University Beat
5:12 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

3 Things About Professor of the Year Autar Kaw

Whether it's in the classroom or on a popular YouTube video series, USF Mechanical Engineering Professor Autar Kaw uses a style that challenges his students. At the same time, they're not only learning complex mathematical formulas, but they're remembering them.

As a result, Kaw has been named one of four 2012 "Professors of the Year" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. This week's University Beat on WUSF 89.7 profiles the professor, but here's three quick things to know about him:

1. Kaw was honored, in part, because he's the "Numerical Methods Guy."

Kaw's Holistic Methods Institute website, his blog and his YouTube video lectures, have been seen by thousands of engineering students around the world. Using those tools, he says, builds a strong base for future learning.

"What we have tried to do is to get the resources in many, many different contexts," said Kaw, who has taught for 25 years at USF. "And if the student is able to see the same topic in different contexts, it has been shown by evidence-based research that it stays in your long-term memory, as opposed to your short-term memory. What that does is that when they go to another course where they need to use the course material, they're able to recall the material much faster than they would have had otherwise."

2. Students in Kaw's Computational Methods course also praise their teacher for his teaching style.

"I enjoy his breaks with his jokes to keep the class on their toes," said junior Michael Cohen. "I love his relations to the real-world concepts and trying to bring in  ideas that we'll actually utilize when we get out in the engineering field."

And student Yohana Reyes adds that, while she finds Kaw intimidating, "he pushes his students very hard without discouraging them. He wants to see others succeed, and he's willing to go above and beyond to assist the students who are seeking help."

3. Kaw has two simple pieces of advice for other teachers.
"One is that you've got to have high expectations of your students and the second is to develop an emotional connection to your students. If you're able to do those two things, no matter what mode or methodology you use, I think you'll become one of the best educators in the world."

USF Mechanical Engineering Professor Autar Kaw talks with WUSF's Mark Schreiner about his series of educational YouTube videos, what he thinks the future of traditional "brick and mortar" colleges looks like, how good teachers are driving USF into the future, and why he supports educational opportunities for lower income students.