Stephanie Douglas

Stephanie Douglas is an NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. Her research focuses on the rotation of low-mass stars, in particular on how the evolution of stellar rotation is affected by stellar magnetic fields and the presence of a binary companion.

Beginning in Fall 2020, she will be an Assistant Professor of Physics at Lafayette College, and she plans to incorporate inquiry lessons into her classes.


Teaching Activity Summary

Teaching venue: Banneker Institute

Teaching Date: June 10- 12 2019

Location: Center for Astrophysics (CfA), Harvard & Smithsonian

Learners: 7 undergraduate students.

Reflection on how the activity designed was influenced by research on equity & inclusion in STEM teaching:

We focused on developing a STEM identity as part of our lesson planning. Identity was a cross-cutting concept throughout all the E&I readings we covered, and recognition of each student as a scientist was critical in their continuation in the field. Carlone & Johnson (2007) found that recognition by “meaningful others” (other scientists) was strongly correlated with women of color viewing themselves as successful scientists. Lack of such recognition led to these women viewing themselves as disrupted scientists, some of whom were driven out of STEM. Our learners were part of a summer program designed to introduce URM students to a graduate school environment, so we viewed our lesson as an additional way to demonstrate authentic scientific processes.

We used poster presentations to help bolster the STEM identities of our learners. First, presenting research in a poster session is an authentic way to disseminate results in STEM contexts. We had learners switch between viewing other posters and presenting their own results, so that each group member had a chance to present on their own. One learner commented that the poster session “helped [them] to get comfortable with presenting/communicating your results.” Our learners were already expected to present their research later in the summer and at upcoming conferences, and this was clearly a useful, low-stakes exercise for practicing these skills.

Second, we also invited graduate students to come to the poster session and view the posters. We hoped that that would provide recognition for our learners from more established astronomers. Unfortunately, our learners were somewhat frustrated because although they had each investigated a question of their choosing, we asked them all to complete a specific task for the poster session. In the future, I would either change the poster prompt to better incorporate different investigation paths, or provide a more specific focus during the earlier parts of the activity.

Replicating a research experience was really valuable for our learners. They showed impressive enthusiasm for asking questions and then investigating them. One learner commented that they enjoyed “the hands-on approach, and the freedom to explore without judgment or urgency,” and another found it “very educational to conduct our own little research projects...and let us explore our own ideas.” Being able to control their own work and learning was very empowering for learners, and is something I would like to incorporate into my future teaching.