This fall, graduate students from each of the four departments in the Lassonde School of Engineering had the opportunity to take an innovative course, Teaching and Learning in Engineering (GS/MECH 6506), taught by Jeffrey Harris, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Students enrolled in the class were taught learning theories and were required to deliver mock lectures, implementing what they learned in class to better understand how to interpret, adapt and deliver information in an optimal way for undergraduates.
The course is a unique complement to the rigorous, research-focused classes that fill many graduate students’ timetables, allowing them to build foundational skills that will help them succeed in their professional and academic careers. A graduate student typically has two major roles: researcher and TA for undergraduate students. Graduate courses prepare students for their research but often ignore the professional skills-focused learning necessary to produce confident, skilled teachers.
Harris’ course is unique in that it provides workshop-style learning for students to hone their teaching skills and think critically about how best to deliver complex information. Another bonus? The course is engineering-specific and draws from the latest research in engineering education.
“Academics, including graduate students, spend a significant portion of their time in teaching roles. To realize their full potential in these roles, it’s important they have some knowledge about how students learn and what strategies can be used in a classroom,” said Harris about the benefits of the course.
While other universities offer general teaching and learning courses, the engineering focus gives students tools and strategies to apply complex material in applicable ways specific to their field.
One of Harris’ students, Roger Carrick, took the course even though it didn’t count toward his degree requirements, simply because it aligned with his personal interests. He saw the value the skills taught in the course would bring to his professional development.
“Truly great professors are the ones that can balance being a great researcher and teacher,” Carrick said. “An inevitable part of any interview to join a Faculty is a teaching seminar and the development of a teaching philosophy statement. This course helped me develop both skills, which are transferable outside of academia. Professional skills are very important, no matter what career path you take.”
For more information on the course, contact Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by Raquel Farrington, communications specialist, Lassonde School of Engineering