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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

David Knight

   

The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes David Knight, assistant professor of Engineering Education, for helping students learn and develop through whatever means seem appropriate in a given context, providing resources—but not answers—so that students must take ownership of their own learning, and developing authentic, real-world assessments that focus on skill development and serve as useful activities for students’ future.

David Knight has taught a variety of first year engineering and engineering education graduate courses, including Foundations of Engineering 1 (ENGE 1215), Global Engineering Practice: Leadership and Culture (ENGE 1644, consists of a Spring semester course followed by a two-week international module), Foundations in Engineering Education (ENGE 5014), Research Methods in Engineering Education (ENGE 5604) and Research Methods in Engineering Education 2 (ENGE 5714). He views his role as a learning facilitator in all of these contexts, seeks to cultivate an environment where there is constant discussion (regardless of class size), includes hands-on learning opportunities with students working in teams, and intentionally selects examples that are relevant to students (e.g., aligned with their interests or carrying forward themes from previous class sessions). In ENGE 1215, Knight has split the semester into three modules, each of which is organized around real-world team and individual projects that align with course learning objectives. He tries to remain flexible and creative in his approach, seeing no bounds to what is possible. For example, in ENGE 1215, rather than talking about job opportunities within the classroom, his class took a field trip to the Engineering Expo to understand all of the potential future opportunities the field has to offer and practice elevator pitches in a real-world setting. Again in that class, rather than providing students with a mock data set within the classroom, he connected his class with a research lab to go out in the field to collect data in real-time to have a more authentic experience. In the Global Engineering class, Knight organizes guest speakers from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, industry, and national contexts to help students recognize how variation in perspectives, cultures, and contexts influences engineering. He then guides the class through reflective activities and assignments to reinforce how the guest perspectives connect together and may be applied in students’ futures. In graduate courses, Knight integrates current research to help students understand how departmental faculty members contribute to the field. He is a believer in aligning data with educational processes and outcomes, and has operationalized this by revamping assignments in both core courses so that students could receive feedback on departmental practice exams prior to taking the actual exam. Finally, Knight consistently tries to improve his courses even after teaching them multiple times based on intentionally collected data. Seeing a need in the graduate program, he argued for an expansion of the Research Methods course to cover two semesters so that students could spent more time learning the full research process from design through analysis.

Knight received two faculty awards in Spring 2016—the College of Engineering’s Outstanding New Assistant Professor Award as well as the Department of Engineering’s Nunnally Award for the Outstanding Faculty Member. His contributions to both the undergraduate and graduate programs were cited by his colleagues and students as rationales for deserving these recognitions. Assistant Department Head Holly Matusovich noted: “David has consistently earned high teaching scores in graduate and undergraduate courses. Importantly, David does not simply teach the courses he is assigned; he dives in and makes significant contributions to improve student learning experiences and to better align the courses with overall curricular goals.” Former graduate student Brian Novoselich, currently a faculty member at West Point wrote: “Dr. Knight quickly set himself apart from other graduate level instructors that I have worked with in the classroom. As a part of Dr. Knight’s Engineering Education Research Methods course, I and my peers were extremely impressed with Dr. Knight’s student centered approach to the course. His management of the classroom discussion and course assignments provided one of the most positive learning environments that I have experienced in my three years of graduate level studies . . . His personal attention to student needs has been unmatched by other faculty that I have worked with across the university.” Most notably, perhaps, has been Knight’s evolution of the Rising Sophomore Abroad Program (RSAP) from 24 first year students traveling to Europe when he took over in 2014, to 92 students traveling to one of three international tracks in 2016, with triple-digit student numbers and seven international tracks planned for 2017. And a former RSAP student noted: “Dr. Knight teaches without judgment or cynicism and is a catalyst for the purest form of learning: self-discovery. This ability makes him a very effective advisor and teacher . . . Dr. Knight never speaks or acts in a specific way in order to gain trust with his students, but allows his upright lifestyle to earn our trust. He exudes respect towards you and others through every interaction. This type of personality is something I attempt to replicate in my own life.”

Homepage: http://www.enge.vt.edu/enge-person.html?pid=dbknight





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