Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2017

Faculty Award winner

Ronald F. Demara

 College of Engineering and Computer Science

 Electrical and Computer Engineering

Effective teaching spans much more than conveying facts; it empowers the learner with intellectual inspiration, keen insights, and career-long skills. My enthusiasm for teaching has codified those objectives within my own discipline-specific philosophy via developing, delivering, and refining undergraduate courses. This philosophy rests upon three pedagogical pillars. They comprise a student-centered, learning activity-based taxonomy, which I refer to as the “three E’s of effective STEM teaching.” Their order of invocation within each content module is:

1) Exploratory Activities: introduce new concepts and problem solving methods via custom and public-domain spoken/written/video content culminating in Study Sets. Study Sets are module-specific challenge problems that I lead in Group Session to engage problem-based learning. This sparks interest while developing foundational knowledge to create a concept landscape that learners populate during later activities. Students explore their solutions, both individually and collaboratively. For the latter, WiFi-based Group Learning At Significant Scale (GLASS) collaborative learning instructional technologies are used engage design teams, which are vital to learning and practice within STEM disciplines.

2) Engagement Activities: invoke the Testing Effect via more frequent in-person digitized formative assessments, in lieu of low-gain homework submissions. This leads the learner to elevate ownership of learning outcomes. Quizzes are delivered in a convenient, comfortable, and secure facility which I have pioneered that integrates testing and pre/post-assessment review, called the Evaluation and Proficiency Center (EPC). My philosophy is that turnkey assessment in the EPC can facilitate more frequent formative assessments, whereby the Testing Effect is known to increase long-term memory via retrieval practice.

3) Expository Activities: initiate Socratic methods during my Score Clarification technique, which self-motivates learners in a quest for partial credit to explain the problem-solving flow that they used in their formative assessment submissions. Their hand-written scratch worksheets composed during assessment are scanned-in, which elicit explanations of the solution in their own words with first-line remediation by GTA tutors, with student follow-up to myself as faculty. My philosophy is that scaffolding is best achieved through differentiated learning activities, including learning-by-explaining of the scratch sheets. Moreover, opportunities for written or video expository activities, which I call micro-vlogs, also elicit learning-by-teaching. Here, volunteers share vlogs during in-class learning, while peers become spectators who complete a WiFi-enabled quiz regarding vlog contents in real-time.

My teaching philosophy has continued to be refined by “flipping” an undergraduate gateway course for mixed-mode delivery, while deploying the above elements and establishing the EPC.