Understanding Our Students’ Pulse: A Q&A with Purdue University Northwest’s Neeti Parashar

Neeti ParasharDr. Neeti Parashar, an ACUE-credentialed educator and a professor of physics at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), advocates for making teaching expertise as much of a priority as research acumen—but this wasn’t always the case. As an international scholar and researcher, Dr. Parashar dedicated herself to the field of physics. However, when the opportunity to enroll in an ACUE course at PNW presented itself, she was quick to apply.

In a recent interview, Dr. Parashar describes ACUE as the “benchmark” of professional training for college educators and shares the impact of earning her ACUE credential on her career and on her students’ learning. “Students’ performance has improved, which makes me think that they are learning the material better and are happier. The DFW rate for this semester has been the lowest ever I have observed,” said Dr. Parashar. Read and watch excerpts of the full interview below.

Q: Why did you enroll in an ACUE course? 

NP: I come from a STEM field. I’m a physicist. Most of my colleagues are either physicists, chemistry faculty, or engineers. I collaborate most with people in STEM fields. So while we are all pretty decently trained scientists, we’re not trained as teachers. I’m 17 years into my profession as a faculty [member], and this is the first time I’ve ever learned how to teach. This course was an eye-opener for me, in particular, and I would highly recommend it to all of my colleagues because as the whole landscape of our student dynamic changes, we need to understand the pulse of our students. ACUE provides us with the “latest and greatest,” so taking this course is a must—not a choice. For myself, professionally, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done with regards to teaching.

Q: What are some of the teaching practices you learned and implemented that really resonated with you and had an impact on your students?

NP: I decided to make two very simple changes and see their effects. So the first one was going to the class 20 minutes early. Now, 20 minutes is a long time to go and chat, but I couldn’t believe how exhilarating it was because for students who always thought there was a barrier between a physics professor and themselves, I think we broke free from that pre-conceived notion. I was able to talk to the students in a more friendly manner—about what was going on in their labs, what difficulties they were facing in the class —and it was unbelievable how well this worked. The other, really the “aha” moment for me, which students loved a lot, was me providing them with index cards at the end of every single class and asking them to write any questions they had related to the class. I would go through all of them, and then the following lecture, the first thing I did before starting new material was address those questions. I think these two things really were the big “aha” moments for me because I saw the results immediately.

Q: How did you know that the index cards were having an effect on students?

Q: Overall, how do you think your students have benefited from your experience in an ACUE course?

Q: You’ve earned your ACUE credential. What’s next? How do you plan to sustain your learning and continue to grow as an educator?

NP: I’m the type of person, despite all of the technology, who keeps a notebook. So I write down my goals usually for the coming year, for the next six months, and for the following semester. Because I’m teaching an online course, I set myself up with the challenge of applying what I learned in ACUE to my online course, which I really want to improve. That’s my summer goal. But I’m going to systematically write down all the things I learned in the ACUE modules and tweak them for the courses I’m going to teach in the coming academic year.

Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

NP: In the past, I sometimes laid the blame on my students for not learning and doing enough, but that thought process was not completely accurate. I wouldn’t have known that if not for the ACUE course, since it opened my eyes to what I could do to make a difference in their education. I think our university is doing a great job by offering these training programs. I’m so glad they decided to offer the ACUE course. I usually don’t pay too much attention to non-research events on campus, but the ACUE course has triggered in me the drive to look for more opportunities to improve my teaching.

 

What to read next: “José Bowen: Using Feedback From Students to Improve Your Teaching

 

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