KENNESAW, Ga. | Sep 25, 2023
Two Kennesaw State University professors agree that good teachers know they can always learn something new about their craft, no matter how long they do it or how successful they’ve been at it.
Professor of mathematics Ana-Maria Croicu and professor of software engineering Hassan Pournaghshband spent a week in May at the University of Georgia after being selected for the prestigious Governor’s Teaching Fellows Spring Symposium, a series of events dedicated to improving teaching skills in Georgia’s colleges and universities.
“Our primary objective was to explore effective teaching strategies that actively engage our students in the learning process through hands-on activities and collaborative teamwork,” Croicu said. “Ultimately, our goal is to empower them with the ability to effortlessly recollect and thoughtfully contemplate the knowledge acquired during these activities or within the classroom setting.”
Croicu and Pournaghshband joined a cohort of 18 professors from institutions large and small, representing a wide variety of disciplines within STEM fields. The cohort divided into four teams for projects throughout the week, which culminated in presentations at the end of the week.
“Working in teams with different people with different backgrounds, different ideas was interesting,” Pournaghshband said. “I’ve taught for a long time, so I shared my experience with them, and I got to listen to their experiences as well. That was definitely a plus.”
Each professor brought a sterling résumé to the seminar, having been honored by KSU’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Pournaghshband, who joined the faculty at Southern Polytechnic State University in 1993, earned the Outstanding Teaching Award for the 2020-21 school year.
Croicu, who started at KSU in 2006, earned the Outstanding Teaching Award for the 2014-15 school year and the Outstanding Online Teaching Award for the 2019-20 school year.
Both professors cited leadership within their colleges in encouraging them to apply for the program. In Croicu’s case, she chatted with Kadian Callahan, associate dean for student success and a professor of mathematics education who attended the Governor’s Teaching Fellows in 2016. Croicu said Callahan emerged from the seminar with valuable and pertinent insights that refined her teaching.
So what could two of KSU’s best have to learn in one week? Croicu cited the seminar’s focus on active learning as key to enhancing her teaching, even saving a handout from one of the sessions as a reminder of what she can do for her students.
“We were provided with a collection of flashcards featuring activities that we can incorporate into our classes to foster active learning,” Croicu said. “I keep it readily accessible because of its tremendous utility. It's always at my fingertips, helping me brainstorm ways to encourage my students’ active participation. I plan to recalibrate my teaching approach, prioritizing more engaging, hands-on classroom activities.”
Pournaghshband said even the most accomplished teachers don’t know it all and can always get better, especially at enrichment events like the Governor’s Teaching Fellows.
“As a teacher concerned with effective teaching, never believe that you know it all,” Pournaghshband said. “There is always a new idea somewhere that you can use. So try to find that idea, use it in your class and see how it works, and then you can always revise it to fit your needs. That’s what I learned that week.”
– Dave Shelles
Photos by Matt Yung
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.