Preliminary Teaching Philosophy

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The following was prepared in early 2013 as part of my application to the 2013-2014 Preparing the Professoriate Program at North Carolina State University.

“My broad philosophy of teaching is that student engagement and empowerment can improve learning.  In engineering courses, as with many other disciplines, material is often interdisciplinary.  It can benefit the students to have this content delivered in a way which enables those who do not necessarily have a foundation in those disciplines to learn the essential concepts.  My previous experiences with instruction, mentoring, and advisement have helped me better understand how to relate to students.

It isn’t possible to convey all the necessary information to students during lecture time alone, but it is possible to provide them with approaches to problem solving which can be used to complete out-of-class assignments.  I feel that it is important to demonstrate to students that they have can gain the knowledge necessary to be successful with course material.  Instructional sessions should try to improve the students’ comprehension of the subject matter, and from there the goal is for students to apply this to exercises and assignments.  During my own engineering education, my classmates would often give up on course tasks because they perceived the problems to be impossible for them.  I have since noticed through my instruction experience that students who believe they can be successful are more likely to strive for success.  Course material should be incrementally more challenging such that the students have to stretch themselves, but shouldn’t advance so quickly that the majority of a class is left behind, feeling that there is no point in trying.

During an instructional session, it is important to provide clear learning objectives and to engage students throughout the session.  I feel that classroom sessions are more effective when two-way communication is encouraged.  If students are not clear on subject material, their feedback is essential so that the instruction can be adjusted as necessary to ensure the majority of students have understood the main learning objectives.    Presenting the learning objectives in several ways also helps to reach the most students.  For example, first explaining new material with visual aids and then working a representative problem can help students with varied learning styles.

Instruction of more than 20 supplemental problem sessions for Hydraulics (CE 382) during 2012-2013 has shown me which concepts the students find difficult to grasp.  My current approach is to identify material which the majority of students find challenging and to present it in a manner which aims to be unintimidating yet thorough.  I feel that it is important to convey to the students that although the material is challenging, they are capable of comprehending the concepts and succeeding in the course by reviewing course material and completing representative problems.  Students can learn the most when they believe they have the skill to complete assignments successfully.  Although each student is different, if a task is perceived to be far beyond his ability, he may give up or not even attempt the assignment, which further reduces the potential for learning and retaining the key concepts of a course.  Of course, this approach is not necessarily practical in a lecture course where there is a baseline of material which must be covered.  However, I am interested in incorporating self-evaluation, whereby students challenge themselves with time-limited exercises and gauge their mastery of the concepts.”

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