Education is the foundation of every engineer's career, and exceptional instructors are essential to this process. It is a goal of mine to become one of those exceptional instructors.
Meaningful and varied teaching experiences over the past several years as the teaching assistant and guest lecturer for four different upper-level engineering courses has shaped my approach to instruction.
I have had the honor of being included in the list of teachers ranked as excellent by their students for the spring 2016 semester, receiving the ISE Service Award for my volunteer work with the department's freshman introductory course, leading outreach events with K-12 students, and being selected to participate in the Mavis Future Faculty Fellow Program, which aims to train the next generation of great engineering faculty.
It has also been a rewarding experience to mentor a number of undergraduate and graduate students (please see [[Niu13]](http://systemdesign.illinois.edu/publications/Niu13a.pdf) and [[Li17]](https://ise.illinois.edu/undergraduate/research-experience/reu-projects/enumeration-of-design-architecture.pdf) for project reports).
In addition to my academic research, I have been involved with some engineering education research [[Her16a]](http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/educsci6010007) and would be interested in continuing this work if the opportunity arises.
### Teaching Philosophy: Three Key Points
- **Design Thinking.** Design is generally considered to be the fundamental or distinguishing activity of engineering1.
The concept of design thinking involves the process of inquiry and learning in a systems context, decision making, and overall communication during the entire design activity2.
Therefore, design thinking is an integral skill that we should strive to teach students.
The central proposal is to provide a suitable balance between analysis and design, with respect to the provided examples, questions, and other course materials.
We can also teach students that most problems do not have known answers, but instead, the instructed theory and tools can provide the knowledge required to make the necessary design decisions.
Furthermore, we can demonstrate how to transform design questions into forms that we can address with known methods.
All of these points, as well as communication of their design efforts, are captured with project-based learning, a teaching method I wish to employ.
- **Accommodation of Various Learning Styles.** Each student is unique and may have his or her own preferred learning style.
For example, some students may absorb the material quickly during a lecture, while others might need repeat study from a variety of perspectives.
As an educator, I will seek to accommodate these various learning styles to improve the learning outcomes of the entire class.
This will be accomplished through tailoring and adapting a course's curriculum to meet these goals.
Some means for achieving this goal could include providing written lecture notes, recorded lectures, engaging assignments, and additional examples/resources beyond what is provided in the lecture.
- **Concept-based Learning.** In both undergraduate and graduate engineering curricula, there is the expectation that students learn a variety of complex, deep topics.
It can be a challenge for both the students to learn the prescribed material and for the instructors to assess their comprehension.
My favored approach is to assess students based on conceptual knowledge rather than on strict memorization or computation.
Focusing on concept-based learning through both course presentation and examinations will help provide answers to the common questions of why should I learn this material, how do the ideas connect, and how can I apply these concepts as an engineer?
Homework and projects may focus on specific topics, allowing students important exposure to the specifics of the material, but exams and other assessments of the students' performance will be biased towards fundamental conceptual knowledge.
1 H. A. Simon, *The Sciences of the Artificial*, 3rd ed., MIT Press, 1996.
2 C. L. Dym, et al., "Engineering Design Thinking, Teaching, and Learning," *Journal of Engineering Education*, vol. 94, no. 1, pp. 103-120, Jan. 2005.