Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2014

Faculty Award winner

Amir Behzadan

 College of Engineering and Computer Science

 Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering

For me, being a teacher is not just what I do; it is who I am. My deep interest and passion for teaching stems from the fact that not too long ago, I was a student in pursuit of learning new ideas and solving the unsolved. I am a strong believer that learning from a good teacher makes a big difference in one’s perception of the world. I believe that to be the most effective and helpful teacher, one must create an environment in which students are welcome and encouraged to collaborate, ask questions, and participate in discussions.

I believe that interaction and collaboration are the cornerstones of every learning experience. In the classroom, I usually make an opening statement about a piece of news surfacing the web, or show a video to engage students with the lecture topic. In return, students tend to pay more attention when their interest is properly drawn. I always make sure to include examples that help students put theory into context. I realize that some students are visual learners, some are auditory, and some are kinesthetic. As such, I appeal to all three groups by customizing my teaching methods and materials to include a balanced mix of slide shows, videos and images, short examples, review problems, guest speakers, and hands-on experiments. Sometimes, I give out Bonus Point Certificate (BPC) to those who volunteer to solve problems on the board. BPCs can be later redeemed for extra points in the exams. I have noticed that rewarding a good act dramatically increases participation.

At UCF, I have taught six courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Three of these courses were designed by me and were introduced for the first time into the department curriculum. I always try to bring the latest pedagogical and innovative tools to the classroom. My research team and I have recently designed and implemented a context-aware mobile augmented reality learning tool which allows students to interact with their course material in a collaborative setting. We have assessed the effectiveness of this tool in the undergraduate curriculum and reported very promising results which indicated that the knowledge imparted through the integration of this tool with traditional classroom instruction techniques tends to help students retain knowledge for a longer period of time. Almost all students who used this tool in their learning process indicated that it helped them gain more confidence and become more engaged and interested in course activities.

In summary, I have always been fortunate to have good and passionate teachers who did everything in their power and beyond to guide me through life, and I am very eager to pass along my knowledge and passion to the new generation of students and prepare them for the challenges of the 21st century.