My goal in teaching is not only to transfer knowledge but also to facilitate learning through a student-focused and real-world approach. In this statement, I will describe how this philosophy manifests in my teaching, mentoring, and outreach.
As an early career researcher and educator, I have extensive hands-on experience in teaching, leveraging my real-world industry working experience. I am currently teaching a fourth-year and graduate course in Augmented Reality (AR). At mid-semester, my teaching was rated 3.6/4.0. As seen from my CV, I taught three lab sessions and assisted in over ten courses as a graduate student. I enjoyed teaching and supporting students.
To continue cultivating the quality of my teaching, I take the Foundations of Course Design Intensive offered by the university learning center. I also attend mentoring workshops at Mines. I will utilize the resources provided by the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning.
— October 31, 2022
My teaching philosophy is grounded in theories like constructive alignment, real-world-based active learning and authentic assessment, as well as supportive and inclusive learning to foster growth mindsets.
A. Motivate and Set Expectations of Learning Through Intentional Course Design
Before students come to my first class, I know I need to motivate them for a solid start of their learning journey. This reflects in the course description in the catalog, the syllabus, and the course webpage. My course description not only provides a concise summary of the knowledge and skills but also what motivates students to take the course. Examples include building a portfolio for a future career and how the course is relevant, like course sequence at the major level and recent technology advances.
On my course syllabus, learning outcomes are the expectations for what knowledge all students will learn and why they learn, essential to keep students focused and accountable. I have been developing measurable and specific learning outcomes to the knowledge and skills. I also place the course schedule with homework and assignment titles on the course webpage to inform students of the course discourse for concrete expectations. Throughout the course, I communicate these expectations, the value of course content, activities, and assessments relative to learning outcomes, and write rubrics for all assessments.
B. Real-World, Hands-On Approach for Active Learning and Assessment
A hands-on approach is required for students to learn actively by applying conceptual knowledge. My programming assignments use software widely used in the industry and the field to motivate students (e.g., the Unity 3D engine for AR). I have low-stakes homework exercises for students to reflect on their learning at the lecture level, receive timely feedback, and build confidence. They provide constant, formative assessments for my teaching effectiveness to fill knowledge gaps after grading. Additionally, I prepare and go through step-by-step tutorials with screenshots to guide students to advanced software functionality.
Yet, a hands-on approach can take other forms to connect knowledge to the real world and activate students’ previous experiences. I discuss real-world applications and use cases in my course, chunking course content by showing relevant commercial and research photos and videos to increase engagement with interactive and targeted Q&A sessions. Besides programming, frequent short homework provides opportunities to review use cases and think as disciplinary experts by collaboratively designing and presenting prototypes to meet real-world needs. As computing is socio-technical and influences our daily life, I invite speakers for students to reflect on the social and privacy aspects (e.g., AR as media). To further practice active learning to motivate students, they also investigate topics of interest from the literature to present recent development in the field.
C. Supportive to All Students & Empathy for Students’ Mental Health
I teach with empathy by creating an encouraging and inclusive environment where students are truly supported, aligning with my Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) goals. For course material, I provide detailed slides with visuals and tutorials with code snippets to accommodate students with different experiences and out-of-class commitments. Similar to my encouraging tone when communicating with students to improve students self-efficacy, I encourage proactive communication of needs and concerns rather than students doubting their capability and bearing penalties in exceptional cases. Thus far, I better understood their identities, needs, and concerns, e.g., identities like non-CS majors, family emergencies, multiple exams on the due date, attending conferences, and skipping submissions when stressed. It not only helps with students’ mental health by meeting their needs but also opens opportunities for us to intervene in time, e.g., encouraging them to seek help, informing students of campus resources, and structuring future learning activities. Through this method, for those who struggle, they develop a growth mindset and achieve in weeks, actively participating in class and earning higher grades in later assessments.
In the classroom, I reserve time for lab sessions so students can work on more challenging programming assignments with my help. I walk around to discover problems, give hints, and ask follow-up questions. At the beginning of each class, I actively ask questions and seek input on the assessments. Finally, besides evaluation questionnaires, I host interactive feedback sessions to gather and incorporate feedback so that students can feel their impact and take ownership of the course.
D. Teamwork for Peer Learning, Creative Thinking and Future Career
When students enter the real world, they will need to be capable not only of independent problem-solving but also of knowledge sharing and collaboration. In my class, students form groups in the very beginning to facilitate peer learning. I design half of my assessments to connect to their future careers through peer reviews, collaborative prototype design, team presentations, and a final project. Besides summative assessment, I guide and evaluate collaboration formatively, e.g., through team policy agreement (i.e., meeting, role, decision-making, and evaluation), progress reports on member contributions, and peer evaluations.
While learning is the focus of teaching, mentoring is a natural part of being student-focused, like strong motivation to encourage ownership, clear goal and communication expectations for solid progress, and being supportive to foster growth mindsets. As seen from my CV, I am an experienced mentor, advising over 20 undergraduate and three graduate students, 12 underrepresented and 12 with female identities. The department has nominated one undergraduate student for the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award. I am also an elected councilor of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR).
Concretely, I communicate the high-level project and semester goals, and we meet weekly to track goals, address questions and concerns, and jointly set realistic and concrete goals. Particularly for research, I value independence and ownership, emphasizing skills in methodology to propose and answer research questions, conducting research scientifically and responsibly, and presenting findings in writing and speaking.
Mentoring also helps retain undergraduate and graduate students. With CS being overwhelmingly male White and/or Asian, I pay particular attention to mentees’ identities to balance the power dynamics in CS.
III. Outreach and Engagement
Speaking of power dynamics, I see outreach and engagement as an integral part of equalizing participation opportunities and making a broader impact out of the classroom and research lab, leveraging real-world and interactive activities. As seen from my CV, I have created robotics pick and place demos for elementary students and designed an interactive, lab-based activity to show how real-world robotics has applied math for high school boys and girls. Early engagement with pre-college students and their parents exposes them to potential careers that may not be considered by their families and schools, promoting equity. I also participate in department outreach activities such as student and industry advisory board tours.