effective anti-racist policies and resources. This requires leadership support, following through on anti-racism action, and deepening collaborative relationships with multiracial (heterogenous grouping of People of Color and White people) groups.  Future anti-racist programs should spend a substantial amount of time on and demonstrate the importance of training participants to discuss racism effectively and create and adhere to robust behavioral codes of conduct. Future programs should also explore developing a robust program-wide code of conduct that includes a policy for reporting offenses.

About the Presenter: Carlene Burton is a research data analyst II at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Her research focuses on recruiting and retaining People of Color in geosciences. She does presentations and workshops on the subject. Mother, Jamaican, lab manager, a member of the URGE (Unlearning Racism in Geoscience) leadership team are other hats she proudly wears. She spent half her adult life following her passion for improving STEM education in underrepresented communities. Carlene has trained middle school science teachers and administrators on using student-centered pedagogies such as Project-Based Learning and Maker Space Learning to teach students science. Carlene wants to be a fun-loving grandma, which she believes is achievable by enjoying the lighter side of life and being a JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) warrior.

Chemistry and Indigenous Knowledge: Development of Novel Chemistry Courses and Labs Highlighting Indigenous Traditions in Medicine, Food, and Fine Art​

Dr. Vincent Ziffle - October 2022

When: Wednesday October 26, 3:00pm – 4:30pm

Where: Online via Zoom (registration closed)

Abstract: Chemistry and Indigenous Knowledge can go hand-in-hand in the undergraduate classroom and lab. CHEM 101: Chemistry of Food and Cooking at First Nations University of Canada has been designed to engage introductory science students with its emphasis on practical knowledge in chemistry, its application to food and cooking, and Indigeneity. Equity, diversity, and inclusivity is fostered by highlighting Indigenous Food Traditions and the contributions of First Nations Elders, chefs, and other Traditional Knowledge Keepers. Its novel food lab uses interdisciplinary and experiential pedagogies to connect land-based learning and laboratory. An ongoing Indigenous Medicinal Plant survey, and its connection to Indigenous Food Traditions and Medicinal Chemistry will also be discussed, in addition to a new Indigenous pictograph paint project relying on Traditional Ecological Knowledge, unconventional undergraduate coursework, and modern spectrometry techniques.

About the Presenter: Dr. Vincent Ziffle (he/him) is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv), in Regina, Saskatchewan. He has been teaching there since 2010. His research interests include Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous Science, uses and chemistry of Medicinal Plants of the Boreal Shield and Central Plains, organic chemistry of plant secondary metabolites, Indigenous Fine Art technologies, and food chemistry. He works toward the elucidation of medicinal plant compounds with noteworthy medicinal properties, and the treatment of nefarious biofilm infections via Traditional methods. Dr. Ziffle has also developed CHEM 101: Chemistry of Food and Cooking, which incorporates food chemistry, plant medicine and Indigenous Food Traditions, and unique food labs where students learn from Traditional Knowledge Keepers about Indigenous Food pathways, sovereignty, and sustainability. He is a promoter of all things STEM and is a proponent of STEAM – capital “A” for arts, design, and Indigenous Culture – via Let’s Talk Science and FNUniv’s Indigenous Outreach team of student mentors and educators. 

Talk Matters: Investigating the Nature of Non-Content Classroom Language - Instructor Talk - that May Mediate Student Inclusion, Engagement, and Learning

Dr. Kimberly Tanner - September 2022

When: Tuesday, September 27, 12:30pm–2:00pm

Where: Online via Zoom (registration closed)

