Archive for February, 2012

Why I am taking classes to learn how to teach

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

The following article from The Chronicle sums it all up.

http://chronicle.com/article/Harvard-Seeks-to-Jolt/130683/

One part I found interesting was that professors must become “doubly expert” with respect to their pedagogy and research field. Additionally, they imply that those professors who do achieve this should help those around them. Of course this sounds good, but in my experience professors DO NOT want to change. If what they do works, they feel there is no reason to chagne. In fact, they fear this change.

This is one huge advantage of classes who’s topics are pedagogy in hire education (such as GRAD 5114/GEDI and Engineering Education courses). If change cannot happen through one or two “double experts” in a department, then it must begin through new hires, such as myself 😉 . I have already taught three semesters and have used many “new” techniques that differ from those I was exposed to as an undergrad (predominately chalk and talk). These techniques are often well accepted by students and I have great reviews with many students commenting that they enjoy the different styles and feel they have learned better/more from them. If for no other reason, professors should adopt these techniques to get better reviews!

I do not truly feel Harvard spending $40 million on this conference will really do much in the long run, but it is important to discuss higher education and Harvard is a well respected institution that many seem to desire to emulate. Identifying/admitting you have a problem is the first step to getting better. This problem has been identified long ago, but many are still in denial or a state of apathy regarding poor teaching.

I feel the only way to really make teaching in higher education better is to have faculty with limited research requirements OR completely decouple research and teaching. Until this happens, research will dominate for a variety of reasons. But, that is a blog for another day.

Blogging and STEM

Monday, February 6th, 2012

I am not sure how to incorporate blogging into a STEM field so I am going to throw some ideas out there and hope for some comments or responses from my fellow bloggers. I am a Civil Engineer so I will typically reference engineering in my posts because that is what I am most familiar with. I guess blogging is a very open ended assignment/task, so it should fit with engineering, which is also more open ended than most engineers give it credit.

In engineering practice, engineers are given an open ended problem like make an airplane, or bridge this gap. I guess the instructor could give the class a problem/project and ask the student to heuristically, with words (maybe with minimal calculations?), work through some or all of the project. Of course, they would have to explain their decisions and assumptions and cite theorems and ideas from class. They could also comment on other students work and play around with each others ideas. Students could be partnered up and have to work together. I could see this working with appropriate problem types, but the instructor would have to select good ones and make sure to leave it open ended enough, but not too much. Sounds difficult for both parties.

This might foster communication and creativity, two of the most overlooked aspects of being an engineer (or human being for that matter). I really like how that could be tied into the assignment as well. Engineers are rarely required to write, I am sure there will be grumblings.

Also, what about if in my imaginary class room we are learning about fluid mechanics or something. I could ask them to blog about somewhere in real life they see (or maybe don’t see) the current phenomenon we are learning about and to describe how it is working. They could maybe give a quick calculation or two with some reasonable numbers they made up to go along with their description, focusing on putting the problem into words. It would encourage them to organize their thoughts on an abstract and/or mathematical concept into a well thought out physical description. Too often students are unable to achieve this.

In class I felt this large push for blogging, but I was given little or no relevant examples and details with respect to STEM. However, I had to leave early, so I am sure all of that happened after I left ;). Gardener Campbell seemed very adamant that it could work and was very encouraging, but did not give a direct application or relevant examples to STEM. I would much like some brainstorming from my fellow students. Any one have any ideas? Maybe this is what everybody else blogged about?

Hello

Monday, February 6th, 2012

This is my first blog post ever.

Funny, I don’t feel any different.