Fellows, together with their Mentors:
E. Burns, Civil Engineering
Each paragraph indicates a comments from an individual Fellow. Comments are organized into the following categories:
NB: Fellows were told that we expect to learn the following information from their reports:
The program really helped me establish a strong appreciation for what is important in teaching: are the students learning? When I began teaching, I was only concerned about content, and making my course a tough engineering course. Now, I have an appreciation for the fact that engineering education often confuses poor teaching with difficulty of subject matter [but] there should be very few, if any, barriers to effective learning.
The most important
improvement that I have made in my teaching through involvement in the
fellowship program is an increased awareness of my own teaching and an
exposure to the methods of other skilled teachers. I have learned that
dedication combined with self-awareness and self-criticism are critical
components to improved teaching.
One added benefit
for me from this program was an exposure to the teaching methods and philosophy
of non-scientists. Interacting with fellows from throughout
the University gave me an insight into how teaching is perceived and implemented
in non-technical fields. In addition, learning about the differences in
obligations and expectations of faculty in the various disciplines was
quite eye-opening. We clearly have very different jobs, but many of the
teaching issues that we deal with are similar.
From the retreat in Staunton, through the series of workshop, to the final convening to discuss courses, the workshops provided ongoing fodder for ways to improve teaching.
In my upper-level
course, I asked the students to do performances of scenes, and pointedly
left it to them to organize into groups, to decide what scenes to do and
what approaches to take, making clear that I would be a resource, but
not a determining authority. I doubt I would have had the courage to turn
so much over to them had I not been bolstered, not only by Jahan Ramazanis
workshop on critical thinking, but also by Claude Cookmans workshop
on creativity and the workshop on performance in the classroom run by
Michael Levenson and Karen Chase. The result, however, was spectacular:
the students came up with marvelous and inventive performances, group
efforts that uniformly displayed enormous care and forethought. They also
clearly love the opportunity, and several of them described these performances
as a highlight of the course on their evaluations. In the long run, probably
the most important and ongoing payoff from the fellowship experience is
both a conviction that it is possible and necessary to turn authority
over to students, and concrete strategies for doing so.
As a general reflection, the participation of senior faculty who have demonstrated an excellence in teaching or who have an interest in their protégés activities is an effective way to increase the talent pool in the program and to create for a more engaging environment for discussion of teaching.
opportunity to discuss all aspects of teaching with a renowned teacher
stands out as a very valuable experience. . . . Our lunch discussions
concerned many matters, from grading and exams, to managing TAs ,to graduate
student teaching, to how he runs his laboratory, to grant applications,
to juggling teaching and research to optimize both, to syllabus design.
The opportunity and excuse to talk about these sorts of matters was fabulous.
Boices Advice to New Faculty Members recommendation on working at teaching all the time, when you arent really workingat stoplights, or while pulling weeds in the gardenhas been most helpful. By jotting down notes at all kinds of odd times, the work involved in finally preparing presentations is markedly reduced.
Ultimately, if the students are well-trained in the fundamentals of problem solving, they can deal with most problems that they will face on the job. Often, it is the excessive and difficult content that drives students away from their technical courses. Therefore, I will focus on problem solving more directly in my courses. This tactic will be easily incorporated into my course redesign project through the project-oriented nature of the laboratory and simulation modules.
I am, needless
to say, much indebted to the feedback I have received as a teaching fellow
this year. As a result, I will not hesitate in the future to seek out
colleagues with whom I can discuss syllabi and other aspects of my worksomething
that I was indeed much more reluctant to do a year ago.