A Different Experience Teaching this Time Around
Mar 31, 2015 News Archive
For about two months now, I’ve been teaching a graduate level class at the University of Houston on analysis and design of offshore structures. There is no question I had missed teaching, but I must say that this time around, my experience has been quite different than my first time. For starters, the class meets only once a week, and that means there isn’t much time for the students to get feedback. Also, since I am not full time faculty, I am not as accessible to them (in person), though it is much easier to reach me now via email or mobile phone. Another noticeable difference is the number of students in the class. Other than my very first experience teaching statics to ~45 students, most of the classes I’ve taught have been to groups of 15-20 students. With the smaller number of students, I would get to know them well and they became comfortable asking questions.
Though I had taught one graduate class before, this time around I sense that graduate students are more reluctant to ask questions. I presume this is due their own expectation that “they should know,” but I keep reminding them that this is a new topic and it is OK if they don’t quite know everything and ask questions every now and then. For sure, that’s the way I believe is the best way to learn, and that’s what I encourage our young staff to do at 3DENT, too.
One thing I didn’t expect was to have to re-learn how to make good exams. This is probably not something we think about much once we start practicing our profession, but it takes a particular discipline to prepare exam questions that do not required “additional” knowledge from the very specific material that was presented in class.
Another part that is quite different in my teaching this time around is that I’ve been in the industry for almost 20 years. So, just about every topic I cover in class has a very distinct practical aspect to it. In fact, the class will have 2-3 guest speakers to expand on what I have to offer them. With that said, I hereby express my sincere gratitude to Mark Cizek, Kent Longridge, Mark Dial and Jim Li for even entertaining the notion of giving a presentation to my class (as of April 1, the class has had two guest speakers). I also thank Marcus Gamino for giving a couple of lessons on the use of finite element software.
All in all, I am certainly enjoying being back in school. I hope they invite me again to teach this class in a year or two.