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An Interview with Dr Eline Boghaert – Winter 2017 Teaching Excellence Award Recipient

The Engineering Society would like to extend their congratulations to Dr. Eline Boghaert, who was selected by the Teaching Excellence Award Committee as last term’s recipient of the Engineering Society Teaching Excellence Award.

This award recognizes an instructor (professor, lecturer, or laboratory instructor) for their contributions to ensuring the academic success of their students. More specifically, the award recognizes an instructor who has: employed non-conventional teaching techniques, allowed opportunities for experiential learning, and showed a commitment and dedication towards ensuring academic success for students.

Congratulations on receiving the Teaching Excellence Award Dr. Boghaert, and thank you for everything you’ve done to help ensure the academic success of your students!

When did you decide to be a professor?

I’ve always liked the idea of pursuing a career in teaching. When I was in middle school and early high school I thought I wanted to be a math teacher. Once I started undergrad I really enjoyed my chemical engineering courses and some of my summer research positions and thought that I would like to be a professor. I started my PhD and realized after a year or two that I was much more passionate about teaching than research so I completed the equivalent of a Teacher’s College Program and taught high school math for two years while completing my PhD. When I moved to Waterloo I was fortunate to get a position in the Chemical Engineering Department as a lecturer, which allows me to focus on teaching without having to manage a research group.

What is your favourite part about being a lecturer?

I really enjoy interacting with students and helping them understand and apply concepts. A lot of times students know more than they think they know, they just need someone to guide them and ask them the right questions so that they connect ideas and work through a problem. Working with students and seeing them experience these aha! moments is very rewarding.

What is your teaching philosophy?

First and foremost, I believe it’s important to build a dynamic and safe classroom environment where students are excited to learn, actively engaged, and comfortable asking questions. Second, I think students learn best when they can connect new ideas to previous experiences and prior knowledge. To that extent, I try to explain more advanced concepts using analogies to things that students can visualize. I also try to structure my courses using a scaffolding approach where we start off with easier problems and then add layers of complexity as the term progresses. While a lot of these problems initially seem very different, I try to emphasize the similarities and the key concepts that are applied.

What unconventional teaching methods do you employ (if any)?

I don’t think I do anything particularly unconventional. For the most part I use a combination of PowerPoint and problem solving on the white board. When it comes to problem solving, working through the problem on the board allows me to show the students what my thought process is for each step. It also allows me to change my approach or elaborate on my explanations depending on student questions and input.

Given the opportunity, how would you improve yourself as a professor?

I would like to work on making my classes more engaging and interactive. It would be nice to incorporate more hands-on activities or demonstrations to help students visualize some aspects of the course content. I also need to work on asking better questions. Rather than asking questions with a “right” answer, I’d like to incorporate more questions that lead to class discussion.

What message would you like to send to students reading this article?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn something is to constantly ask yourself questions and then find the answers to anything you are unsure of.

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