Are the students active or object in the classroom?

I read that Ira Shor, a professor at the City University of New York, believed that the role of students should change from the object to active. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_pedagogy)

I love his idea! I always hated to be an object from others. Though this reflects my personality, I think that a constructive classroom must have an active atmosphere for the students. They need to sense that their roles are very important in the classroom and if they do not participate in the class, they missed a major part of their life!

I remembered that some of my teachers had tried to motivate the students to show up in the class by some rules, for example, they had stated that the participation in class is 10% or even 20% of the total grade. I am sure that the students show up with this type of rules, but we should evaluate its efficiency. They may be in the class but they check their social network accounts like Facebook, twitter, and Instagram.

So, how can we motivate the students to be more active in the class? How can we reconstruct the relation between the teacher and students?

I have an idea that may work and it is worthy of mention. We may randomly select the students to present a brief lecture about the last session in a few minutes at the beginning of each session. This may help them to feel as a teacher and they think that they are teaching the course. I know that some instructors ask the students to present some contents of the course but I do not like this method of motivation. Because the students are not familiar with the topic and they may feel disappointed. Instead, we may teach them and ask them to review the materials and develop more details about it. It may work better and motivate them to deeply think about the course. Additionally, they feel that they are leading the class and it changes their mind about the atmosphere of the class.

In the last session, Professor Nelson asked the student to read their peers’ syllabus and criticized it. This is exactly an appropriate method of motivation. All students feel that they are grading his/her peer and learn more about another syllabus. Another positive point in this course is that the students must comment other blogs. They need to read other blogs and think about them then write a logical and meaningful comment. Both these methods are perfect ways to engage the students in the classroom.

Finally, I believe that the students should feel that they are learning an important topic in the class and if they miss one session they may lose a major knowledge. To create this perception, the teachers should use innovative methods of teaching and recreate their relations with students via social activities out of the class.

Posted in Contemporary Pedagogy – Spring 2016 | 4 Comments

Multicultural Experience during Higher Education

I believe that cultural activities should be added in the syllabuses of undergraduate courses. As an international student, I was impressed to observe several cultures and diversities during my Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. Graduate School at Virginia Tech consists of the students from several nationalities, therefore it creates an active atmosphere for the students to learn from other cultures. One of the reasons that I preferred to go abroad for my higher education was that I could learn more about other cultures and understand their school of thoughts.

I remember when I participated in Grad 5104 course, I was impressed that the class included several majors, for example, Art, Engineering, humanities and etc. The students also talked about their country briefly in two sessions and it was another interesting issue. Because it was great to gather students from more than eight different nations.

Now in pedagogy class, I have the same experience and it seems that the courses those are presented by Graduate School have been designed for this purpose. But, I think that we may use this opportunity better. For example, we may ask the students to present their experience of their culture related to pedagogy rules and methods. I watched an interesting video related to inclusive pedagogy and diversity. The instructor from Ball Sate University experimented a case by some students. In this video, the students explained their experience in this experiment.

http://dvisweb1.bsu.edu/media/BSU/OID/Timothy_Berg.html

It was so nice that the students learned several issues during that study. I believe that this type of classes has some advantages:

  • The students learn from their peers and can be familiar with other cultures and religions.
  • They share their ideas and it helps them to amend their style of life if they think that it is not perfect.
  • As an international student, I saw some misunderstanding related to my culture and religion in the past two years since my enrollment at Virginia Tech. So, by this method, the students understand each other better and it helps them to solve some misconceptions between different cultures and religions.

Consequently, inclusive pedagogy has a significant effect on the students’ life and may serve the students to learn more things in their life beyond their academic education.

 

 

Posted in Contemporary Pedagogy – Spring 2016 | 3 Comments

My Opportunity for Teaching

I remembered when I was a bachelor; I always thought how I may teach the courses those I took. I was trying to simulate the class environments for my courses. So, I can say that I taught all courses that I took in my bachelor. I tried to find a better way for teaching courses. But I had not the opportunity to teach any course until after my master.

After my master, my supervisor suggested me to help her by teaching a graduate course. The course was Bio-instrumentation for master students who were in the second semester. At the fist perception, I was happy but I was a concern after a few days because I needed to find an appropriate way to teaching. That was my first experience and I needed to do my best performance. I knew if I could teach reasonably, I might teach next semester as well.

