Alicia Gal was selected as a finalist for the Young Investigators Award, Own The Podium 2017 SPort INovation (SPIN) Summit.

Teaching

A teacher hasn't taught until a student has learned - Henrietta Mears

Learning isn't so much about the who, what, when, where, or how; it is about the why. - Adrian Chan

Teaching objective

To foster a learning community where students gain wisdom (refer to Data Information Knowledge and Wisdom Hierarchy [1] for what is meant by wisdom).

Teaching paradigm

My teaching philosophy is derived from my life philosophy, which has community as a central theme. When I refer to community, this can refer to the community of students and lecturer in the classroom, the community of people at a university, a city, a nation, or even the world. I believe a community requires three main characteristics: responsibility, respect, and trust. In my life, I attempt to be an effective and positive contributor to my communities, with my decisions and actions filtered by my views on community. Why should my approach to teaching differ from the rest of my life? Thus, it is natural that my teaching and life philosophy are intertwined.

The roles that we have in teaching form the basis of our responsibilities. Teachers are given the responsibility to provide students with a good opportunity to learn. A "good opportunity to learn" includes what are seemingly simple or basic items, such as showing up on time, being audible in lectures, and answering questions. I try to stretch beyond these simple or basic items. For example, I think it is important to provide an environment that is "safe", where students feel free to express their opinions and make mistakes so that they can learn from them. This includes providing appropriate feedback that is directed towards their work and not their character, and that criticism is always coupled with suggestions for improvement. Students have the responsibility of taking the opportunities presented to them. The roles of the teacher and students are complementary; the success of teaching depends on each party to fulfill their responsibilities appropriately.

The roles of a teacher and a student are different, and result in different demands and levels of expectations from each. Although the teacher and their students are not the same, they both deserve an equal level of respect. Mutual respect is required for a functioning community, which includes respect for other people's opinions and beliefs. Ron Clark [2] discusses that a lack of respect can cause an environment where people will not speak freely and voice their thoughts and opinions; in such cases, people are too worried to be ridiculed or disregarded. I believe teachers deserve the respect of their students but respect cannot be received unless it is given. I found that a key element to respect is listening. I try my best to provide students with an opportunity to voice their concerns to me and to listen with an open mind. I do my best to construct solutions collaboratively with students that have problems or issues. This means that we discuss matters so that we each understand the other's perspective, and that solutions are fair and equitable.

Finally, trust is an essential element in any community. Lack of trust would result in a dysfunctional group. A major difficulty with trust, however, is that it needs to be earned. We share intimate details with long-time friends because we have built a high level of trust over many years. In teaching, if the teacher and student trust each other, wasted time can be avoided; the teacher can focus on providing a quality learning experience, and the student can focus on making the most of this experience. For effective teaching, a certain level of trust must be given by the teacher and the student; what a gift, considering the value of trust! To help facilitate this building of trust, I have been scheduling one-on-one meetings with students at the beginning of my courses so that we have an opportunity to meet and get to know each other. This is quite a daunting task for me, given class sizes greater than 100 students or even greater then 200! However, I found that there are mutual benefits that make this endeavour worthwhile. Many students are reluctant to approach professors with questions because they are intimidated or afraid to be a bother. After these one-on-one meetings, students have found it much easier to approach me with questions and concerns. For myself, I am able to get good feedback on the course, understand students' backgrounds and expectations, and find it more satisfying knowing the people I teach.

Teaching style

I believe in a systems view of teaching, which cannot be restricted to the classroom; nor can teaching be viewed by examining an individual class in isolation. Learning is a lifelong endeavour, not a transitory part of a student's life; thus, teaching should be approached with the same view. Teaching and learning are affected by things beyond the classroom, which should not be ignored. Similarly, if what is learned is only applicable in the classroom, the utility of such learning is low. These beliefs motivate my active involvement in many student clubs and events outside of the classroom.

A teacher must be adaptable for each student is unique. Students have different learning styles; for example, some are visual learners while some are audio learners. Likewise, each teacher is unique and has different strengths in teaching styles. It is unreasonable for students to be proficient in every learning style and it would also be unreasonable to expect a teacher to be proficient in every teaching style; however, it is reasonable for teachers to be able to acknowledge different learning styles and try to accommodate the student. For example, when assisting students who have a problem with a particular concept, I will try to explain the concept in a manner that differs from the lecture. This may include visual depictions, analogies, or practical examples.

Teaching is a learning process. We need to learn constantly to improve our teaching; thus, a teacher needs to have both a willingness and desire to learn. As teachers, part of our learning must come from our students. Students require feedback and guidance from their teachers to facilitate their learning. Likewise, student feedback to teachers is an essential part of teaching. A good teacher is a good listener.