Abstract: Through the language they use, instructors create classroom environments that have the potential to impact learning by affecting student motivation, resistance, belonging, and self-efficacy. However, despite the critical importance of instructor language to the student experience, little research has investigated what instructors are saying in undergraduate classrooms. We systematically investigated instructor language that was not directly related to content and defined this as Instructor Talk. We identified five robust categories of Instructor Talk that can characterize ~90% of non-content language found in over 60 courses: 1) Building Instructor/Student Relationships, 2) Establishing Classroom Culture, 3) Explaining Pedagogical Choices, 4) Sharing Personal Experience, and 5) Unmasking Science. The remaining ~10% of instances of Instructor Talk in these settings were categorized as negatively phrased or potentially discouraging in nature. Attention to Instructor Talk in undergraduate classrooms may be key for instructors to create inclusive learning environments and promote student learning. 
About the Presenter: Dr. Kimberly Tanner is a rotating Program Officer in the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) at the National Science Foundation, on leave from her position as a tenured Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University. Her laboratory – SEPAL: the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory – investigates what is challenging to learn in biology, how biologists choose to teach, and how to make equity, diversity, and inclusion central in science education efforts. As a Science Faculty with an Education Specialty (SFES), she is engaged in discipline-based education research, directs multiple K-16+ biology education reform efforts, and is deeply engaged in faculty professional development. She is a founding editorial board member and current Co-Editor-in-Chief of the leading journal in her field, CBE–Life Sciences Education (LSE). Trained as a neurobiologist with postdoctoral studies in science education, Dr. Tanner is a proud first-generation college-going student, accustomed to she/her pronouns, and proud mom of a jazz/rock drummer and an aspiring robotics engineer, both produced in partnership with her college sweetheart and biochemistry lab partner.

Challenges and Opportunities for Students with Disabilities in Evolving Learning Environments: Active Learning, Online Instruction, and Undergraduate Research 

Dr. Logan Gin - June 2022

When: Monday, June 6, 2022 | 12:30pm-2:00pm

Where: Online via Zoom (registration closed)

Abstract: Innovations in undergraduate education have increased the prevalence of active learning courses, online education, and student engagement in the high-impact practice of undergraduate research, however it is unknown whether students with disabilities are able to engage in these innovative learning environments to the same extent that they are able to engage in more traditional learning environments. Universities, disability resource centers, and instructors are mandated to provide accommodations to students with disabilities for the purposes of prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Are accommodations being adapted and created for these new types of learning environments? This seminar describes findings from four studies about the experiences of students with disabilities in these three learning environments, specifically examining the challenges students with disabilities encounter and the emerging recommendations for more effective accommodations. In this work, I find that students with disabilities experience challenges in each of these learning environments and that the current suite of accommodations are not sufficient for accommodating students with disabilities. I argue that institutions need to consider modifying student accommodations and the process for obtaining them to better support students with disabilities in these evolving learning environments. I also provide recommendations for the ways in which we can make undergraduate science education more accessible and inclusive of students with disabilities.

About the Presenter: Dr. Logan Gin is currently the Assistant Director for STEM Education at the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University and he works on initiatives related to STEM graduate student teaching professional development. Prior to arriving at Brown, Dr. Gin was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at Arizona State University and served as the program manager for an NSF S-STEM program focused on involving community college transfer students in undergraduate research. Logan holds a Ph.D. in Biology from Arizona State University where his dissertation work centered around the experiences of STEM students with disabilities. He also holds a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Two Spirit Teachings: Honoring the Sacred Space between and within all of us

Harlan Pruden - April 2022

When: Tuesday April 26, 12:30pm - 2:00pm

Where: Online via Zoom (registration closed)

Abstract: Many cultural traditions and practices of the peoples of Turtle Island have often been misrepresented or suppressed. The misrepresentation mainly occurred because the colonizers did not have a context to frame, understand and value these ways and the suppression, primarily, occurred because these ways went against the colonizer’s christian doctrine, a doctrine that righteously justified the subjugation of indigenous bodies and lands and was one of the underlying tenets of the residential/boarding schools and such policies. This especially holds true for Indigenous notions and practices of gender (roles, identities and/or expression), sex and sexuality.

