Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2015

Faculty Award winner

Ricardo Zaurin

 College of Engineering & Computer Science

 Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering

In my opinion, teaching is not only reciting concepts and formulas. The professor must be an integral and active part of the learning process ensuring that the information and knowledge is presented in a way that all students feel motivated and eager to learn.  I involve my students in the class, challenging them with concepts, questions and problems while sharing my passion for engineering. I ask open-ended questions which generate brainstorming that promotes critical thinking, debate, and even more complex questions, forcing the students to think for themselves.  In most of the occasions I act more like a moderator promoting and guiding group discussions in order to debate concepts. Although the understanding of the theoretical knowledge is essential, it has to be supplemented by example problems, models, drawings, real life situations showing the concepts explained, videos, software, and hands-on activities.  Students need to know how the material they are learning is useful within their fields. I relate the subject to different majors by showing interdisciplinary applications. I believe in the early involvement of undergraduates to research projects as a way of reinforcing the knowledge as well as to trigger the desire to pursue higher degrees in engineering. For that reason, a final group project is always a component of my classes to promote the creativity, team work, and presentation skills of undergraduate students, as well as exposing them to the interesting world of scientific/technological research-based engineering

I have been privileged with the opportunity of teaching several courses in two different countries in various university institutions.  That experience makes me aware of the needs and challenges of teaching in a diverse environment. Constructivism and differentiated instruction are part of the tools I have always used to facilitate the transmission of the knowledge to the students. My lectures are interactive discussions where instead of just showing definitions and formulations,  the knowledge is built  based on previous acquired knowledge and by appealing to the different types of learning styles, i.e., visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Class demonstrations are performed, models are shown, open ended questions are asked, animated presentations are used, and debate is encouraged. I am able to communicate the information to my students as well as identifying the strengths and deficiencies in them.

  I try to keep an open office policy which allows me to dedicate special and personalized attention contributing in this way to the final goal which is facilitating the formation of new and better professionals and citizens.

In summary, I feel a very privileged person because, and this may sound like a cliché, I love what I do and I do what I love:  teaching.