Reflections

I have had the fortune and pleasure to have taught for a number of years. My teaching has ranged from high school students to Ph.D. graduate students, which has provided a very broad experience in teaching. I find teaching fulfilling and it has given me an opportunity to meet many fantastic students. I hope sincerely that they have learned and gained some wisdom from me. I know that I have learned and been inspired by many students. My students have helped me develop as a teacher. They have also impacted the way I live day-to-day and challenged my thought processes, which affects my research and has helped put other parts of my life into perspective. They have inspired me towards global citizenship, to strive for a sustainable lifestyle, and to work towards a just society. I am the father of three beautiful children. I am learning so much from them...

Quotation

Words of Socrates (ironically transcribed by Plato) on the pitfalls of storing information by writing it down. In today's world, we have gone a step further, relying on the internet to provide us "answers". We fill ourselves with the belief of wisdow while we only have the "conceit of wisdom". "If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows."

References

[1] Ackoff, Russell L., "From Data to Wisdom", Journal of Applied Systems Analysis, vol. 16, pp. 3-9, 1989.

[2] Clark, Ron, The Essential 55, Hyperion, 2004.

Academic Integrity

A letter to my students by William Taylor

Current Teaching Assignments

Term Course Code Course Title
Winter 2018 SYSC 4201 Ethics, Research Methods and Standards for Biomedical Engineering

Previous Teaching Assignments

Term Course Code Course Title
Winter 2017 SYSC 4201 Ethics, Research Methods and Standards for Biomedical Engineering
Fall 2016 BIOM 5101 Biological Signals
Winter 2016 SYSC 4201 Ethics, Research Methods and Standards for Biomedical Engineering
Fall 2015 BIOM 5101 Biological Signals
Winter 2015 BIOM 5101 Biological Signals
Winter 2015 SYSC 4201 Ethics, Research Methods and Standards for Biomedical Engineering
Winter 2014 BIOM 5101 Biological Signals
Fall 2013 SYSC 4201 Ethics, Research Methods and Standards for Biomedical Engineering
Fall 2013 SYSC 4203 Bioinstrumentation and Signals
Winter 2013 BIOM 5101 Biological Signals
Fall 2012 SYSC 4201 Ethics, Research Methods and Standards for Biomedical Engineering
Fall 2012 SYSC 4203 Bioinstrumentation and Signals
Fall 2011 BIOM 5101 Biological Signals
Fall 2011 SYSC 4201 Ethics, Research Methods and Standards for Biomedical Engineering
Fall 2011 SYSC 4203 Bioinstrumentation and Signals
Winter 2011 BIOM 5101 Biological Signals
Fall 2010 BIOM 5002/SYSC 4201 Ethics, Research Methods and Standards for Biomedical Engineering
Fall 2010 SYSC 4203 Bioinstrumentation and Signals
Fall 2010 BIOM 5001 Engineering Analysis and Modelling of Human Anatomy and Physiology
Winter 2009 SYSC 3501 Communication Theory
Winter 2009 BIOM 5101 Biological Signals
Fall 2008 ECOR 1606 Problem Solving and Computers
Fall 2008 BIOM 5001 Engineering Analysis and Modelling of Human Anatomy and Physiology
Summer 2008 ECOR 1606 Problem Solving and Computers
Winter 2008 SYSC 3501 Communication Theory
Winter 2008 BIOM 5101 Biological Signals
Fall 2007 BIOM 5001 Engineering Analysis and Modelling of Human Anatomy and Physiology
Summer 2007 ECOR 1606 Problem Solving and Computers
Winter 2007 SYSC 3501 Communication Theory
Winter 2007 BIOM 5101 Biological Signal Acquisition and Modeling
Fall 2006 BIOM 5001 Engineering Analysis and Modelling of Human Anatomy and Physiology
Summer 2006 ECOR 1606 Problem Solving and Computers
Winter 2006 SYSC 3501 Communication Theory
Winter 2006 SYSC 5301X Biological Signal Acquisition and Modeling
Fall 2005 MCG 5137A Engineering Analysis and Modelling of Human Anatomy and Physiology
Summer 2005 ECOR 1606 Problem Solving and Computers
Winter 2005 SYSC 3501 Communication Theory
Winter 2005 SYSC 5301X Biological Signal Acquisition and Modeling
Summer 2004 ECOR 1606 Problem Solving and Computers
Winter 2004 SYSC 3501 Communication Theory
Winter 2004 ECOR 1606 Problem Solving and Computers
Summer 2003 ECOR 1606 Problem Solving and Computers
Winter 2003 SYSC 3501 Communication Theory