The information in this section documents my accomplishments and qualifications in the area of teaching, organized in terms of the elements of the P&T Criteria Document with the following supplemental information:

My experiences as an educator and mentor began as an undergraduate student. I was a calculus and physics tutor at UNC Charlotte in 1992 and 1993, an instructor for the American Meteorological Society (AMS) DataStreme program in 1996, and mentored several Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) students at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) from 2003 through 2008. Since joining JMU, I have taught a broad array of courses (from general education, to analytical methods, to upper-level IKM) at all levels (from high-school dual enrollment through graduate) and using a variety of delivery mechanisms (including lecture/lab, online, and blended). I also supervise at least two senior capstone projects each year, with the goal of preparing a submission to an academic journal upon completion.

In summary, I am a versatile instructor who has the educational and professional background to lead a variety of courses and experiences now — and I’m always learning new skills, techniques, and topics to continually enhance my instructional value. The evidence presented in this section demonstrates that I am dedicated to 1) engaging my students in practical real-world problems, 2) providing guidance as a compassionate mentor, 3) increasing their knowledge and understanding of quality standards in the material we cover, and 4) helping them become “more educated and enlightened so they can lead productive and meaningful lives.”


My Teaching Philosophy

What you get when you mix all of the ingredients described in my Personal Narrative, and bake in the oven of ISAT for a few years, is the approach I’ve iterated to in my teaching:

  1. Drive Out Fear. This is one of Deming’s 14 points for transforming the workplace, and I try to apply it to my workplace as much as I can. Why? Because learning and innovation depend on a willingness to try new things, and if you’re going to push forward and try those new things, you’ve got to be willing to get past your fear. We give lip service to this all the time, but don’t really model this behavior well. When I was in college, I was afraid of being wrong… of not being good enough. Of not being capable enough to do my assignments. Of being dismissed by my professors. I aim to drive out fear because I was a fearful student. Yes, the world may judge you… but I’m here to construct a safe space for you to try out some new stuff before you get there.
  2. Build Relationships; Mitigate Power Brokerage. While they’re at JMU, I want to see and feel my students progress from the role of my student to my very productive peer who I love solving problems with. There are skills, abilities, pieces of information and knowledge, and talents students will bring to a situation that I couldn’t possibly have. I encourage my students to show up and bring them. Rather than being the arbiter of their progress, I seek to guide them as they learn to determine what constitutes success. It’s a much stronger skill, in the long run.
  3. Affirm that Learning is a Community Responsibility. Students have been cultured into an educational system where the instructor delivers material, and their job is to capture it and repackage it for delivery in the opposite direction. But I try to paint a different picture: my job is to help students discover new things, realize what’s important, and spot-check their progress along the way. I like to tell them that “I am not your teacher, but your witness.” Similarly, they can and should share their gifts with others in the learning environment.
  4. Engage in a Participative Curriculum & Share Continuous Improvement. One of my favorite parts of each course is that I allow students to develop new tutorials, labs, and exercises to keep our curriculum current. This enables me to play the role of student, and to evaluate each new exercise in terms of how effectively it communicates the new concepts to a novice audience. In addition, students are drawn to making contributions to future generations of students: they love it when they know their new exercises will help students in subsequent semesters learn. I enjoy using this technique to build a multi-generational learning community (a fringe benefit is that students are encouraged to contact alumni with questions about real-world applications of the exercises they contributed when they were students).
  5. Establish a Tacit and Explicit Understanding of Quality Standards by Working Til You Get it Right. I’ve never liked the practice of handing out assignments or exams, getting them back on the due date, and then going to my cave and marking what was wrong and coming back with a numerical score. I’m fully aware that most students don’t go back and see what they missed, seek to understand why, and then update their understanding. As a result, my policy is simple: you get full credit for things you understand most of, and no credit for things you don’t. This “points system” gives me the freedom to provide honest and critical feedback when it’s needed, and provides students the opportunity to learn as much as they want (or not). Plus, it helps them understand what excellence is for each of our assignments.
  6. There are Multiple Ways of Knowing. Your Instructor Doesn’t Know Everything. I love when my students help me learn new things. And there are so many different opportunities to learn. I try to make them comfortable with educating me, which also strengthens our capabilities as a learning community — and helps develop their skills as professionals, not just students.
  7. Storytelling is Really, Really, Really Important. I love it when students craft amazing projects in statistics, simulation, or intelligent systems. But what’s just as important is to be able to tell a really compelling story. What I tell them is: “You are charged with creating a Discovery Channel segment about your project. Your goal is to get me to NOT change the channel. What are you going to say?”
  8. Have Fun. Engage the Absurd. Share Your Gifts.  For so many years, I tried not be different than everyone else. Now, I’m content with who I’ve become. I’m proud to live a completely nontraditional life, with nontraditional interests and nontraditional relationships. (As my son tells me, he doesn’t know any other moms who like to play with fire, but he’s OK with it.) Now I go to Burning Man to spend time around other radical innovators, to practice being less fearful, and to work with other people who help me identify and appreciate the natural gifts that I should be sharing with others. I find that the culture espoused by Burning Man, especially the 10 Principles that represent the unspoken social contract between its participants, effectively characterizes the learning environment that I seek to create. As an example, I’m always asking my students “what’s that crazy thing you do that’s really inspirational… that you could share with others?” It leads in unexpected directions… once, I had a student breakdancing in the hallway in ISAT to encourage other students to attend a fundraiser.


