Experimental learning at the Eisenhart Prize winner Jan van Aardt is a teaching style

Jan van Aardt has strong faith in the power of empirical learning. While teaching classes on distance learning and other topics, Professor Chester Fine Science Center. Carlson uses collaborative projects and practical assignments to show his students the beauty of his field and to give them skills they can use for superior experiences. stone projects.

“You learn by work, not just by regurgitation,” van Aardt said. “I feel very strongly that most of the knowledge these days is on Google search. If I ask you what the spectral response function is, you can tell me in less than 15 seconds. But the real understanding is what really matters. and should probably be the ultimate goal. I want my students to better understand one principle and apply that principle so that it eventually becomes a second nature for them. “

This approach resonated among his students and helped Van Aardt win the Eisenhart Prize for Outstanding Teaching, which is the highest honor in the RIT for professional teachers. While Van Aardt is an accomplished researcher with more than 80 publications under review who has provided millions of dollars in sponsored research, he said he is humble to receive the award because the educational aspect of his work does not naturally come to him.

Faculty Awards

Meet Abdullah al-Farooq, winner of the Eisenhart Prize for Outstanding Education in 2022, and Jessica Hardin, winner of the Provost Prize for Excellence in Education in 2022.

“It’s something I’m constantly evolving, working on and trying to improve,” van Aardt said. “I find it very demanding emotionally and professionally because you work with different students, their abilities and vision for the future.”

Early in life, van Aardt said he never saw education in his future. After studying forestry and earning a bachelor’s degree at Stellensbosch University in South Africa and an MS and a Ph.D. In Virginia Tech he received a master’s degree and went on to work in industry as a scientist. But he felt that the environment did not suit his personality and eventually he was attracted to the academy and in 2008 entered the RIT faculty.

He credits coaches such as Ben Opperman, a physicist and the early influence of the profession, who exposed him to the interaction of physics and the biology of distance learning; his mother, who was a teacher; and his high school and middle school teachers to set an example for him to strive for.

He added that Professor Carl Salvajgio, director of the Digital Image and Remote Sensing Laboratory, remains a true example. Salvajio, for his part, said Van Aardt has two of the most important qualities of a teacher – he is passionate about students and, despite his other responsibilities, always makes time for his students.

“There are fewer moments when someone walks through his office and you don’t see one of his research assistants or a student in one of his classrooms actively engaging in an argument,” Salvajo said. “Knowing that every opportunity you have to talk to a student is an opportunity for them and you to learn is something that promotes a relationship of mutual respect between each of you, the knowledge that each of you brings to the conversation. Van Aardt always knows how to listen, understand, share and use his experience for every conversation for the students and himself. Both he and his students are always learning. ”

Class feedback from students was important for Van Aardt’s growth, and he used it over time to improve his classes. And as he perfects his craft, he focuses on teaching his students not only technical skills, but also how to become a comprehensive personality.

“I see that educating students is a big responsibility not only in terms of classroom content, but also in terms of professional skills, behavior, and so on,” Van Aardt said. “I’m proud of RIT and I want the future employer to look at our students and say,‘ Wow, RIT is doing the right thing. It’s really important to me that we can be proud of the students we send to work, and that’s the best way to bring them up. ”

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