Instructor Spotlight – Karen Smith

Photo source: Karen Smith

Karen Smith is the BIOL 112 Coordinator for the Biology program and a Lecturer in the Dept. of Microbiology & Immunology. She is also the Faculty Lead for the Student Diversity Initiative in Science and a Faculty Fellow for the first year orientation programs, Imagine, Jump Start and Collegia.

Karen is the recipient of the UBC Science Killam Teaching Award 2016 and founder and co-chair of the UBC First Year Educators’ Symposium. In addition to her contributions to the scholarship of teaching and learning (productive failure, flexible learning, threshold concepts and invention activities), Karen’s education research also examines wellbeing in the classroom such as the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund project “Promoting Academic Tenacity”. She is currently working on an Equity and Inclusion Scholars project to examine equitable practices for learning activities in the classroom.

What do you enjoy most about being an Instructor?

Teaching has always been dynamic and changing – that is what I enjoy the most. My role is never the same as the first year student is different each academic year. As instructors, we are constantly facing different rewards and challenges – but that is what keeps us on our toes!

How would you describe your teaching style?

I like to teach in a fun but productive approach that supports students learning and wellbeing. Deep learning is difficult and sometimes it is not obvious why students are struggling. That is why I was interested in exploring a productive failure approach to our classroom. I also take the time in class to remind students of co-curricular activities that not only enrich their lives but also promote self-regulation skills and social belonging.

What is a memorable anecdote from your own undergraduate experience?

Develop your study skills! These are life-long tools you will continuously use in the future!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

To escape, I like to read fictional books and I am currently trying to do hand-lettering. It takes a lot of practice and is harder than it looks! I also enjoy running and cycle classes.

What is a fun fact about you that people may not know?

I had a few nicknames in my life. My childhood nickname was “Bumper”.  Embarrassingly, my cousins still call me by this nickname. Later, when I started working at UBC, my nickname at work was “Maggie” based on my middle name. For many years, no one knew who “Karen” was!

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