Teaching Philosophy


I believe that education should be about students’ learning more than about teachers’ teaching. Teachers should trust students and facilitate their learning. Students come to my classes with a set of experiences, previous knowledges (note the plural), expectations, conceptions and misconceptions that shape how they learn. Our collective job (not just mine but theirs as well) is to make these explicit, to critically assess how these enhance (or hinder) their learning, and to provide them with a new set of experiences, knowledges and hopefully a new way of looking at the world. More than giving students a grade, my main responsibility is to help them acquire a life-long commitment to “check their knowledge”, i.e., to critically question what they know (and don’t know), how they came to know it, how they came to not know certain things, what they know it for, and to get ready to acquire new knowledge for new circumstances.  Their responsibility is to learn this skill and apply it for the rest of their life. 


I believe that student learning is an evolutionary process that requires time to process and question new ideas and concepts. The acquisition of new knowledge, especially one that might challenge students’ core beliefs and values about engineering and progress, often elicits strong resistance. Our shared responsibility is to acknowledge this in the classroom and help students move beyond this resistance towards cognitive and emotional growth. As resistance fades away as the semester (or program of studies) unfolds, their learning should increase, their thinking should become more sophisticated and their attitude for new knowledge becomes more welcoming. 


I believe that the creation and acquisition of new knowledge is a social process. In my classes, students have plenty of opportunities to develop and process their own individual ideas and learn to map these in a larger cultural/cognitive map of people who came before them. They also have the opportunity to co-create and co-acquire knowledge with their peers. Active learning activities in the classroom are fundamental elements of this collaborative process. Hence their active participation in these activities are highly valued and rewarded as this is how knowledge is created, shared, contested, and transformed. More importantly, this collaborative process of knowledge creation ensures that multiple voices and perspectives participate in the creation. 


I believe that our writing is a reflection of our ideas. To produce good, clear and powerful writing, we need to have good, clear and powerful ideas (and vice versa). This requires close and in-depth reading, a commitment to listening, opportunities to test ideas with others, time to reflect about these exchanges, and a continuous engagement with our own drafts. Hence good writing cannot happen the night before a paper is due. My responsibility is to guide students towards good readings, help them develop their listening, provide them with opportunities to test ideas with others, and allow them ample time between the assignment of a paper and its due date. Their responsibility is to engage the readings, be willing to listen, share their ideas with others, and give themselves plenty of time to outline, draft, edit and re-edit their writing. Throughout this process, their ideas will become clearer, sharper, and, hopefully, more socially relevant. 


Furthermore, I believe in the power of diverse ideas and arguments. All of us come into higher education with opinions (weak and strong). Our collective responsibility is to turn these into powerful and well-supported arguments that can hopefully have an impact on the world. To do this we need a respectful and nurturing environment to share opinions and explore ways to turn them into well-crafted arguments. Hence one of my primary roles is to construct and maintain such trusting and safe classroom environment, constructively challenge students’ opinions and help them transform those into well-supported arguments. Their role is to be open to this challenge and to be respectful of the classroom environment and of others’ attempts at transforming their opinions. 

For a full development of how I teach students to develop critical praxis, see this paper here

Engineering and Sustainable Community Development 

Engineering & Social Justice