One of the most energizing and rewarding parts of being a faculty at BRAE is to teach sensors and control systems while working with students to utilize this background towards interests of agricultural applications. To increase visibility and prestige of BRAE and Cal Poly in general, I strongly believe in Learning-by-Doing and engaging students with real-world problems currently faced by the agricultural industry. In order to fulfill this, I am working hard to connect students with farmers, companies and BRAE alumni, introduce practical questions in the classroom, and implement more hands-on activities in labs. It is well known that students generally lose their concentrations after a period of time. Therefore I like to have students get involved and get their “hands dirty” to keep them focused. In my classes, I try to raise some interesting problems and let them brainstorm to give solutions in a logical order, and then I would introduce the ways to implement these solutions. Sometimes, seeing a motor running might be boring, but if you let students start or stop a motor by saying “Go” or “Stop”, or change motor speed by changing ambient light, they might just be very excited about what they did or would be doing.
Another important element of my teaching philosophy is encouraging reasoned written and oral work. Projects provide students with practical experience and a sense of accomplishment. I require group project and class presentation in all courses I teach at BRAE. Students need to choose a project topic or come up with their own project ideas (have to be approved by the instructor) related to the course. Their 15-min long class presentations and final written reports are evaluated by both the instructor and their classmates. Project products can be shared with others in the class and critiqued. Many times an individual project is only critiqued by the instructor, but by sharing individual projects with their classmates, the students has the opportunity to obtain more diverse viewpoints and feedback.
I always remind myself that students are always different from each other. Respecting and analyzing students’ personal reactions to the topics covered in a class make them feel that I am invested in them and care about what they do. I strive to spend some extra time on “slow” students to make sure we are on the same page and they do not feel frustrated.
Finally, self-assessment. I always keep in mind my development as a teacher. By continually analyzing my student evaluations (both quarterly student evaluations and my own mid-term evaluations), I remain attentive to my strengths as well as my weaknesses.