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Plain Advice For New Engineering Faculty On How To Manage Classes And Motivate Students

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade I

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.959.1 - 14.959.7



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Paper Authors


Seamus Freyne Manhattan College

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An ASEE member since 2003, Seamus Freyne is an assistant professor of civil engineering at Manhattan College in New York City. His research interests include concrete materials, sustainability, and ethics.

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Micah Hale University of Arkansas

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W. Micah Hale is an associate professor at the University of Arkansas where he teaches courses in civil engineering materials and concrete design. In addition to his teaching interests, he also conducts research in the areas of concrete materials and structures.

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Stephan Durham University of Colorado, Denver

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Stephan Durham is an assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado at Denver. His research interests include pervious concrete, concrete in wastewater applications, and innovative highway construction materials.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Plain Advice For New Engineering Faculty On How To Manage Classes and Motivate Students


To be a new engineering faculty member is to have a very tough job. In most cases, you just finished your dissertation after several years of sweat and toil, and suddenly, with hardly any pause, you find yourself in a new place with new colleagues and huge new demands on your time. In addition to precipitous research requirements, you have new courses to teach, and you may not have taught much previously. Students pay increasingly hefty amounts and they rightfully trust you to impart knowledge and skills and guide them into gainful employment. All these expectations are enough to cause anyone unwanted stress. How will you do it? In this article, the authors, fairly new to academia themselves, share some simple advice on how to manage a class as a whole, motivate students individually, and be efficient with your time.

Plan Your Courses

Design your courses to give students an appropriately broad command of all topics. Do not give one topic excessive depth at the expense of other topics. Try to address the topics found on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Add value to each class period.1 Be decisive, confident, and knowledgeable on the subject being taught.2

Design assignments, projects, and exams to be both rigorous and fair.3 Gear the lectures to the assignments, and gear the assignments to the exams. Keep the audience in mind, and be mindful of the scholastic background and maturity of the students in your course.2 Do not make the course easy in an attempt to please students, as a course without some difficulty is ultimately a disservice to the students and yourself.

Problems can arise when there are multiple sections of the same course taught by different faculty members. In these situations, try to be consistent across all sections. Meet with the faculty who will teach the course and come to a general agreement on the syllabus. Choose the same textbook. Give roughly the same assignments, projects, and exams. As you can guess, your students will complain if they think the workload in your course is too heavy, and students in other sections will complain if they detect the workload in your course is too light. You will hear about it, the other faculty will hear about it, and so will the department head.

What happens if you meet resistance when trying to reach some consensus on the syllabus? Say you want to update the course with some new topics or experiments, but other faculty want to teach the course as it has previously been taught. Unless you can convince the other faculty of the merits of the proposed changes and promise to help with preparation of the new lectures, then you should just follow the status quo. Be patient, as eventually you will likely be able to revise the course without making waves. In the meantime, pour your creative efforts into your research.

Freyne, S., & Hale, M., & Durham, S. (2009, June), Plain Advice For New Engineering Faculty On How To Manage Classes And Motivate Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5102

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015