Department of Biological Sciences
University of Toronto Scarborough
Aarthi Ashok joined the University of Toronto in 2009. She earned her B.Sc. (1st class Honours) in Biochemistry & Genetics at the University of Sheffield, UK, and her Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry at Brown University, USA. She is Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, and Associate Chair, Undergraduate Affairs, in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). She is an innovative teacher, an accomplished scholar of teaching and learning, and a recognized leader in curriculum development and administration.
Professor Ashok’s effectiveness as an educator and influence as a pedagogical leader stem from her fundamental teaching philosophy, which combines a commitment to the principles of active, team-based, collaborative learning with a dedication to rigorous evidence-based methods for the evaluation of teaching outcomes. Professor Ashok is a strong advocate for curiosity-driven learning and evidence-based teaching within and beyond her department; most recently, as a member of the University of Toronto tri-campus Expert Panel on the Undergraduate Student Educational Experience (USEE).
She is passionate about creative assignment design and uses projects to enhance student learning in her courses. A hallmark of her record is the design of assignments and activities that create opportunities for students across courses and even across disciplines to work and learn collaboratively. She has designed interdisciplinary assignments in which biology and art students collaborate to create art pieces that engage the public on biological phenomena. She designed and implemented community-based experiential learning opportunities for students in a 4th year seminar course on Pathobiology of Human Disease. This successful partnership between UTSC and local community partners has been the recipient of two grants from Decanal and Provostial Experiential Learning Funds and has expanded from being a biology initiative to a STEM initiative, involving instructors from Environmental Chemistry, Mathematics, and Computer Science.
Professor Ashok mentors both graduate and undergraduate students as pedagogical research assistants. These students have shared in publications, numerous conference presentations, and awards (e.g. The Society of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference’s Pat Roger’s Poster Prize, 2013 and Ontario Biology Day’s Best Science Education Talk, 2019). This body of creative pedagogy that has been supported by eight teaching and SoTL grants, totaling more than $36,000 in funding. She has produced more than 30 teaching-related manuscripts, workshops, and presentations – many of these with student co-authors. She is currently co-leading a grant-funded, cross-disciplinary SoTL group at UTSC (Collaborative and Cross-disciplinary Hive for SoTL; CoaCH-SoTL) that is examining student attitudes and experiences in active learning classrooms. She is also contributing to the development of a nationwide template for biology curricula as part of a national educational taskforce (commissioned by the Canadian Council of University Biology Chairs).
Professor Ashok’s use of student-centered learning approaches has previously been recognized by the Principal’s Faculty Teaching Award as well as the University of Toronto Early Career Teaching Award.