Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering, U of S - 1999
Teaching Philosophy, Practices and Goals
Among other duties, a university professor is (rightfully) expected to conduct research and nurture the education of undergraduate and graduate students. I find it important to carry out both activities concurrently, and ensure that experiences from research are implemented in courses for which I am responsible. Thus, students will gain from being exposed to current technology and information. By including research in courses, I gain from being forced to interpret results and reflect on the status of the research program. This reflection is an important step when shaping a research program and developing future research objectives.
There is a distinct difference between learning and memorization. I endeavor to convince students to understand concepts so that they may apply these concepts in a variety of situations, rather than memorize steps to solve a particular problem. If I am successful, I expect students will be able to retain concepts more easily.
I expect students to want to learn and do much of the work during the learning process. With this expectation, I can't accept the title of a "teacher." I try to act as a facilitator in the learning process, rather than the deliverer of information. I recognize that students learn in a variety of ways, and I attempt to accommodate these methods. I encourage students to find personalized methods to understand and retain concepts, and I assist them by providing my own customized examples for explanation of concepts that elude them. In addition to different learning processes, I often find that students must simply be given the confidence to experiment in the application of newly gained knowledge and to ask questions to promote individual thinking. In an effort to encourage discussion, I am always available to students. Although I arrange formal office hours, students are welcome to make appointments or find me anytime.
Finally, students deserve respect just as any other person, and there must be mutual respect between the students and me.I strive to earn students' respect in a variety of ways, given that respect cannot simply be awarded.I take a sincere interest in the well-being of students and interact with them on professional and social levels.I am convinced that social interaction with students develops a rapport with them and they are more comfortable when asking for assistance while in the classroom. In everything that I do, I want to be considered a fair and reasonable person.
Trever's statement of Teaching Philosophy is enriched by the addition later in his portfolio of a section which stresses his commitment to teaching. In it, he highlights his work to develop individual courses and curricula. That section follows. To see how Trever incorporated these two sections into his portfolio, go to his Table of Contents.
Commitment to Teaching
Curriculum Development, Electricity, Electronics and Instrumentation in Engineering
While serving on an Electricity-Electronics-Instrumentation subcommittee during the review of the Engineering curriculum, I pursued the concept of common courses between our department and the departments of Chemical and Mechanical Engineering. Both departments have expressed interest in this concept. All second-year students in the Department of Chemical Engineering must select between 2 courses in electricity and magnetism, one of which is delivered by this department (ABE 312), while Mechanical Engineering students will be allowed to select one of our courses (ABE 313) as an elective. The Department of Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering has emphasized curriculum content related to electricity, electronics and instrumentation, more so than other departments in the College of Engineering. More interaction between our department and departments of Chemical and Mechanical Engineering is required to define the most desirable course content to allow common courses in the area of electricity and electronics. I believe that these initial discussions have started to erode some of the barriers to sharing courses, and other instances of cooperation have occurred and will continue to occur in the future.
Engineering Curriculum Sub-committee
The subcommittee that initially developed the two-course sequence, GE 110 and GE 120, has requested more faculty participation and has been developing course material. I have been working with other committee members to develop material for GE 120. Specifically, I have been charged with the task of developing course material related to applied calculus. The committee continues to meet, but must have a "completed package" very soon, because the course must be offered, for the first time, in January, 2000.
During the past academic year, this Department has agreed to reduce its course offerings to degree students in the College of Agriculture and to offer a minor (rather than a major) in Mechanized Agriculture. The Department felt that our relations with the Diploma and Degree programs in the College of Agriculture were now very similar, and a single departmental committee should address issues related to both programs. Therefore, I serve as the Chair of the Agriculture Studies committee in the Department of Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering and a member of the Diploma Studies committee in the College of Agriculture.
I have also actively contributed to the curriculum development committee for the Diploma Program in Agriculture. Through the Agriculture Studies committee, I have proposed courses that could be delivered by this Department, in support of the Diploma Program. In addition I have served on sub-committees of the curriculum development committee to consider options for delayed entry and an introductory CD-ROM for incoming students who are not intimately aware of prairie agriculture.
At the level of the curriculum committee, I have tried to encourage the development of an integrated curriculum. I hope that the curriculum committee will receive proposals for course offerings from Departments, then discuss the suitability of the material and subsequently make recommendations regarding learning objectives, content and duration. The curriculum committee must take responsibility for developing the curriculum. Individual departments should not be given the responsibility (right) of defining the content of courses or options. Currently, departments have provided descriptions of proposed courses. I am encouraging the Chair to commit the committee to the difficult task of evaluating the proposed courses and making recommendations. My efforts associated with the curriculum committee have been appreciated and officially recognized through a memorandum and an E-mail message from Assistant Dean Christison and my Department Head (copies attached in the appendices).
