Lessons from the Field: Interview with Liz Kisenwether

This post is part of the The Teachers Certification Map’s “lessons from the field”, a series of posts featuring passionate, inspiring educators from across the country discussing some of the lessons that they have learned over the years that would help young teachers as they embark on their careers.

Liz Kisenwether, who has been teaching for 10 years, is a professor at Penn State University, where she is currently teaching Introduction to Engineering Design, Engineering Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship Stage II.

Below are Liz’s insights into effective teaching and learning:

Q:  What inspired you to teach?

A:  It’s very rewarding to see students’ growth in skills, knowledge across time. I see teaching as more guided learning and coaching.

Q:  What classroom methods are most helpful in pushing students towards their goals?

A:  I do not believe  “chalk and talk” + structured homework / exams is the best way to teach either engineering design or entrepreneurship. Using problem-based learning (PBL) gets students developing and applying knowledge, and using their thinking/creativity/problem-solving  skills.

Q:  What is the one thing you wish you’d known when you started in the classroom?

A:  Don’t spoon-feed students with a textbook as the “bible” and only convey new knowledge via chalkboard if this is the only option.  Help students get base knowledge quickly, then do activities to gain more knowledge, skills, insights.  Make students take command of their learning: have them think and figure out what information they don’t have and need to move ahead with an assignment.

Q:  What skills could more developed if you were to enroll in a teacher training program?

A:  I work with students in teams in almost all the classes I teach. I would like to know more about:

  1. Best practices in dealing with “slackers” on a team – the students who dodge doing work, don’t carry their work load, and are often in denial that they are slacking or simply don’t care.
  2. How to do effective and honest peer evaluations.  Students are often too nice in peer evaluations. I can see from observing the team who are the leaders, the followers, the doers, the slackers.  But the peer evaluations don’t reflect reality.

Do you know someone with great insights to share with young teachers, or do you want to be considered for an interview? If so, please email us at hello@certificationmap.com.

This is a guest post from our journalist Alex J. Mann.  You can subscribe to his blog hereand follow him on Twitter here.