Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Gordon Parker

The Dean’s Teaching Showcase nominee for this week comes from the College of Engineering. Dean Wayne Pennington has chosen to recognize Gordon Parker, the John and Cathi Drake Professor in the Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department. Both Pennington and MEEM chair Bill Predebon praised Parker as “a great success story of the flipped classroom approach.” Gordon has effectively implemented the flipped classroom model in both a senior level and graduate level controls course, and now has more than 30 video clips that are being used world-wide.

Parker attributes his success to his ability to “borrow techniques from my colleagues, add some of my own ideas, mix them into my teaching style and serve them up to willing students.” He acknowledges that some of his innovations didn’t work, but believes teaching innovation is “encouraged by the Tech culture.” He especially appreciates regular faculty presentations on teaching methods sponsored by the MEEM department, as well as “random conversations in the elevator” which help him improve his teaching.

He has found the flipped classroom to be most effective because it lets him “use class time to exercise what students have prepared in advance.” This allows high expectations and accountability, but seems to work well for most students. Parker enjoys the real-time feedback of the more interactive classroom, and finds the higher level of spontaneity exciting, since “every class is different.”

Parker is also credits his department for working on a new undergraduate curriculum, which is “requiring a high level of communication and coordination between numerous instructors” and is “nothing like my previous experiences of developing courses in my closed-door office.” He appreciates the challenges and imperfections in both teaching and joint curricular changes, but believes the changes are “well worth it.”

Gordon will be formally recognized with the 11 other Dean’s Teaching Showcase nominees at a luncheon near the end of spring term. Please join Dean Pennington, Chair Predebon and the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in thanking Gordon for his outstanding contributions to the teaching mission of the College of Engineering.