Teaching Philosophy   

During my doctoral studies at Duke University, I actively sought and created opportunities to bolster my professional growth as a university educator of environmental engineering. These opportunities briefly included enrolling in a certification program, delivering lectures, and designing workshops. It was these early teaching experiences that inspired the foundational development of my teaching philosophy.


As an educator, my objectives are to:

1.      engage students with interactive lesson plans derived from research-based pedagogies

2.      create an environment for students to direct the course of their education

3.      guide students to higher-level learning so they can synthesize an original question to answer as their final class project.

I recognize that students have diverse learning methods – some learn best though problem solving and discussion while others rely on lectures. To cater to these diversities, I have found that coupling short lectures with active learning exercises is an advantageous approach. Encouraging students to reflect on their learning as a formative assessment tool has also been beneficial. Reflections provide critical information on how and what my students are learning. This knowledge allows my pedagogy to become more dynamic - I can tailor my teaching style and lecture content to enhance student learning. Additionally, I can identify and clarify common misconceptions about the material before summative testing occurs.

     Reflecting on my personal engineering career, I believe that engineering students should be exposed to real-world, discipline related tasks. These include, but are not limited to, project design, computational modeling, drafting a research plan, construction, and presenting. Though I work to integrate exposure to these tasks into my lectures, I ultimately require students to complete a final course project centered around one or more of these tasks. I strongly welcome creativity and ingenuity on projects. Thus, in addition to providing suggested projects, I will invite my students to propose their own projects and follow their curiosities.

Teaching Experience    
For two semesters, I was a Teaching Assistant for Duke’s CEE 462L/562 Biological Processes in Environmental Engineering. My responsibilities extended beyond hosting recitation and grading assignments. I also led a laboratory section, where I assembled small-scale experiments to reinforce student learning through application. During my second assistantship, I found that students wrote compelling lab discussions that displayed higher-order learning skills (ie – compare and contrast) when I welcomed creative expression with the experimental protocols. This may have included allowing the selection of feedstocks for anaerobic digestion or a booster for improving microbial fuel cell performance. I noticed that grammatical errors were repeated in reports despite providing critical feedback. Thus, for future written assignments, I want to encourage students to implement corrections for partial credit redemption to better reinforce strong writing skills.

       For this same course, I was also a guest lecturer on several occasions. I used this time to incorporate interactive pedagogies into lectures and evaluate their effectiveness in satisfying my goals as an educator. Two successful pedagogies are briefly discussed below. 

Teaching through Modeling

My students are most comfortable comprehending biological processes differential equations when they can interact with a mathematical model in class. This pedagogy worked particularly well for a lecture on biomass production and substrate consumption. Before lecture, I coded the textbook equations into the modeling software (Berkeley Madonna). I also created an in-class handout asking students to visually describe and mathematically assess the differences between model generated plots. Students first worked in groups to answer the handout questions. Then, I projected the live model to the class and used simulations to explain the solutions.

        The model worked best for clarifying complex ideas like equation interdependence and variable sensitivity. It also kept students engaged. For example, when a student asks, “Wouldn’t that variable also similarly affect consumption?” I can update the model in real-time, show a visual answer, and provide a verbal explanation. This form of interaction naturally progresses class from a lecture to a student led discussion.

Teaching through Reflection

I have found that using reflective learning pedagogies can help foster a conducive learning atmosphere and provide critical feedback on students’ learning progress. Two methods I use are Knowledge Probe and D.E.A.L. reflection.

        For Knowledge Probe, students reflect on their current understanding of lecture topics prior to reading assigned literature. What I typically find is that, 1) many students answer with “I don’t know” and/or, 2) students confuse similar yet, distinct concepts with one another. I initially intended to use this information to identify and remedy common misconceptions. I discovered however, that anonymously sharing student responses as a word cloud created a relaxed learning environment. Students vocalized that seeing a large “I don’t know” was reassuring - they felt comfortable confronting foreign topics knowing that their peers had synonymous misunderstandings prior to lecture.

        D.E.A.L. reflections occur after class and ask students to Describe, Evaluate, and Articulate their Learning. Through student responses, I realized how they learn, what topics excite them, their career goals, curiosities, and lingering questions from class. For my own classes, I foresee using these reflections to map student learning, create dynamic lectures, and for students to brainstorm ideas for their final project.

Teaching Development

My first professional advancement as an educator was enrolling in Duke’s Certificate in College Teaching (CCT) program. There, I received systematic training that was instrumental in shaping my previously discussed teaching techniques. This program inspired me to engage in additional teaching opportunities to further refine my pedagogy skills.

        One such opportunity was becoming a Technical Mentor for Duke’s First Year Design course. I gravitated to this appointment because it strongly aligns with my teaching philosophy – provide real-world engineering exposure. I mentored students as they prototype, test, and synthesize a solution for their client. I am also learning how to incorporate project design into my own classes.

        To stay up-to-date on pedagogy research, I will be attending conference workshops. Specifically, The American Society for Engineering Education regional conference in Raleigh (March 2019). Additionally, I aspire to submit an abstract for a talk at the 2019 P.O.D. conference to share my successes in creating engaging engineering lectures.

        I am most confident teaching bioprocess/biochemical engineering and engineering design courses. I have also designed an elective course entitled, “Biotechnology Engineering for a Sustainable Future”, which is targeted to graduate students and adept undergraduates (sample syllabus here).