Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week
The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Alejandro Salado, assistant professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, for embedding uncertainty in all aspects of a course so that students embrace decision-making, bounding theory with real-world constraints so that students understand how basic concepts can be affected by or affect actual situations beyond school, and fostering critical thinking.
Dr. Salado teaches courses in systems engineering and in global issues in engineering at the undergraduate and graduate levels. His teaching aims at four primary objectives: encourage students to think in different ways, show the practical use of what they learn, guide them in understanding the underlying ‘whys’ of what they learn, and encourage them to reach conclusions on their own. Making use of his prior experience in industry, Dr. Salado exposes students to accelerated learning experiences that primarily resemble uncertainty and competition conditions found in industry. Using role-playing games as a paradigm, some assignments are substituted by games where aspects such as problem formulation, execution, teaming, or grading scheme, are open, fluid, and subjected to uncertainty. Mimicking movies and novels, Dr. Salado designs his classes using a dramatic structure, where students do not know what comes next, but want to know if their guesses eventually materialize or not. This achieves student attention and engagement. Essentially, students go through three stages: comfort, discomfort, and aha moment. Before class, students read and complete assignments that put them in a position aligned with their current knowledge and beliefs (comfort). During class, such a position is challenged by different perspectives and new knowledge, which make students being uncertain about their knowledge and dubious about their beliefs (discomfort). In the third stage, students themselves make the critical connections that make them understand the key underlying principles relating all the concepts, perspectives, techniques, or methods, in an aha moment, integrating the new material with their previous knowledge and beliefs.
With “an outstanding performance and reputation among graduate students”, as declared by a department head in a previous appointment, the value of Dr. Salado’s teaching approach has been consistently recognized by his students, which have praised his “passion and enthusiasm”, the ability to “think in new ways” after the course, and the “relevance to their job” resulting among others from the “real and understandable examples”. In addition, his ideas on how to educate the future engineers have been received with enthusiasm and interest by his peers in professional conferences and workshops.