I will be forever indebted to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE’s) Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (ExCEEd) workshops. These are designed to help new Civil engineering faculty become better at a craft that few of us are trained for – teaching engineering. We earn our PhDs and become subject matter experts, but very few of us really learn how to teach. ExCEEd changed that for me.
As a participant in the summer of 2013, I was introduced to a model instructional strategy and provided ample guidance and tools on applying it. I was mesmerized by demonstration classes taught by master teachers who transformed both the classroom as well as the topic of Statics that they were teaching before my eyes. No topic was too small (how to write on a chalkboard/whiteboard) or too big (you can create drama as well as use models and demonstrations to explain engineering concepts and principles) for these instructors and mentors.
Best of all, my own mentor Dr. Brock Barry of USMA and assistant mentor Dr. Pinar Omur-Ozbek helped each person in our small team develop our practice classes, videotaped us teaching these classes, provided the most comprehensive feedback any of us had ever received on our teaching and helped us all improve and become better teachers. In the past two years, I returned to ExCEEd as an assistant mentor and continued learning from the legends of ExCEEd, I was assigned to work with.
Then this year I was assigned to be a mentor. What an incredible experience that was! I am so grateful to everyone at ASCE who believed I could do this, but am even more grateful that my team believed in me. They took up every challenge, my assistant mentor Brett Tempest and I threw at them, set aside their personal lives, and work lives, and worked so hard to apply the ExCEEd model in their three practice classes. They tossed out PowerPoint and engaged their class with questions, models, activities, and added music, drama and props and truly transformed their classrooms across their three classes. One of them even threw me a challenge, which I’m happy to say I took up, thus continuing with my own learning as well.
Two more exciting highlights of this particular ExCEEd had to do with the fact that I got to spend the whole week at West Point with beautiful views of the Hudson and got to meet and spend some time with ASCE’s President Elect, Norma Jean Mattei.