Catherine Kemp reports that once the co-designed BIO 100 textbook was utilized across the BIO 100 curriculum, students who once fell asleep in class began to participate. BIO 100 became more culturally relevant for Phillips Academy students through the redesign process and also became a professional development mechanism around equity for biology teachers.

We are focused on what lets all students learn.
—Catherine Kemp


The redesign of BIO 100 was an iterative process that included students. Through observations and the interpretation of student feedback, José and Catherine were able to intervene where appropriate in the instruction of biology. While the work of culturally relevant pedagogy is essential to good teaching, it also requires that teachers develop their own capacities for a reflective practice, cross cultural conversation, and the identification of what systemic racism looks like. While these are challenges, they are also cornerstone successes in the redesign of BIO 100.

Takeaways & Best Practices

  • The biology department rotates all continuing faculty through BIO 100. The course serves as professional development for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • The feedback from students changed the kind of lab work done in the biology department. Because of BIO 100s iterative process, students were a part of designing the pedagogy for the curriculum. Therefore, the curriculum is more relevant for students, creates more connections across disciplines, and provides a greater sense of community among teachers and students.
  • The redesign of BIO 100, in Catherine Kemp’s words, understands labs as a playground that students can explore. The benefits of play in the processing of new information, the creation of deep learning, and the retention of knowledge are well documented. The redesign of BIO 100 effectively creates a space where joy, play, and inquiry are central to pedagogy.

Bottom Line

The redesign of BIO 100 has catalyzed a culturally responsive, student-centered core course that impacts hundreds of students.

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