"A good teacher is a master of simplification and an enemy of simplism"Teaching Experience: Over the past decade, I have dedicated much of my time to teaching. My formal teaching experience started with working as a Mathematics and Physics tutor during my first year as an undergraduate. My developed passion for teaching resulted in a part-time job as English instructor in Kish Air English Language institute for two years. Later, during my post secondary education, I experienced over 1,500 hours of teaching as a teaching assistant in three different universities for both undergraduate and graduate courses. Since the summer of 2010, I have been teaching part time as a Sessional instructor with full responsibility at Simon Fraser University.
Teaching responsibilities and Philosophy: During the last two years, I have instructed a variety of introductory and higher level courses (Introductory programming course in Python, Advanced programming course in Java, Artificial intelligence, Database) with classes as big as 200 students. My responsibilities include reading the material and making lecture notes, preparing and proof reading assignments and exams with the right level of difficulty, invigilating and insuring order throughout the examinations, marking, and being fair to students with their final letter grades.
I have had great experience using Iclickers, also known as Personal Response Systems. This technology is designed to provide interactive communications between individual students and the instructor. It allows students to respond to multiple choice questions posed by an instructor, and allows instructors to view student feedback in real-time. With a class of 200 students it is sometimes difficult to judge the right speed for covering material. A simple question asking the students whether they are following the lecture or not can help in adjusting the speed and the number of examples that I cover. I also find iclickers to be very helpful in engaging the students in the lecture. During the lecture I introduce challenging questions where students are allowed to discuss them in groups of two or three before they respond to the question. Students are then able to see how they are doing compared to the rest of the class before I go through the right answer myself.
For introductory courses, I put extra emphasis on teaching students how to approach a problem algorithmically, as practice is required to develop a computer scientist mind set. There is a distinct difference between learning a subject and memorizing the course material. Computer Science definitely requires learning. I endeavor to encourage students to understand the concepts so they may later apply them in a variety of situations, rather than memorize steps to solve a particular problem.
In higher-level courses, I believe that the emphasis should be on showing the students how the material may be used in real life and collaboration. Because students are already thinking about employment, I give out projects that are close to what is expected of them in the industry. In my database course, the students had to implement an online database system that can be used in universities. At the end of the semester, each pair of students had 7 minutes to present a scenario in which I was the potential buyer of the product. I see collaboration as another important aspect of upper level courses. Complex scientific projects are rarely the work of an individual; students must learn to organize and work as teams. Two of my assignments for my AI and database course were coding projects where students had to work in pairs to compete with other pairs in the class.
Teaching Style: Thinking back to the great teachers who made a lasting impact on my life and my own experience during the last two years, I find that the following qualities are necessary to be an effective instructor. I have tried adding them to my style of teaching.
- Clarity: Through my two years of teaching at Simon Fraser University, I have learned the importance of clarity in teaching. Students are stressed out when they are uncertain about marking schemes, submission deadlines, or any other detail. I try to prepare for everything in advance and ensure to be clear and precise about the tasks students are required to do
- Simplification: During my first few presentations in my graduate studies, I always thought using complex scientific grammar is the key to having successful presentations. Later, after seeing many fascinating talks by well known researchers, I realized presenting is the art of making the subject as easy as possible for the audience to understand.
- Motivation: Unfortunately, not all students respond to the same methods, come from the same background, or have the same level of preparation. I feel it is the duty of the instructor to present the subject in a motivating and engaging manner. I have employed different tactics from offering bonus marks and giving out candies to setting up friendly competitions. For those with lower self-esteem that required private encouraging, I set up friendly chats to remind them of their capabilities.
- Passion: I consistently prepare vivid and colorful yet well-organized and easy to follow presentations. I am always on time and care about the future of each of my students.
- Goal setting: Students respond best to goals that are both challenging and achievable. Extremely easy assignments may be boring and do not give the students any sense of accomplishment. In contrast, excessively difficult assignments can be frustrating and intimidating.
- Respect: Mutual respect between students and instructor is essential. I strive to make students feel comfortable when interacting with them on both professional and social levels.