I brought together all my thoughts to create an innovative method of teaching. I summarized it here.

First, I searched for scientific journals and resources to find the most recent knowledge about Bio-instrumentation. Because my advisor used an old book as her reference since 20 years ago and I believed that I need to find an updated version of this knowledge. So, I found another book and introduced to the students as the reference. I also edited the syllabus based on the new reference. I was pretty sure that one reference could not be enough for a graduate course. So, I gathered several scientific papers. I distributed the total credit of the course into some portions.  The student needed to gather their grades through the semester. I remember that I removed the final exam and I considered several quizzes (I personally hated the final exams because I had felt so stressful during exams days).  I asked students to read 11 papers and write a report related to those papers. I selected review papers for this task, and then they could learn a background of devices for bio-instrumentation. After that, I designed three experiments in the laboratory using the most recent sensors and devices. The students formed their own groups and performed the experiments. This task helped them to learn team-working though some members of groups had some problems with other members. As the last assignment, I asked them to design and perform an applied project regarding biomedical engineering. They needed to collect the data from the patients in the hospitals and clinics. I taught them some topics related to instrumentation and asked them to apply this knowledge to their data collection.  In the end, they presented their projects to other students.

I asked the students to fill out the evaluation form beyond official one from the university. They stated that this way could improve their understanding regarding Bio-instrumentation because they used the knowledge practically. This experience helped me to develop my own method of teaching and test it in a real condition. Although the students were satisfied with my method, I think that it had a major problem. I did not use a standard method for grading, so it was a little confusing for the students. Of course, I graded generously because I did not want to hurt the students and I knew that this is my first experience, therefore it might have some problems.

Posted in Contemporary Pedagogy – Spring 2016 | 4 Comments

Two Limitations for Imagination

Two limitations for imagination are funding resource and the government’s support for research. In this post I want to criticize the current policy in developing countries in the Middle East, then I want to introduce a recent established national institution in Iran. I think this institution may be an appropriate way to support students to improve their imaginations and skills.

Developing countries like many countries in the Middle East are sending their students to European and American countries to study in graduates programs. They support their students completely. They believe that these students will come back and improve the higher education in their countries. But, I believe that these type of activities cannot be enough and they should consider other aspects of higher education systems as well. One of the most important advantages of higher education systems in Europe and America is funding resources for projects. Most developing countries forget this important part of the higher education system. I believe that if the researchers cannot find good resources for their ideas and projects, they are not able to fulfill them. Therefore, higher education systems may not be beneficial for the society without any applied funded projects.

National Elite Foundation (NEF)

NEF was established in 2005 [3]. This institution has some specific rules to identify elite students and faculties. The qualified individuals are supported by NEF completely. NEF supports them by providing stipends as a fellowship. I could not find fellowships in Iran like in the US, but if one person can be a member of NEF, he/she receives awards for all his/her academic education. There are three levels of NEF members. The first level is a great opportunity for Iranian students. Because, NEF supports them completely and provides several facilities for them such as: housing, stipends, funding for their research, loans, and jobs after graduation. NEF also supports the first level to create their own business. Therefore, a lot of students try to be a member of this institution. The manager of this institution is the vice president of the Iranian government. So, he/she has significant authority to create new laws for supporting the NEF’s members.

As a past member of NEF, I should mention that NEF’s laws were variable in the first five years (2005-2010). But, after 10 years, they created stable laws to identify the elite students. For example, the students those were top ten in national entrance exams can be members of NEF.

In conclusion, though there are some progress related to funding resources in Iran, more efforts are required to support scientific projects regularly.

Posted in Contemporary Pedagogy – Spring 2016 | 6 Comments

The disadvantages for the current grading systems

I believe that the current method of the grading system does not work well and it is not a suitable indicator for the evaluations and assessments. I mention three disadvantages for it:

  • I explained this issue in my first blog related to the connected learning. I repeat it in this blog and suggest an alternative. I believe that there is no balance in education systems in the universities related to grading. You can imagine two students in the same major from two different universities. They have passed the same courses, but one of them took courses with some instructors who took easily. Therefore, the GPA of them is completely different. But, their knowledge is the same. They apply for a specific job and the investigator observes their GPA. Who will he be hired? Absolutely, the person who has higher GPA. So, I believe that current the education system is not fair. All of the students follow up their majors to get a degree. But, this degree cannot be an appropriate indicator of their qualifications.  We should find another method to certify the students about their knowledge. I want to suggest certifications instead of degrees. Certifications may be awarded to certify that the students know some skills in that area. Therefore, the employers should evaluate their applicants with more effective ways to select most qualified individuals for their jobs.

