Coburn Teaching Philosophy

A Note on Taste...

Each class gets a unique flavor based on the professor teaching it. This can make a class quite savory, or rather distasteful, depending on the abilities of the professor and on the palate of the student.

Prospective students can glean useful information about whether my classes will suit their tastes by examining my teaching goals & objectives, my teaching philosophy & methodology, student ratings, and by examining the syllabi from my current and previous classes.

My teaching goals, philosophy & methodology are identified below, as well as student ratings from a number of sources. My latest syllabi are available at the "Courses" link at left. Enjoy.

Teaching Goals & Objectives:

My primary goal as a teacher is to be a catalyst for student success by communicating in a clear and understandable manner the engineering principles and ideas necessary for a competitive work force. To accomplish this, I strive to develop creative and compelling ideas and analogies that assist in relating engineering principles, and I try to stay in-tune with student comprehension and interest, which can ebb and wane over the course of a lecture, a semester, or an educational journey.

My objective in pursuit of this goal is to help each student achieve a higher level of mastery of engineering principles than they otherwise could have achieved. After leveraging my own abilities in trying to make a lecture interesting and compelling, I try to push the learning experience further by stimulating students to engage fully. One way I do this is by assigning a lot of homework. I typically use frequent quizzes and tests in order to give myself a full picture of the student’s strengths and weaknesses in understanding a subject, and to measure their complete mastery of the areas covered. I also am alert for ways to change up my methods when I feel it may better connect with the audience. I really enjoy seeing the more average students rise up to the challenge and demonstrate mastery of a subject beyond their more gifted peers, and I relish the success of each student as they move through their education towards their working careers.

My secondary goal is to be a great reflection on the school and on the educational system. I think becoming and remaining a great teacher is a key element of this reflection. I think my personal life also reflects on this and must be carefully guarded and monitored.

My third goal is to move the engineering industry forward through publishing, through research & through industry collaboration. The publishing aspect of this goal involves an interest in authoring, co-authoring, and promoting practical texts and text-supplements. In research, my desire is to lead interested students to relevant areas of engineering where they can demonstrate their innovation and tenacity towards pushing the envelope of engineering principles and understanding. In industry collaboration, my desire is to establish and cultivate partnerships with industry that can result in joint projects, testing, & research, which in turn can lead to student internships, student jobs, and enhanced mutual interest and respect between the school and our industrial engineering partners.

Teaching Philosophy:

...I believe diligence & hard work are attributes of great students & employees, & that these are also necessary to excel in school or in the workplace. The workload in my classes reflects this philosophy.
...Students who are committed to learn & who are willing to work hard to master the material should pass and/or excel in my classes.
...Students who have yet to make this committment or who feel studies should only take an hour or so per night are encouraged to rethink this philosophy or to find another class suitable to their committment.

Teaching Method:

...I use a lot of powerpoint to teach the material quickly and efficiently. If I am not careful, this can overload student capacity for retention.
...I assign a lot of homework to reinforce student learning. This can be difficult for students with jobs, heavy course loads, or other priorities.
...I give quizzes nearly every class to keep students on target & to reward the diligent.
...I often offer extra-credit assignments to bolster student understanding and to enable the diligent to augment their scores.
...I often schedule multiple tests so that student grades are a better reflection of overall understanding and are not overly-reliant on a single score.

Student Ratings:

The best way to preview my teaching abilities, or lack of them, may be to hear from other students. Student evaluations are collected by the department each quarter for each professor. There are two questionaires used, one for lecture-based courses, and one for lab courses. These are shown below.

... Student Evaluation Form - ARO Courses & Labs
... Student Evaluation Form - ME Courses
... Student Evaluation Form - ME Labs

The accumulation of student responses for my courses are summarized in the following text files, which I prepared & update with a simple MATLAB program. This file shows responses to each question in each questionaire alongside the question number. ME responses are identified as (Classes) and (Labs), while ARO responses lump Course & Lab responses together. The results are organized to align similar questions for the two questionaires. The quarter, number of responses relative to enrollment, and the distribution of ratings is shown and summarized for each question. Feel free to browse the results and to contact me if this raises any questions.

... Student Ratings for Coburn for Aero Courses
... Student Ratings for Coburn for ME Courses

Other student-rating forums do not present as full of a picture, since they tend to be populated by the happiest and unhappiest of students, but these are also available for student evaluation as follows...

Rate My Professor (Cal Poly Pomona):