Teaching Philosophy

 

Whether explicit or implicit, every educator structures his or her instructional approach around specific philosophical beliefs and principles. My teaching philosophy is guided by the following three principles, each of which is described below:

  1. Students are better prepared for their careers through exposure to real-world experiences and simulation-based learning

  2. Educators must constantly rethink what they are doing and adapt to the changing environment.

  3. Educators are role models through their actions as well as their words; therefore, they should strive to be positive role models.

     

Incorporate Real-World Experience

One of my major goals in teaching is to give students real-world examples and experiences. Where appropriate, I include a semester-long project in my classes. In MIS 5100/5110 Systems Design and Implementation, students work in small teams and design and develop complete software applications for clients. In MIS 5450 Designing Graphical User Interfaces, students work individually to design competitive websites for one client. In MHR 5350 Contemporary Manufacturing Management, students work in teams with local companies to improve a process at each company. I maintain relationships with local profit and non-profit organizations to provide projects for my classes. The fact that some companies (Goldsystems, Icon, Presto, etc.) provide us with projects every semester indicates the high quality of the projects.

Examples of projects from MIS 5100/5110 Systems Design and Implementation include the following:
·         A contract management system for Goldsystems, Salt Lake City
·         An invoicing system for the Center of Integrated BioSystems at Utah State University
·         An employee time tracking system for the Red Cross, Cache Valley Chapter
 
Examples of projects from MIS 5450 Designing Graphical User Interfaces include the following:
·         New development of a website for a local hair salon and spa
·         Redesign of the website for LEAN, a group of university educators dedicated to implementing lean education in higher academia
 
Examples of projects from MHR 5350 Contemporary Manufacturing Management include the following:
·         Standardize processes in the detail molding department for Architectural Design, Logan
·         Develop a Value Stream Map for the whole Icon manufacturing area, Logan
·         Redesign the material supply route for La-Z-Boy, Tremonton
 
Working with companies is not always easy for the students and they often complain about how clients change their minds and how clients do not know exactly what they want. However, I always remind them that this is what they can expect in their future work environment. At the end of the semester, the vast majority of students agree that working with a real client was a valuable experience. Students mention project work the most in the “What aspects of the teaching or content of this course do you feel were especially good” section of the student evaluation. Their positive feedback further validates real-world projects as valuable learning experiences.
 
Student projects certainly require additional work for the professor, but I find them very rewarding. As a guide and mentor in a situational learning environment, I immerse myself in each project, incorporate into the in-class activities examples from the student projects, and provide the various alternative perspectives represented by the various stakeholders. Student projects provide a challenging but effective approach of structured chaos: students have to take responsibility for much of their own learning, but they always know that I am there as a safety net for them. The in-class exercises focus on the knowledge and skills students need to complete the next step of their project, but the students must determine the best way to implement that knowledge and those skills into their projects.
 
I feel a special sense of pride when my students present their final projects to the companies (representatives from which often include upper management) and the companies are happy with the final results. Properly managed, including real-world experiences in the curriculum results in a winning situation for all involved: students have real-world projects they can include in their portfolio for job interviews; clients receive a working software application that incorporates the latest technologies; I can incorporate real-world, relevant examples into my instruction.
 
When implementing real-world experiences into the course is not a feasible option (e.g., the design and development of a manufacturing production system), then simulation activities provide an excellent method of teaching the same concepts in a safe environment. In MHR5350 Contemporary Manufacturing Management, I use a Lego simulation to help students apply concepts they learned from the course lectures. Through three rounds of Lego simulations, students experience the frustrations associated with inefficient manufacturing processes, the excitement of using a manufacturing methodology to create a product, and the amazement associated with first learning how much efficiency can be achieved via implementing Lean manufacturing processes.

 

Continuous Improvement

Teaching is not a static activity; rather, it is a process that needs continuous improvement, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing field like Management Information Systems. I utilize multiple methods to implement continuous improvement in my classes every semester.

Students provide me with a rich source of information regarding areas for improvement. My teaching style is very interactive, focusing heavily on discussion, Socratic questioning and hands-on exercises. I pay special attention to which questions are asked repeatedly, since that is an indication that the concept has not been understood very well by the students. During the class period I can modify the instruction using new examples. After each lesson I take notes on where students had problems and what worked well so that I can adjust my material for the next semester. Toward the end of the semester I usually have a short discussion with the class where students can comment on what they would change in the class. In addition, I analyze the student comments from the teaching evaluations and make changes where appropriate.

Peers provide a valuable source of improvement techniques. I participate in continuous improvement via discussions with colleagues, participating in teaching workshops and conferences, and reading teaching-related journals and websites. I have professors recognized for their outstanding teaching ability observe my teaching and offer suggestions for improvement. I also participate in the Provost’s lecture series of teaching workshops and have found them very useful. I have incorporated some of the exercises presented in the workshops into my classes. When I go to conferences, I attend and present teaching-related presentations and workshops. I consistently read teaching-related journals that provide not only teaching-related research but also Teaching Tips that I can incorporate into my classes. Additionally, since information technology is constantly changing faster than print publications, I read a variety of technology-related websites. The digital information helps me keep up to date with my knowledge/skills and adjust the content of the classes accordingly.

 Serve as a Positive Role Model

One of the most important responsibilities of an educator is to serve as a positive role model. I take this responsibility very seriously and attempt always to exhibit the same professionalism that I expect from students. Several actions I take represent the level of professionalism students will be expected to demonstrate in society and the workplace.

One of the first characteristics of professionalism that I try to teach through demonstration is being prepared. I arrive early for class meetings with all materials prepared and I expect students to do the same. Careful preparation by both me and the students enables us to engage in much more meaningful discussions and progress more quickly through the learning exercises. Our discussions provide another opportunity for demonstrating professionalism: respecting others’ opinions. I encourage spirited but respectful discussions, challenging students to think critically about the discussion concepts and to provide alternative perspectives while simultaneously respecting divergent opinions of others. Another way I demonstrate respectful critiques is through oral and written feedback. I strive to provide immediate and analytical feedback on tests and assignments—feedback that encourages students to think about alternative perspectives to problems.

Another way I serve as a role model to students is to teach them how to be independent, lifelong learners. When I don’t know the answer to a question, I show students how to find the answer by either researching the questions on the Internet or (if it’s a web design question) how to develop a small web site to test it. Especially in the ever-changing field of Management Information Systems, more important for students is how to learn rather than what to learn.

Finally, I demonstrate respect for students through an “open door” policy. Students know that I care about them and their learning. They know that they are always welcome to come to me for guidance. Although I will not give them direct answers, I will provide them with guidance on where and how they can find the answers to their questions.

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