 

  • I personally believe that the exams are so stressful and I will be under pressure during exams. So I think we may need to find a better way to evaluate the students. This type of assessment may be the easiest way but it is not the best.

 

  • Each country has the own grading system. For example, the grading scale in Iran is from 0 to 20. In this link, you may find the grading system for each country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grading_systems_by_country . One issue regarding these differences is when the students want to apply to the universities in other countries. I had this problem when I applied to the US universities.  I firstly thought that I should divide my GPA by 5 to convert it to the US grading system. But after some applications, I understood that I needed to follow the specific instruction of each university to convert my GPA. For example Virginia Tech asked me to consider the grades above 16 as A.  Therefore, I think that the education systems should try to solve this problem. I could not find the reason for these differences and I do not know if it is related to the type of education system or not. I hope to find an answer to my question in Donna Riley’s discussion.
Posted in Contemporary Pedagogy – Spring 2016 | 1 Comment

How to Teach a Undergraduate Course

It was always challenging for me to find an appropriate method to teach some courses for undergraduate level. I saw several methods of teaching during my bachelor because I passed several courses with different instructors those had their own method of teaching. Some instructors used the blackboard or whiteboard and they preferred to ask the students to write the notes during their lecture. I remember 10 years ago when I entered to the university, most of the instructors have used blackboard and whiteboard but they wanted to change their mind to use video projector for presenting their lecture by PowerPoints. So, I experienced both sides of teaching methods (using blackboard and PowerPoints). However I believe that we may need to recruit another method to optimize our time.

I personally tried to implement different method of teaching when I had the opportunity to teach some undergraduate and graduate courses in the past years. For example, I was a co-instructor for Bio-instrumentation course. I utilized several learning assessment tools. I asked the students to form their groups, then design and perform an applied project regarding biomedical engineering. They needed to collect the data from the patients in the hospitals and clinics. I taught them some topics related to instrumentation and asked them to apply this knowledge during their data collection.  In the end, they submitted their results as conference papers. I wanted to get feedback from other experts practically, therefore I encouraged them to submit and present their projects in an International Biomedical Engineering conference. The reviewers rated the papers and the average score was about 4.2 out of 5. This grade meant that the papers were between very good and excellent domain. Two papers got the best paper awards from that conference.

I also asked the students to fill out the evaluation form beyond official one from the university. They stated that this way could improve their understanding regarding Bio-instrumentation because they used the knowledge practically.

Subsequently, using the novel method for teaching related to the course’s topics may has an effect on the consequences of teaching significantly. I do not claim that my method may work for any courses but I concluded that if the instructors try to utilize innovative ways for teaching, the students will appreciate it and learn the topics more effective. What do you think? Did you have any specific experience regrading new methods of teaching?

Posted in Contemporary Pedagogy – Spring 2016 | 5 Comments

Concerns Regarding Connected Learning

 

I personally liked the method of connected learning to educate the people. I think that it can be a modern education system in the future. Because, I believe all students are involved in an appropriate way and could state their ideas. They use this opportunity to learn more about the applications of their knowledge by sharing them with others. Furthermore, they practically implement their knowledge as a tool to help human beings because they will be educated by the instructors those are experts in that filed. But, I think that some concerns should be addressed before global usage of this method of learning beyond hardware and software issues.

