Dr. Just teaches Introduction to Sustainability, an interdisciplinary course targeted toward underclass students pursuing the new University of Iowa, Certificate in Sustainability. Dr. Just also teaches Design for the Developing World, also an interdisciplinary course targeted toward upperclass students interested in advancing sustainable development in resource poor countries. Dr. Just was awarded the University of Iowa, President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence in 2008 for creative utilization of service-learning and for engaged scholarship through teaching.
My teaching philosophy is a reflection of the excellent teachers I have encountered throughout the years and more recently through my experiences developing and delivering service-learning courses in the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa.
A perfectly delivered service-learning course seeks to minimize the amount of professing while maximizing participatory learning and student self-discovery. I define the “classroom” more in terms of the broader community and less by the presence of bricks and mortar, PowerPoint projectors, and dry erase boards. I introduce myself to students as the course facilitator, not the professor or instructor. I spend time at the onset explaining why students should invest in the course by discussing the course’s service-learning focus and how that affects their understanding of the greater good that could come from their involvement.
Once the students are convinced of the potential for positive service-learning outcomes, the next learning phase is to make them more self-aware. I believe there is great value in fully understanding the results of an individual personality survey and to view those results in the context of the broad spectrum of personality styles representative of students in the class. With this understanding, it is much easier to foster the healthy interpersonal relationships required for an intensely team-oriented service-learning class. This awareness is even more valuable given my desire to have students representing all majors on campus participate in the class. It is beautiful when students from several Engineering sub-disciplines work on teams with students from English, International Studies, Economics, and Urban Planning. I feel more courses need to broadly engage diverse campus programs to foster a better understanding of how to interact with the local and global community. My teaching philosophy makes this possible.
My teaching is enhanced through my awareness of the collegial organization of which I am a part. Perhaps unfairly, engineers are stereotyped as introverted, calculating, and socially awkward. In fact, many engineering programs self select students with these characteristics because of the profession’s very technical nature. If our bridges, buildings, energy systems, etc. are poorly constructed, it will matter little if we graduate engineers capable of eloquently explaining these shortfalls at the city council meeting. Nevertheless, I do feel we need more engineers who can engage diverse groups and possess the skills to incorporate many viewpoints into engineered solutions. Perhaps more than ever, engineers are needed with an increased awareness of the positive partnership role they can play in poor communities around the world.