I started my teaching career in 1999, when, as a graduate TA, I was involved in several undergraduate courses of the civil engineering curriculum at the Politecnico di Milano University (Milan, Italy). After my doctoral graduation, at the same institution, I was charged with teaching a complete course dealing with the design of reinforced concrete structures.
Since August 2005, I have been teaching various courses of the undergraduate civil engineering curriculum at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Rensselaer). In these years at Rensselaer I have always received good feedback on my teaching skills and I received very good teaching evaluations.
Aiming at further improving my teaching skills I attended, in summer 2007, one of the ASCE ExCEEd (Excellence in Civil Engineering Education) workshops offered every year. These workshops are one-week course that provides the participants with the foundation necessary for continued growth and development towards teaching excellence. After the workshop I implemented some of the teaching techniques that characterize the ExCEED model and the quality of my classes has significantly improved.
These techniques include, but are not limited to: 1) definition of a hierarchy of Learning Objectives for the course, for specific subjects covering several classes, and for each single class; 2) daily assessment of the level of class understanding of key concepts; 3) questioning techniques to maintain a high level of attention and engagement of the students; 4) techniques to stimulate student questions; 5) development of a good interpersonal rapport; 6) development of a low-threat, high-challenge, high-reward teaching environment; 7) encouraging frequent visits during office hours; 8) targeting in each class several different learning styles.
In addition to the classical in class activity I also try to integrate Education and Research. This is achieved though offering Independent Study opportunities and Undergraduate Research Projects (URPs) on subjects closely related to my research. For example, I offered and continue to offer an Independent Study on Concrete Mechanics in which students are required to read technical articles on the subject and prepare PowerPoint presentations to discuss with the rest of the group what they have learned. Other examples are experimental and computational URPs on concrete behavior in which students are required to perform experiments or carry out numerical simulations on concrete specimens subject to a variety of loading consitions.
Furthermore, my teaching activity is completed by my advisor and mentor duties. I have supervised so far 30 undergraduate research projects, 5 “Laurea” theses, 3 Master of Science theses, and 4 PhD theses. Currently, I am also the academic advisor of about several undergraduate students.
Finally, I really believe that Teaching and Research should be considered as complementary aspects of a thorough academic activity. For these reason I have recently developed and offered a graduate course (Advanced Concrete Mechanics) that covers subjects closely related to my current research activity.