Course Syllabi

Provided below are syllabi for the courses I have taught more than once while at JMU. Those marked with asterisks (**) are courses I proposed, designed, and delivered. I have taught GSCI 161 and GSCI 162 both in the traditional lecture/lab format and fully online.  I team-teach HON 300/ISAT 680 as the lead, and provide support to E. Salib and M. Benton in the ISAT 640/IES 5005 course delivered in Malta as part of MS SERM. My “core courses” have been the upper-level information and knowledge management classes, ISAT 341 and ISAT/CS 344. Although I share materials with Ralph Grove, who teaches the CS-led versions of ISAT/CS 344 each spring, we use different course objectives and schedules.

Older syllabi (from 2009-2012) are also available for review.

Course Materials

Provided below are complete Google Drive folders for some of my classes. Although not all of my courses have been transitioned to Google Drive yet, this should give you a sense of the types of tutorials, labs, and other teaching materials I routinely employ. I have developed several new labs and exercises for these courses, including: Naive Bayes Classifier, Regression, Logistic Regression, Introduction to R, Neural Networks for Regression, Neural Networks for Image Classification, Performance Measures for Classifiers, Monte Carlo Simulation for Calculation of Pi, Creating Images, Building Complex Functions, and more.

Evaluation Criteria

The remainder of this section documents accomplishments and evidence for Satisfactory and Excellent criteria for teaching. Narratives and evidence can be found by clicking on the menu items in the RIGHT SIDEBAR for each of the individual elements listed below, or alternatively, in the Main Menu at the top of the screen under “Teaching”.

  1. A Satisfactory rating requires evidence that the faculty member is dedicated to their teaching responsibilities and performs reliably across their assigned courses. Attainment of this rating can be demonstrated by activities and achievements such as:
    1. Commitment to assigned classes, e.g. thoroughness of class preparation, careful and objective grading, and timely return of tests and papers.
    2. Course organization, e.g. clearly defined course objectives; course content, syl-labi, handouts, readings and/or textbook consistent with the course description; and course level and rigor consistent with student abilities and ISAT practice.
    3. Clear and effective communication with appropriate use of teaching resources.
    4. Mastery of the subject matter.
    5. Acceptable student evaluations of classes over the period of review.
    6. Commitment to effective student advising when assigned duties as an adviser.
    7. Positive attitude toward students, as shown by availability outside of class, assis-tance with student professional development, and jobs/ graduate school place-ment.
    8. Personal leadership demonstrated through self-initiative and follow-through with instructional tasks.
    9. Participation as a valued team member in team teaching, curriculum develop-ment, or instructional improvement activities.
  2. To receive an Excellent rating, a faculty member should demonstrate vitality and in-novation in their teaching, demonstrate commitment that goes beyond the classroom, and a notably high level of student engagement. The individual should show a dedication to teaching beyond meeting the satisfactory requirements. Attainment of this rating can be demonstrated by activities and achievements such as:
    1. Strongly positive student response to teaching, e.g. student-sponsored teaching awards, consistently above average student evaluations, or unusually positive alumni comments.
    2. Peer recognition of teaching ability and commitment to teaching, e.g. JMU or externally sponsored teaching awards or exceptionally positive reports of peer observation of teaching.
    3. Evidence of instructional vitality, e.g. developing new courses, methods and materials; innovations in course content or methodology; and use of a variety of teaching methods.
    4. Leadership in non-traditional learning experiences and activities, e.g. honors re-search, independent study, class projects, field teaching, etc.
    5. Quality teaching in a variety of learning contexts, e.g., special lectures, seminars, special studies, discussion groups, etc.
    6. Breadth in teaching expertise, e.g. the ability to teach a variety of subject areas, at the upper and lower levels, or courses for non-majors.
    7. Publication of book chapters, textbooks, or teaching materials.
    8. Presentations and publications on innovations in course content and teaching methodology.
    9. Professional development through such efforts as:
      • Participation in workshops, conferences or similar activities devoted primarily to improving teaching methods and course content.
      • Participating in regional and national pedagogical organizations.
    10. Leadership in teamwork, e.g. generating a spirit of teaming, building team con-sensus or capabilities, initiating teams that effectively address ISAT curriculum needs.
    11. Instructional leadership, e.g., the ability to initiate and execute constructive change in an ISAT, JMU, or external curriculum.
    12. Demonstrated instructional accomplishments that the PAC deems exceptional.