My teaching philosophy can be summarized as a set of beliefs and convictions, but when put in practice, it is much more: my teaching methods are "dynamic", in that they encapsulate my foundational set of beliefs with techniques that provide a functional and effective teaching methodology. Although the core beliefs remain firm, my teaching philosophy has evolved over the years, and continues to evolve. Three of my core beliefs are described below.
I believe that (i) teaching and research are synergistic; (ii) teaching is a dynamic exchange, much more than just a presentation in a classroom because teaching and learning occur in multiple settings; and (iii) learning is a life-long activity.
Teaching and research are synergistic because they mesh in so many ways. My teaching and research activities are natural complements. Consequently, I find myself preparing presentations to communicate the latest research results to my classes. This activity lets me share the enthusiasm I feel for my research, keeps the students up to date and could potentially inspire them to conduct research of their own. I believe it also generates interest in the class, because the students can see how the theory they are learning applies to more complex research areas. Another way that research and teaching dovetail is through my affinity-type research group, consisting of students and two advisors. I find myself teaching the research group participants about advanced topics, research skills, and professional skills. The group also allows me to conduct research about interaction models in an institutional setting and report the results to fellow educators.
Teaching is a dynamic exchange, much more than just a presentation in a classroom because teaching and learning occur in multiple settings. I believe that to be a true teacher, one must engage students at every opportunity. Classroom presentations and activities are very efficient because the teacher can reach many students simultaneously. But to be effective, the teacher must view this setting as interactive: watch the students and respond to unspoken signals as well as to clearly voiced questions. I involve a variety of activities in the classroom, from utilization of collaborative learning paradigms to multi-media presentations to lectures with overheads and chalk. Regardless of the delivery method employed, I observe the students carefully. If they tell me (explicitly or not) that they don't understand, I explain the topic a different way. If I still perceive confusion, I initiate dialog. In the regular course of a class, I engage the class and I encourage them to interrupt. I have found that these "interruptions" lead to clarifications and digressions that are actually very important to the whole class. Additionally, teaching is more than what happens in the classroom. I feel that I am teaching students leadership skills during student chapter officer meetings (of clubs for which I have served as mentor/advisor). I also teach my students professional skills by example: writing a paper is an interactive activity. I teach my lower-division advisees university survival skills. In summary, I view myself as a teacher both inside and out of the classroom.
Learning is a life-long activity. No individual is assured of knowing everything they need to meet career challenges by successfully completing a prescribed program of study. They can rest assured, however, that they have the basic knowledge, tools, and resources to acquire the specific knowledge needed to solve the task at hand. This ability, however, might deteriorate because technology is moving at a dizzying pace. Therefore, I feel that it is important to convey to students that the years they have spent in this university have served, in addition to acquiring knowledge, to educate them in the learning process. Part of my responsibility as an educator in a technical field is to serve as a guide in their process of learning and convince them of the need for life-long learning. Design engineers working on tomorrow's products have to learn about leading edge technologies today, so they need to stay abreast of current trends in technology. In this context, I remind the students of our professional society and the role it plays in communication of information via journals, workshops, magazines and conferences.
In summary, my teaching philosophy gives me a framework to try new techniques, and glean any useful items for my future use. I have a desire to teach and the motivation to seek out resources that improve my teaching. I link my teaching closely to my research, and focus on opportunities to interact with students. My life experience in technology is an example that life-long learning is not only necessary, but also rewarding.