"When you say 'teaching,' I feel like that puts me at the center of a discussion -- and that's not what it's about. That's not why we're supposed to be here. We're here for the students."
Alan Cheville says he gave up teaching a long time ago. Instead, he sees himself as a mentor acting in the service of learning.
"When you say 'teaching,' I feel like that puts me at the center of a discussion — and that's not what it's about," he says, "that's not why we're supposed to be here. We're here for the students."
Cheville brings a wealth of experience to the Bucknell faculty. Raised in the Panama Canal zone, he studied in Houston and taught at Oklahoma State before heading to the Northeast. He says his interests are eclectic, but mainly focuses on electromagnetic, optics, computer architecture and solid state physics.
During his 14-year professorship at Oklahoma State, Cheville simultaneously worked with the National Science Foundation as a program director for the Engineering Education Program. "The educational process is really important to me," he says.
"Higher education tends to focus on learning as an individual act, but that doesn't represent how people work and learn in the workforce. Ostensibly pouring knowledge into a student's head leads to my own cognitive dissonance: What am I doing? What do I get out of spending my time this way? That leads to apathy, and I don't want that to happen."
To head off apathy, Cheville has been "flipping" his classrooms since about 2000: Students do their "homework" during classroom time, when they can collaborate with their fellow students and he can be present to advise them. Then they watch his lectures on YouTube.
Bucknell's interactive and dynamic academic environment was the deciding factor for Cheville in selecting his new home. "I interviewed with other places, but they weren't as open about what they were looking for as Bucknell was. That sort of self-reflection is really attractive to me. You can't grow as an individual or as an institution if you aren't honest with yourself."
Posted October 2012
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