I acted as the Coordinator of the Design Project course (AE 495.6) for the first time during the 1998-99 academic year. The course material and activities from previous years were well assembled, but the learning objectives and goals of the course were not clearly defined. I endeavored to define learning objectives for the course and assemble material that would allow students to meet these objectives. The revised course forced students to complete a design project in a systematic manner. A different (more current and related to the learning objectives) textbook should be sought and implemented.
Late in the 1998-99 academic year, students requested that the Design Project course be offered during the summer months. This would allow them to fulfill the requirements for the program at the end of the first term of classes. In addition, students requested that the course be conducted remotely, with very few formal meetings. After re-evaluating the learning objectives for the course, course material was assembled and distributed. This endeavor represented an experiment that included 2 separate challenges. First students and faculty advisors were separated during the initial stages of the design project. Second, students were faced with the additional challenge of staying focused and committed to the deadlines and course requirements.
The content of the first course for which I was responsible at the University of Saskatchewan (AE 313.3) was not well defined. After defining the course goals and learning objectives for the course, I assembled all material used in the lectures and labs. Although it was not a new course, there was no material available from previous years. The preparation and method of delivery were appreciated by students such that I was nominated for a University of Saskatchewan Students' Union Teaching Excellence Award, after delivering the course the first time. Similar to the instrumentation course, I assembled material for AE 450.3 without material that had been used in previous years. Although I found it difficult to establish (and achieve) the learning objectives for the course, student evaluations were favorable.
Much of the course content for MecAg 14.5 was previously defined; however, modifications were necessary so that current technology could be included. During the 1996-97 year, I assembled all course content and developed electronic files in a word processor. Pictures and diagrams were included in the electronic files. The exercises and demonstrations included in the laboratories of the class were developed during the 1997-98 academic year.
The most influential personal development activity I have experienced was a course, "Course Construction and Organization," offered by the University Teaching Services at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Juris Svenne explained the importance of understanding the student and learning conditions, defining the learning objectives and course goals and identifying means that could be used to assess whether the teaching objectives had been met. The course was extremely valuable, and I feel confident in developing a new course simply because of the one-week seminar by Dr. Svenne.I have also attended seminars presented by the Extension Division at the University of Saskatchewan.Most recently, I attended a seminar dedicated to assessment of experiential learning.The main objective of my attending this particular seminar was to become more able to participate in the Engineering Professional Internship Program.
Other Teaching Opportunities
I try not to waste an opportunity to help summer and graduate students learn a concept. Often I will help students recall concepts and apply them to solve a problem, rather than simply giving them the answer to their questions. This approach may be slightly frustrating for students, and it does take more time, but I think students will find it easier to retain the knowledge.
I take the task of evaluating student papers very seriously, and endeavor to clearly illustrate any errors that students have made, either in applying a concept or in the rationale of the solution. I feel that evaluating a paper submitted to a scientific journal should be considered the same as evaluating a student submission. When reviewing a paper, I try to help researchers improve their writing style and make their submission clearly understood by the reader. Recently, Dr. Brusewitz of Oklahoma State University recognized my effort and responded with a note of thanks. A copy of the paper evaluation and note have been appended.
I have also tried to inform and help people from outside the university classroom and research communities learn and understand concepts associated with engineering and agriculture. I have given presentations regarding Precision Farming to agricultural producers, and helped a group of insurance adjusters gain a better understanding of the working mechanisms of grain combines. I have also spoken with elementary-school students about agricultural equipment, and have helped elementary-school teachers understand concepts associated with harvesting machinery. As part of this presentation, I helped the teachers develop material that could be used in elementary schools.
As part of the New-Faculty Orientation (August 1998), another faculty member and I were recruited to speak on the subject, "What I Wish I'd Known When I Started This Job". The session was intended to let current faculty members give some advice to newcomers. My approach was to assure the newly-hired faculty that the U of S was a great place to work and that they should not feel intimidated. Our efforts were appreciated, and we got favorable reviews. One evaluator wrote, "This was so excellently conducted. The speakers were helpful, humorous and down to earth. They made me feel glad to be here and less apprehensive about my new position. My suggestion would be not to change the speakers."Eileen Herteis, the organizer for the orientation in August 1999 must have taken this comment to heart and has asked me to return. I gladly accepted her invitation.
Eileen also asked me to provide my point of view regarding teaching portfolios. My thoughts, regarding the teaching portfolio were published in the December, 1998 issue of the U of S Pointer Instructional Development Newsletter. In this article, I highlighted the value and benefit that I had gained by developing my teaching portfolio. I also encouraged other faculty members to collect suitable information and develop their own teaching portfolios, in the hopes that the overall teaching/learning environment at the U of S could be improved.