This presentation explores these concepts by featuring some of the sociohistorical documentation from a nation-specific standpoint while supplementing these records and narratives with a deconstructed colonial account(s). A brief overview is offered on how this burgeoning body of knowledge is used to (re)claim and restore respect, honor and dignity for today’s Two-Spirit individuals and communities as they navigate and negotiate Indigenous and LGBTQI+ spaces, places and communities. Finally, a discussion is taken up on the (re)positioning of ‘Two-Spirit’ as this work and discussion(s) significantly differs from that of the (non-Native) LGBTQ movement(s) putting forth a critique of the ‘western’ framing of gender, gender-roles, and sexuality; thus opening up a space that transcends and challenges the binary; thereby, creating a space to dream of a rich, complex and diverse world that acknowledges the ‘other’ while honoring, celebrating and valuing the gifts and medicines the ‘other’ has to offer thus creating a sacred (and safe) place and space that calls everyone home.


  • Gain knowledge of Indigenous and Two-Spirit people(s) and communities
  • Increase familiarity of issues and challenges confronting Indigenous and Two-Spirit people(s) and communities
  • Receive resources for additional learning and referrals

About the Presenter: Harlan Pruden (nēhiyo/First Nations Cree), works with and for the Two-Spirit community locally, nationally and internationally. Currently, Harlan is the Indigenous Knowledge Translation Lead at Chee Mamuk, an Indigenous health program at British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, and is also a co-founder of the Two-Spirit Dry Lab (TwoSpiritDryLab.ca), Turtle Island's first research group that exclusively focuses on Two-Spirit people, communities and/or experiences. Harlan is a Ph.D. student at Simon Fraser University and is working to understand how (and if) Two-Spirit facilitates access to health information and well-being for Indigenous sexual and gender minority peoples and/or communities.

Harlan is also the Managing Editor of TwoSpiritJournal.com and an Advisory Member for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Gender and Health. Before relocating to Vancouver in 2015, Harlan was co-founder and a Director of NYC community-based organization, the NorthEast Two-Spirit Society and was a President Obama appointee to the US Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and provided advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of Health & Human Services and the White House. (In December 2018, Harlan was (happily) fired/dismissed from PACHA by Mr. Trump via Fedex.)

When active learning fails: Faculty beliefs, student outcomes, and opportunity gaps

Dr. Stanley M. Lo - March 2022

When: Wednesday March 30, 3:00pm - 4:15pm

Where: Both in-person and Zoom options:

  • In person: Allan Yap Biodiversity Auditorium in the Beaty Biodiversity Museum (note: Vaccine Card required at this location)
  • Zoom: (registration closed)

Abstract: In the past few decades, many commission reports have called for the transformation of undergraduate education. While many active-learning approaches can be effective across contexts, discrepant results raise questions about specific implementations and their efficacies. Our research examines how different instructors implement the same active-learning approaches and what factors contribute to equitable student outcomes. First, we used case studies with qualitative and quantitative methodologies to determine how multiple instructors enacted the same curriculum, why they implemented active learning in distinct ways, and what actions in the classrooms supported student learning. Second, we used phenomenography with in-depth interviews to develop a novel framework for how instructors understand inclusion in higher education. Through campus-level data, we identified conceptions of diversity, assessment, and grading that correlated with reduced opportunities gaps for course grades. Together, we propose a model from these results to understand how and why faculty teach differently and what features of their instructional practices promote student success in an equitable manner.

Dr. Stanley M. Lo is an Associate Teaching Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Affiliate Faculty in Mathematics and Science Education at the University of California San Diego. Collaborative projects in his research group examine how faculty conceptions of diversity, learning, and teaching inform their instructional practices and influence student outcomes; explore how student identities intersect with their experiences to create complex opportunities and challenges for learning; and develop innovative curricula and programs to support student success. Dr. Lo holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Harvard University and was a Research Associate in Learning Sciences at the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University. He was a National Academies Education Fellow and Mentor in the Life Sciences in 2011-2016 and is currently the President for the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research.