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Interview with Dr. Jim Hanson 

What experiences or ideas have most affected how you teach?

By far, the idea that has the biggest impact on my teaching is my love for our students.  I want to see them grow as much as they each can.  I want them to learn to the best of their individual abilities.  That drives me to challenge students, push them to their limits, but be there to help them along the way.  That love means I am willing to try different ways of expressing a concept so that a student can get it.  That love means I show compassion when I have pushed them too hard.  That love means I ask students how I can help when they are struggling.  That love means I am constantly looking for better ways to help them learn and grow. 

The educator that has had the most influence on my teaching methods is Dr. Richard Felder from North Carolina State University.  Early in my career, he came to my school for a workshop.  There I learned the motivation and techniques for active learning.  Felder introduced me to the concept of learning styles and to Bloom's taxonomy.  He provided tools for student peer evaluations on projects.  By the end of the workshop my head was swimming with great ideas I wanted to implement in the classroom, but making all of those changes at once would have been an overwhelming task.  "Implement only one change at a time" he had strongly recommended.  So that's the approach I took.

Please tell us about your education-related professional development.

I have really enjoyed researching how to teach students the skills used by practicing engineers to evaluate the reasonableness of computer results.  The funded project incorporated explicit instruction on metacognition in the classroom and resulted in the development of a teaching approach that should be applicable to all disciplines of engineering.  I have also explored the use of writing assignments in technical courses to integrate ethics, global impact, and metacognition.  I am a strong advocate of the benefits of rubrics for helping instructors and students alike. 

Is there an aspect of teaching you still struggle with?

My biggest struggle is the time I spend answering questions and tutoring outside of class.  I love that opportunity, but I find myself spending lots of time doing it, often at the expense of other things I need or want to get done.  I have yet to figure out why it happens.  Am I moving too quickly through material?  Are students not using the resources they have, like textbooks?  Am I too quick to help them when they should be spending time thinking about the issue?  Have I set my expectations too high?  My love for our students means that I am not going to turn away someone asking for help.  So for now, I just deal with the time management issues.