Participating in the Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching (CoAT) program at North Carolina State University has afforded me with a grounded theory in learning techniques and methods that have tremendously improved my instructional abilities. Before being introduced to the breadth of CoAT workshops, my limited pedagogical methods were derived predominantly and informally through replication, that is, through observing existing faculty members and the techniques that they used in their day to day teaching. While these observations improved my abilities as an instructor to some extent, the knowledge gained was often ad hoc, inconsistently applied, and without rationale.
The CoAT program has filled this void by not only providing a formal structure for improving my teaching, but also by providing perspective on approaches to teaching that I could not have encountered through mere observation. A workshop on "Introduction to Teaching", for instance, introduced me to Bloom's Taxonomy, which I now use as qualitative metric for improving my learning objectives and structuring my course content. "Effective Questioning Techniques" provided a framework for asking students questions in lecture, a subject which I had never even considered as a potential area of improvement. As a result of this workshop, I now consciously work to minimize ineffective question types, such as the "dead-end question". Through the CoAT program, I was also introduced to the theory of learning styles. Before this workshop, I incorrectly assumed that all students learned the same way in which I did. I am now aware that students have different learning preferences, and that one learning style is not necessarily better than any other. Consequently, I now make conscious efforts to present material in multiple styles.
Upon reflection, my informal replications were only incremental improvements to my teaching abilities because the professors that I observed were, fundamentally, traditional lecturers in that they used passive classroom management techniques, though with electronic slides rather than chalkboards or overheads. The CoAT program, in contrast, was transformative: it introduced me to the concept of active learning which has changed the classroom dynamics for my lectures entirely. The concept of "course flipping", which I learned from a workshop from the Office of Faculty Development, has also been an instrumental tool in my lectures. Instead of simply summarizing the chapter, I now use course flipping to more effectively use my limited lecture time to focus on more difficult concepts, perform many more example problems, and provide increased opportunities for student engagement, all without having to sacrifice any of the course content.
As a current PhD student in Computer Science at North Carolina State University, I hope to eventually matriculate into academia as a University professor. In the final years of my PhD program, the emphasis is, somewhat regrettably, research-oriented rather than teaching-oriented. Despite this transition, I have found that the principles instilled in me from the CoAT program to be broadly applicable to research: from collaborating with scientists in other disciplines, presenting at conferences, to disseminating my results through written publications. I will also continue to improve my pedagogy through the courses that I teach in community colleges. Most importantly, the CoAT program has taught me that research and teaching are not orthogonal goals: to be a good researcher, one must also be a good teacher.