Throughout the 2013-2014 academic year, my teaching philosophy was influenced by the seminars in which I participated, observing experienced faculty members instructing class, meetings and discussions with my faculty mentor, resources provided to PTP fellows, and my own experiences instructing class and grading student assessments. Before the fellowship period, I believed that student engagement was very important to student learning. After observing student interaction in the classroom and performance on assessments, I still believe this to be true. Additionally, I still have the perspective that engineering material should be presented in a way that enables students from different backgrounds with different core knowledge to be able to understand and sympathize the material. However, after completing course instruction for hydraulics (CE 382) and grading the final exam, I believe that students must take responsibility for their own learning and that instructors must encourage and facilitate this through clear communication and challenging out of class assignments.To this end, I tried to keep an online question and answer forum active and also periodically emailed students regarding upcoming assignments and deadlines and to inform them about office hours and optional appointment times.
Related to clear communication, I still believe that out of class assignments should be challenging and representative of what students will face on assessments. Holding students accountable for these assignments is necessary to incentivize them to put an adequate and appropriate effort into learning the course material. Ideally students would complete assignments and activities for the sake of their own comprehension, however as an instructor I now recognize that without the incentive of a grade, less motivated students will not put as much effort into learning course material. In the future I hope to explore other ways to motivate students rather than relying on grades alone, however that must be a component of any undergraduate class.
While in the classroom, engaging students with periodic questions and example problems helps keep the classroom dynamic active and encourages all students to participate in simple but representative exercises that will introduce and reinforce course material. I found that students who were more active in class tended to perform better on all assignments and assessments. These students also tended to utilize office hours and generally reach out for assistance when needed. Because students have different personalities, levels of confidence, and learning styles, I believe it is important to provide an avenue for less interactive students to obtain instructor assistance when needed.
As stated in my preliminary teaching philosophy, I believe it is important to define learning objectives and thinking students as much as possible throughout the lecture. Throughout the semester I spent a few minutes at the beginning of each class reviewing what has been discussed in the previous session, discussing the topics for the day, and feeling any administrative items including assignment due dates, upcoming assessments, and office hours. Additionally, I tried to close each class with the summary of the day’s material. I believe the structure is useful and important to help organize and clearly present and review new material.
In conclusion, my teaching philosophy remains similar to that which I described prior to the academic year. Student engagement during lecture sessions is crucial to encouraging student involvement and participation, which can improve student comprehension of new course material. Out of class assignments that are geared towards learning objectives are also essential to preparing students for course assessments and to be able to synthesize important concepts in the future. Instructor availability and willingness to work with students is also very important, as is clear communication with respect to learning objectives, expectations, assignments, and assessments. Students must ultimately take ownership of their own success, but an involved and concerned instructor can motivate students to participate, complete assignments, perform well on assessments, and be able to apply key concepts to future courses and in the workforce.