Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2011

Faculty Award winner

Charles David Cooper

 College of Engineering and Computer Science

 Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering

My teaching philosophy is based on several beliefs and practices that have evolved over my 30+ years of teaching and 63+ years of living. I firmly believe that good engineers are products of their education and training, more so than of their innate abilities. Although raw intelligence and a “penchant for numbers” are important for engineering students, those alone are not sufficient. It is more important that they be educated in the discipline (with both theoretical foundations and with practical knowledge), and that they be trained to think and work with numbers. They must be able to quantify physical phenomena, and to do calculations that translate the physical, chemical and biological sciences into processes and structures that operate to the benefit of humankind and the environment.

It is the engineering educator‘s job to present knowledge at the right level and in a logical progression, to motivate learners to stretch beyond what they thought they could do, and to set a good example by being organized, disciplined, and responsible in presenting the course. The first responsibility of the teacher is to know the subject well. Next, the teacher must prepare thoroughly and then deliver the lectures with confidence, relevance, and humor (when possible). Finally, the teacher must be fair and caring in order to connect with students.

I believe in “hands-on” learning. That is, I think students learn better by doing rather than by listening. I regularly schedule sessions in my air pollution class where students do design calculations in teams while I walk around and make corrections or point out better approaches. I also assign a lot of homework to reinforce important concepts or calculation techniques.

Finally, I believe in teaching by example. Professionalism and ethics are important aspects of engineering, and I not only convey that through lectures and examples in class, but also I try to display those traits to the students. I am always on time to lectures, I always return tests and homework the next class period, and I am very accessible to students in my office, both within and outside of office hours.