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Dr. Daniel Rockwell standing in front of brick wall and shrubbery

Mathematician Dan Rockwell's passion for teaching hooks students

Daniel Rockwell, instructor in mathematics

Mathematics instructor Daniel Rockwell was recently featured in a new semi-monthly feature by LIFE@OSU and the Center for Teaching and Learning highlighting successful teaching on campus. Below is the original interview in its entirety. Enjoy!

Describe your teaching style:

My teaching style heavily relies on the philosophy that people pay attention to things that are entertaining. If I want my students to pay attention to what I am saying then I need to be entertaining while I say it. The questions I ask myself when planning content delivery are… how can I make this interesting? How can I get my students to feel interested? What tools can I use to make the material engaging? How do I do all of this in a short period of time?

I think what stands out to students about my teaching style is best represented by a quote from a letter that was left under my door by a student; “You make the material easy to understand. You make Calculus in three dimensions seem not only doable, but also exciting. You increase each student’s self-esteem and desire to learn through your teaching.”

How has your teaching changed over time?

When I first started teaching I had minimal formal training on how to be an effective teacher. I felt confident in my abilities in the classroom but I wanted to improve my ability to plan my courses better. I heard about a learning community called the Teaching Triads that the Center for Teaching and Learning delivers. This professional learning community definitely improved my teaching practice. I have become more cognizant of listening to my students and responding to their needs. I have spent more time reflecting on how I feel about how my class went each day. I have given more thought to the planning of a particular topic. When combined with revision over time and metacognition these items help the teacher become an extremely effective teaching tool.

I have participated in the CTL’s Teaching Triad program multiple times, I am currently in the PLC on LC’s, I have attended at least four learning symposia, and I have been part of a group that is supported by the CTL (Math department redevelopment of MTH 111 with Cub). I want to tell my OSU colleagues that working with the CTL is rewarding and the reward outweighs the time you need to invest to participate.

What was your role as a CTL teaching scholar? In what ways did you support CTL?

As a teaching scholar I was part of the planning process for the PLC. I met with CTL faculty to map out the entire PLC and we met weekly to finalize the plan for each week. Early in the PLC we decided that we needed to film a series of videos focusing on how the teaching triad observation process works. We recorded two sessions in a studio and one of my class sessions was recorded. During the face-to-face meetings, I helped facilitate the delivery of content and group work.

In what ways did supporting other educators support your position description?

Being in a role where I worked with other educators gave me a chance to develop my ability to lead and educate a group of peers. I also gained experience communicating effectively with colleagues from various backgrounds. Being in charge of a classroom filled with students, that are themselves educators, is a very different experience compared to my normal classroom filled with undergraduate students. This new experience has given me perspective on how to lead a group of peers within my own department, which is directly improving the course coordination that I facilitate.