Despite the ability, effort, and dedication of the best educators, a common teaching philosophy can often boil down to this: a student will get out of a class what they want to get out of it, and what they want to get out of it is often directly correlated to what they are willing to put into it.
How successful, prepared, or confident is the most well versed student who has never been afforded the opportunity to test their skills or implement what they know?
My philosophy is this: Teach not only the knowledge, but also the qualities of success and provide engaging, performance-based lessons and projects so students can apply their skills and increase their own understanding of what they’ve learned. My understanding and beliefs on learning and teaching originate from three main sources: my experience as a student, my practice as a teacher, and my research on tutoring and educational applications of computer science. I strongly believe that learning a particular subject should foster the creation of a larger interconnected network of knowledge in the mind of the learner.
I think that collaboration between students, under the appropriate circumstances, can improve learning.
Throughout my graduate student career, first as a Master's student (2001-2002), then as a PhD student (2005-2008), I worked as Teaching Assistant (TA) at the University of Illinois at Chicago for several semesters.
In spring 2003 I taught introductory computer science classes to third, fourth, and fifth grade children at the Elementary School of Gaggiano, Milano, Italy. In fall 2006 I taught an Italian as a second language course at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, Chicago.
In summer 2008 I taught an introductory rock climbing course at the Student Recreation Facility of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Since fall 2010 I have been working as an Assistant Teaching Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, both in Pittsburgh, PA, and in Doha, Qatar. Certain friends or relatives might know the source from where I adapted that last line - people of fine taste and discernment!!!
The challenge is not enlightening the ones who want to learn or inspiring the naturally gifted or already knowledgeable – it is engaging and supporting the academic and artistic endeavors of every student, especially those who do not subscribe to a strict “learn or get out” policy, as many try to but cannot do.
Information from a safety manual, detailed instruction booklet, “Do’s and Don’ts” list, the writing of papers, or paint-by-numbers textbooks can be handy, but isn’t always the most engaging or helpful method of teaching. Interacting with peers can have the beneficial effect of enabling the possibility for knowledge co-construction, which happens when students share their knowledge with each other and correct each other's mistakes and misconceptions. Practicing one-on-one tutoring gave me the opportunity to improve my ability of assessing students' knowledge and misunderstandings in order to provide personalized and more effective instruction.
They included teaching weekly lab sessions, grading homework assignments, projects, and exams, tutoring students, preparing assignments and classroom materials, and occasionally lecturing in front of the classroom. The experience of teaching to children allowed me to improve my ability to present difficult topics in a clear, interesting, and age-appropriate manner. The students were mostly adults interested in learning a foreign language for travel purposes.
I taught a variety of Computer Science courses, and I also designed or co-designed some of them.
Accumulating facts, reiterating knowledge, and studying material for content and terminology can equip a student with the fundamental basics and nuts – and – bolts knowledge, the first steps only. I believe that, much like myself, students in a field so creative and abstract as technical production and design, will learn best from the hands-on approach of doing.


A chronological description of my teaching experience is reported in the next section of this document.
For example, when I taught guitar classes in the parish of my hometown from 1993 to 1997, I realized that the content and style of my teaching needed to be very different from what they would have been like in a traditional music school.
A good teacher should provide the students with activities, examples, and counter-examples that are relevant, meaningful, and easy to remember.
When possible, these interdisciplinary relationships should be planned in cooperation with educators in the appropriate fields. My work as a TA has been formally appreciated by the Department of Computer Science, which awarded me the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for the academic year 2005-2006. Given their goal, I organized the class to provide a balance of basic conversation skills and cultural awareness.
The institution, a church, valued guitar classes as a safe environment for the overall development of kids. A rather extreme, but successful, example comes from the introductory rock climbing course I taught in 2008.
For example, when I taught introductory computer science to grade school children in 2003, I personalized the content of the course for each different group of students based on common learning objectives determined together with other teachers in the school. The day before the midterm exam of Fundamentals of Computer Science II, a friend of mine and I realized that we had not studied the material of the course thoroughly enough. Agnese," an institution closely related to the parish of my home town, Gaggiano (Milano), Italy. The students, mostly young teenagers, were often struggling to make sense of themselves and the world around them. In a third grade class, we used computers as an instrument to improve the writing skills they were learning in their Italian language class. Both of us had a broad, but very fragmented, knowledge of those topics coming from our previous background and attendance to some of the course lectures.
A classroom-learning environment should garnish projects, mutual discussions, and assignments that will stimulate them, teaching students critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and useful, real-world applications of productions, design, content and terminology. Given this peculiar context, in addition to music instruction, I devoted a significant portion of my class time to mentoring activities and promoting social interaction. One of these procedures requires a careful check of the equipment of a climbing partner before every ascent. In fourth grade, we worked with software that helped students visualize and practice the geometry concepts they were studying in their math class. In just one afternoon of brainstorming, explaining to each other, and fixing each other's bugs, we were able to put together a systematic overview of the course material. This experience was very challenging and rewarding for me, and I learned a lot about the importance of student goals, and adapting my teaching to the context.
Students should leave the classroom at the end of the semester engaged, feeling empowered because they have the knowledge and skill set their profession requires, and they know they are confidently able to perform at a high level to develop, create, and explore their own innovative and original ideas and designs. There are multiple approaches, philosophies, strategies, theories, and methods used in design and production.


To make this point unforgettable, I once unbuckled my own harness and put it in a completely unsafe state, but this could only be discovered after a careful inspection. In fifth grade, students were expected to improve their analytical and procedural skills while solving problems using an appropriate programming language (LOGO), again in concert to the skills they were acquiring in their math course. The university can be a place where students learn responsibility, flexibility, timing, a professional demeanor, the standards of strong work ethic, discipline, and how to function both independently and collaboratively, as will be so often required of them in the business of theatre. I feel it is important that students are exposed to as many of them as possible rather than committing to just one technique. The learning environment must give them experience as well as fundamental, sturdy know-how. Additionally, students should have access to current and up-to-date content, procedures, resources, and technology.
After a superficial inspection, the student could not find the problem, and told me I could start climbing. In some cases, especially when working in large teams, some students just "sit back" and let other people do their work. It is these more abstract teachings that will best prove their understanding of the subject matter and teach them to be employable and how to market themselves which, ultimately, is the goal of their university education. At that point, I exclaimed "thank you for letting me die!" The student was very surprised and he realized the potentially fatal consequences of his careless behavior. I want the students to learn the things they really need to know, and be prepared to do it well. Lastly, in my teaching I aspire to use a variety of learning techniques including visual, aural, sensory, written, and hands-on, all in the context of teaching real world application through implementing knowledge to produce tangible results by which we can guage the progress, strengths, and weaknesses of what is being learned.
Achieving a good balance between individuality and collaboration can be difficult, and highly depends on the context.
Including project-based curriculum such as drafting, paperwork, group work, classroom discussion, collaborative designs and renderings, labs, and exercises are not only key strategies to aide comprehension, but will also be tools with which to evaluate and constructively assess how well I am teaching and how well the students are learning. An example of a good solution in the context of computer science comes from the Programming Language Design class I worked on as a teaching assistant in spring 2007. I encourage students to attend local workshops, network, volunteer their design or production talents, observe other professionals in their craft and apply for internships or summer stock to gain knowledge and practice with today’s practices.
The instructor of the class and I allowed students to work on homework assignments either individually or in pairs, according to their own preference. All of these classroom and extracurricular endeavors will test their innovation, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and application of what they have learned.



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