University of Colorado Denver
 Business School

Teaching Philosophy

Dawn G. Gregg, Ph.D.
Associate Professor


dawn.gregg@ucdenver.edu
(303) 315-8449
 

Introduction

My personal goal is to be an outstanding teacher and mentor for my students. In defining my role as an educator, I think it is important to understand who my students are and why they have chosen information systems as their major. The vast majority of my students are in my classes systems because they want to pursue a business or information technology related career. As such, I design my courses to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to function as business or information systems professionals. I find that my role involves four principle activities:

  1. To continually strive to develop a broad array of teaching skills and adjust them to meet the needs of my students.
  2. To challenge my students with a variety of assignments and to evaluate them honestly and fairly.
  3. To foster student mastery of course material while at the same time helping them to develop a broader understanding of information technology and how it is used in organizations today.
  4. To reach beyond the classroom to develop opportunities for students to gain broader knowledge and experience relevant for their future as information systems professionals.

Classroom Instruction

The information systems discipline is the study of the use of computers for providing information to support operations, management, and decision-making functions in an organization. I believe that understanding how programs are constructed and used is essential to being a capable information systems professional. This is more than understanding how specific programming logic is used. It involves understanding why we do certain things and when to choose one option over another. It is my goal for all my students that they develop the critical thinking skills necessary to apply concepts and techniques learned in my course to real problems they encounter in their jobs.

Learning to decompose a problem and develop a solution involves doing. Students cannot just listen to a lecture and know how to develop code or create an Excel model. While the process of reading algorithms and examples in textbooks and from lecture notes is valuable, the real learning comes through the student's own efforts at solving problems. In my courses this is primarily achieved through a series of short assignments and longer projects that give students practice developing and debugging business programs, databases, or spreadsheets. I grade these assignments and return them as soon as possible so students understand the mistakes they have made and can correct them on future assignments.

However, not all students can be successful in completing these assignments without adequate coaching and support. Throughout my courses I use a variety of teaching approaches to reach students with different learning styles and preparation levels. I strive to provide interesting examples, visual aids, and demonstrations to help bring the material I am covering come alive to students. For example, in my undergraduate data structures course I use a number of Web based graphical programs that demonstrate many of the concepts discussed in the course and also bring items like egg cartons to class to illustrate what a data structure is and why they are important. Often these visual demonstrations are much more effective at illustrating complicated concepts than hours of lectures or pages of text.

Active learning is also an essential component of all of my courses. The active learning technique I most often use in my classes is to have my students to complete an exercise using the concepts being discussed in the lecture (the exercises usually use computers). The solutions are often collaborative, with students helping each other to debug their solutions. I also circulate among the students, offering help as needed. The exercises usually take 5 to 10 minutes and at the end of the exercise we go over possible solutions to the problem. These small exercises are excellent preparation for the more challenging assignments and projects students are asked to complete outside of class.

Another active learning technique I use to increase the effectiveness of my projects is to have students discuss their approach to their projects in small groups, usually after a phase of the project has been completed. This requires students to think about the project individually to a point where they understand how the problem can be solved but also allows students to discover alternative ways of approaching problems that they might use in future assignments or in industry. I create groups with students who have a mix of abilities and experience. This allows weaker students to learn from the stronger students and allows stronger students to better master the material through explaining it to others. I feel this maximizes student understanding of the material and provides for a more stimulating classroom environment.

My courses can be difficult and often students get to places in their assignments where they do not know what to do next. I encourage them to ask questions in class, office hours and via email. For me, this one on one interaction with my students is essential for their learning and for my enjoyment of teaching.

In my courses I strive to be challenging, encouraging, and stimulating. I challenge students through assignments that develop both problem solving and critical thinking skills. I encourage them to ask questions in class, office hours and via email. And, I hope to create a stimulating classroom environment.

Mentoring

I believe it is important for educators to provide enhanced educational opportunities for students and to provide support to improve students likelihood of finding a job in their chosen field. One way I do this is through the sponsorship of a student club, the Information Systems Association. Through the student club I carry out a number of activities to broaden student horizons beyond what they get in the classroom alone. These include providing speakers that help to broaden students perspective on the field of Information Systems, developing internship opportunities for students with local companies, sponsoring events to involve local business leaders with students on campus, and involving students in IT entrepreneurship projects.

I am also committed to sponsoring independent studies and internships as well as to advising PhD students and serving on their committees. This gives me the opportunity to combine my research with my teaching and enabled me to work one on one with students. I feel strongly that supporting these other learning opportunities allows students to receive a more complete and balanced education.

I believe it is important for me to be accessible to students outside the classroom. I use this time not only to discuss course work but also to advise students on their future education and careers and will write letters of recommendation where appropriate.

Through my teaching and mentoring I strive to teach students critical thinking skills that will hopefully have a lasting impact on their lives. The university is a dynamic place where there are many opportunities for learning both inside and outside the classroom. While my courses cover information systems, my students are also learning how to stretch their capabilities, how to interact with peers, and how to function in their future careers.   
 


last updated September 12, 2007