Teaching

I believe a fundamental role I have as an educator is to develop a mentoring relationship with my students in order to develop their scholarship in the field. I aim to help students become reflective and collaborative thinkers, and who are also effective communicators. As with any relationship, both parties must be involved in its growth and development. As a teacher, I strive to demonstrate to each student my respect for them as a person and for their contributions to the learning process, as well as to motivate them to truly master the various knowlege and skills critical to their chosen field of study. A primary role of a teacher is as a facilitator, and in that role they should enable students to become responsible for their own learning. I view teaching as a process of encouraging students to make connections between their own experiences, prior knowledge and the subject matter. I strive to foster in my students critical thinking skills and problem-solving strategies. As field keeps changing, one of the key goals in my teaching process is to provide a framework for life-long learning.

As the integration of various skills and knowledge are critical for the educational development of my students, I have worked extensively to integrate proven high-impact educational strategies, such as inquiry and project-based learning, into my courses. Project-based learning (PBL) leads the students to develop a deeper understanding of the subject area by focusing upon a realistic problem, which also provides a critical contextual component to their learning. Some of the main goals are to aid students in the acquisition of critical knowledge, problem solving proficiency, self-directed learning strategies, and team participation skills. The impact on student learning is continuously evaluated, both in the current course as well as downstream courses, so as to ensure the best educational experience for my students.

I strongly believe that our students are more capabable than they know and by setting high expectations and providing support and motivation they can master very complex topics. With this in mind, I think a major part of my role as a teacher is to truly challenge my students and to actively help them rise to the level of that challenge in a variety of ways. Though knowledge of the fundamental course concepts must be covered and mastered by the students, I am more concerned with a student’s understanding of those concepts and their ability to integrate that knowledge and apply it in new problem-solving situations. My exams are designed to bring together different concepts from individual examples and homework problems and put them together. My intent in developing exam questions is not to evaluate whether a student can solve this particular problem, but rather whether they understand and can apply the concepts required to solve this problem, as well as to integrate them with other concepts/skills critical to their future.

Active Courses Taught

The following is a list of courses that are currently offered and taught by me. Specific course websites are hosted though university's course management system: eCampus. Current course syllabi are available online through the university Compass search feature.

Undergraduate Courses

  • ENGR 111 - Foundations of Engineering
  • CVEN 207 - Introduction to the Civil Engineering Profession
  • CVEN 302 - Computer Applications in Engineering and Construction
  • CVEN 345 - Theory of Structures
  • CVEN 363 - Engineering Mechanics: Dynamics
  • CVEN 444 - Structural Concrete Design
  • CVEN 445 - Matrix Structural Analysis
  • CVEN 483 - Analysis and Design of Structures

Graduate Courses

  • CVEN 657 - Dynamic Loads and Structural Behavior
  • CVEN 669 - Hazardous Environmental Loads
  • CVEN 750 - Finite Element Applications in Structural Engineering
  • CVEN 751 - Advanced Dynamics and Introduction to Control of Civil Structures
  • CVEN 754 - Advanced Structural Design Studio

Courses Policies

Specific policies, as well as details, are provided in course syllabi. However, some general information that is common to all courses, and part of my teaching philosophy, are given below.

Grading

As a teacher, I try very hard to be fair and consistent in grading student papers. My main criteria in grading is the determination of wether a particular concept is understood and mastered, rather than if the correct answer to a problem is given. As such, I do assign partial credit to problems based on my evaluation of the depth of understanding demonstrated in the sollution provided. Also, if only the correct answer is given with no work shown to back up the process, that solution is worth only minimal credit as I have no real basis for evaluating the process. In any event, partial scores are subjective depending on the experience and viewpoints of the individual teachers. As a student, I had several professors who did not give partial scores. The reason was that, the engineering system could fail with the wrong answer, no matter how close the answer is to the correct one, so no partial credit was assigned. In those instances, the professors were grading the solution to a specific problem rather than understanding of a general concept. I do not agree with that policy but respect their judgement in those courses.

Your final grade will be based on the grading system described in the course syllabus. In either event, no "deals" will be made at the end of the semester, i.e. - ... if I make an "A" on the final exam can I get an "A" in the course?, ... if I pass the final exam will I pass the course? If I made all A's will you give me a "C", (that one doesn't come up too often.) If you have a problem that is affecting your performance in the course, or if you are having a problem with the course material, see me immediately for help. If you wait until the end of the semester, it will probably be too late. It would be unfair to the rest of your classmates to allow for special deals to be made only for you at the end of the semester.

Note that I do not grade on a curve; instead, I believe in using a criterion or competency-based grading system. For example, if you demonstrate mastery of 90% or better of the material, you are guaranteed an A in the course. When grades are assigned based on a curve, then a set number of students will get each letter grade. In essence, grading on a curve forces students to compete against each other for grades; if one student scores very high, this automatically results in other students getting lower grades. Since their grades are relative, students may be more hesitant to help each other or to work in study groups, which is a proven method to enhance their own learning. So,by not grading on a curve your grade only depends on your effort, and not on how your classmates did.

This grading policy implies that it is possible for everyone in the class to achieve an A. My expectations for the class are high, but I firmly believe that everyone who is in my class can meet those expectations. How easily they are met varies from person to person. I will do my best to help everyone to meet those expectations, but the effort must also be made on the part of the student.

Attendance

Attendance and class participation are required unless a student has a verified university excuse. I work hard to make sure class time adds value to your learning and that is my main strategy to encourage participation. Iit has been my experience that actively coming to class and participating are one of the best ways to positively impact your learning and, as a result, improve your course performance. This has also been shown through research, such as the studies given below. Their results indicate that the the most important learning in a course takes place in the classroom and that students who do a conscientious job on a daily basis preparing for and participating in class outperform those students who skip class and try to cram for exams.

I will not take role - you are all adults and past me having to spend class time on that. But if you miss material or announcements due to not being in class that will not serve as an excuse. In order to sample attendance, as well as assess the progress of the class, unannounced readiness assessment tests (RATs) or in-class problems will be given at random during class periods. These assessments may and often will be over the assigned reading material, which should be done to prepare for the lecture. So RATs may be over material you should have read but we have not covered in class yet.

I do realize that you are adults and have multiple demands on your time. And sometimes you may miss class for non-university-excused reasons. If you missed class due to circumstances (car broke down vs. overslept), I'll work with you to make-up missed work. And hopefully you'll have built a study-group for the class that can give you copies of the exact work done in class - since I will frequently use student input to develop examples, these are not worked-out prior to class so I do not have them written-up for you to copy.

  •  Robert M. Schmidt ("Who Maximizes What? A Study in Student Time Allocation ", AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW, May, 1983, pp. 23-28)
  • Kang H. Park and Peter M. Kerr ("Determinants of Academic Performance: A Multinomial Logit Approach" , THE JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC EDUCATION, Spring, 1990, pp. 101-111)
  • David Romer ("Do Students Go to Class? Should They?" THE JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVES, Summer, 1993, pp. 167-174)

Useful Resources

Departmental Resources

University Resources

Other Resources

Engineering Education Links

  • How to Survive Engineering School - essay by North Carolina State University Professor Richard Felder: "Don’t take the title of this column literally. Despite the incomprehensible lectures, endless homework, and impossible tests, studying engineering has rarely been fatal..." 
  • Teaching for Tomorrow article - the video is linked on this page, but you can read the original article at the CTE site.

Last updated; September 18, 2015