  • This type of learning method may conflict between different nations and countries. The mother language of each country should be considered as the official language for education. The language of each country is its identity. The students should know other languages, particularly English language. But, they do not need to consider a foreign language as their own language instead of their mother language. The education in each country should respect to the culture and customs of that country as a pioneer. Therefore, I believe that the connected learning in each country should use the mother language of its region. This is obstacle for global usages of connected learning.
  • Another issue regarding this type of learning method is grading method and degree. How do the instructors evaluate their students? You can imagine two students in the same major. They have passed the same courses via connected learning, but one of them took courses with some instructors who took easy. Therefore, their GPA are completely different. But, they have the same level of knowledge. They apply for a specific job and the investigator observes their GPA. Who will be hired? Absolutely, the person who has higher GPA.  So, I believe that connected learning as an education system is not fair. All of the students follow their majors to get degree. But, this degree cannot be an appropriate indicator of their qualifications.  We should find another method to certify the students about their knowledge. We may suggest certifications instead of degrees. Certifications may be awarded to certify that the students know some skills in that area. Therefore, the employers should evaluate their applicants with more effective ways to select most qualified individuals for their jobs.
  • Is there any specific age for connected learning? I believe the age for learning is completely subjective. I agree that youths have more chance to learn the knowledge compared to the adults, but I do not think that this is a limitation for adults’ learning. However, I personally believe that one concern for adults is that their performance will be compared to youths, therefore they are afraid to participate in the course via connected learning.

Consequently, there are some problems that should be solved before using the connected learning globally.

Posted in Contemporary Pedagogy – Spring 2016 | 4 Comments

About Me

I am a PhD candidate at ISE, Virginia Tech.  My supervisor is Prof. Maury Nussbaum. Recently, I have graduated from M.Sc., Industrial and Systems Engineering Dept., Virginia Tech, USA.

Also, I have graduated from M.Sc.  in Mechanical Engineering (Biomechanical Division) at Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran. As a M.S. Biomechanical Alumni, I have worked on Wearable Technology, human movement analysis, Sensor fusion, Biomechatronics, Nonlinear control and Neural Network. I was working under supervision of Prof. M. Parnianpour at Sharif University and Prof. B. Moshiri at University of Tehran (Electrical Eng. Dept., IEEE Senior Member).

My M.S. thesis was “Wearable Measuring System for Trunk Movement using Printed Sensor Technology” and we won a grant award ($25000) from Iran National Science Foundation (INSF) to perform it. In this project, I utilized 18 IMU, 12 Textile sensors and a fusion of them to manufacture wearable clothing for trunk movement instrumentation for ten hours.

I received the B.Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering and I was ranked first out of 76 students. My thesis was “Design, Analysis and Manufacturing a Double Wishbone Suspension System with Variable Camber Angle by Pneumatics Mechanism”.

Posted in Contemporary Pedagogy – Spring 2016 | Leave a comment

VT Football Team

As an international student, I saw several new issues at Virginia Tech when I was enrolled in this university since 2014. One of these issues is football game.

After very short period, I understood that football game has a lot of advocates in the US universities. I know that the young students need some entertainment and fun, but I have some concerns about this type of activities a little. I want to investigate the effect of football game in the universities in this article.

Football teams and games have some advantages. First, they create an active environment for the students and may be safe fun for youths. Second, the competitions between universities can be an appropriate method for the connections and communications between the students from different universities. Third, I saw that the graduated people from Virginia Tech come to watch the game from different cities. It may be a good chance for them to meet themselves sometimes and maintain their connections. Fourth, the football games can be a good financial resource for the universities.

However, I believe that football games cause some limitations for the universities and students, particularly non-local and international students. As an international student, I did not know the rules in the football game. So, it was not fun for me to watch football games. I was seeing several students that they were going to the stadium to watch the game lively. But I did not go there in last two years. I preferred to go to the gym to exercise. But, all sport fields were closed during the competition and I could not find any alternative for my entertainment. Another issue is that the parking lots will be allocated to the participants who want to watch the game. As a graduate student I need to work in the weekends sometimes. But, I could not park my car close to our department.

In conclusion, I think that the university should consider some alternatives for other students who do not like watching the football games.

Posted in GRAD_5104, 2015 | 2 Comments

Mother Language in Higher Education

In class Grad 5104, one of the cases, that was a little strange for me, is the higher education of Lebanon.  The students from this country stated their official language in the universities of this country is not Arabic. It is French or English.

I do not agree with this type of education system. The mother language of each country should be considered as the official language for higher education. The language of each country is its identity. The students should know other languages, particularly English language. But, they do not need to consider a foreign language as their own language instead of their mother language. The lebanonian student said that he cannot understand mathematics in Arabic language.

The higher education in each country should respect to the culture and customs of that country as a pioneer. Therefore, I believe that the higher education in each country should use the mother language of its region.

Posted in GRAD_5104, 2015 | Leave a comment