Statement of Teaching Philosophy

Teaching has been a significant component of my professional development.  I have taught in formal settings as a teacher and informal settings in after-school and summer programs.  My teaching philosophy is that students should understand the fundamentals and be able to apply the fundamentals in problem solving, logic, and application to real world situations.  Education is a passion of mine as well as a central component of grant applications on which I am currently working.

Most recently, I was an instructor for the Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP).  TIP is an organization that offers intensive supplemental educational programs to academically gifted students.  I developed and taught a three-week Environmental Engineering course in India for Indian students (2010 and 2011).  The curriculum was primarily taught through inquiry-based activities and presented in relevant context, specifically to challenges that face India.  I also developed a structural engineering course for high-school students hosted at Texas A&M University.  In each course I supervised and coached a teaching assistant.

My doctoral work was supported by an NSF teaching fellowship.  As a part of my fellowship I worked in a middle school science classroom to deliver inquiry-based science lessons in a variety of subject areas.  I also was the coordinator of an afterschool science program called Techtronics.  In Techtronics, we explored the technology that we encounter in everyday life.  I also published several educational modules with the program, TechXcite, a collaborative project between Duke University and the National 4-H Council.

I trained and supported instructors and teaching assistants in a summer program for at-risk first-year high school students in Orange County, North Carolina.  In my role as curriculum director, I developed curriculum, trained instructional staff, and set safety standards and protocol.  At George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri, I wrote and implemented a curriculum for three, one-week science camps inspired by the work of George Washington Carver.

My teaching methods are primarily influenced by my work in non-traditional education.  I have observed that students retain more information and comprehend concepts at a higher cognitive level when they are actively engaged.  There are a number of methods to actively engage students.  At the graduate level, the standard for education is the independent, novel research project.  In the developing years, students must be coached through the educational process.  One way that I do this is to present an example of scientific concept, such as evaporation, and assess what is known about the technology.  Most students understand what evaporation is, but cannot explain how water can change from liquid to gas without boiling: they have taken it upon authority that evaporation works.  Short lessons and experimentation, such as the measurement of evaporation throughout the day, help students reach a higher understanding.  This understanding is ideally extended to higher forms of cognition, such as application and evaluation.  In the evaporation example, this may be as simple as asking the question, when is the best time to water the lawn so that you waste as little water as possible?  I strive to provide explanations and examples that cover many different learning styles.  I learn best through physical manipulation or mathematical relationships; however, I realize that some learn best through other methods including pictures/diagrams, verbal explanations, or relationships and metaphors.

Within traditional undergraduate engineering, I would like to teach fluid mechanics and hydrology.  When I took fluid mechanics, I gained a lot from the laboratory experiences; however, when I was a teaching assistant I observed different students respond to different teaching strategies.  As a teaching assistant for Engineering Computation, we experimented with anonymous personal response systems to encourage student involvement and gain immediate feedback during lectures.  I would like to research techniques that engage students in different ways, e.g., using response systems, models that provide tactile feedback, and innovative inquiry-based laboratory exercises.  I am also interested in collaborating with education instructors on math and science education courses.  For advanced studies, I would like to develop service-learning classes that prepare students with the fundamentals and then give students the opportunity to identify public health challenges and design, implement, and evaluate interventions.