Technical Teaching Certificate

ARCH 661: A course for everyone

Reading Response “Notes to Myself”

Notes To Myself, by Ed Allen, was written as a teaching “omiyage” (gift) to 50 participants at the Society of Building Science Educator’s (SBSE) Retreat at Redfish Lake, Idaho. They were individually bound with hand-tied with string! Students in ARCH 661 are asked to write a reading response to this booklet and post comments below.

Download:  Notes to Myself


  1. To teach is to love, and you must love what you teach. Passion and excitement for subject matter is the motivation to transfer this to your students. Enthusiasm for what you teach about is contagious. Just as loving and being loved is contagious and worth sharing. Sharing knowledge especially in architecture is one of the most admirable tasks. Having open communication with students and sharing knowledge with them is great but opening a conversation for them to share their knowledge with you is even more beneficial. I am writing this as a student with no teaching experience (yet). Edward Allen speaks of the ten-minute window where a professor can captivate your attention or lose it. I will say this is true, once I tune out the lull of a boring lecture it is very difficult to refocus. Having open communication with a professor, noticing that they see something in me and actually care to know my name or where I am from or just take interest in having a conversation with me makes me way more likely to be eager and interested in their class. I love his idea of teaching students first how to create and conceptualize ideas, and to then have them learn how to use math and technical skills to support their development of these ideas. It truly teaches a student how to design like they give a damn when they realize the importance and concepts of the subject matter at hand. Everyone deserves praise and recognition of their ideas. His statement to praise students publicly and criticize them privately meant a lot to me. As design school is already so personal and subjective, having a feeling of reward is very refreshing. While criticism is always appreciated and something to learn from as well. I love his ideas of taking risk and being experimental and participatory, and truly engaging the class in designing instead of just semi-absorbing and becoming cogs in a system. Do something unexpected and relevant, this is an immediate attention grabber and often forms appreciation in your students’ hearts for your willingness to do the unthinkable and creative approach. Involve students in an active environment and make things hands on. This suggestion is especially great for me as I have a hard time focusing and sitting through lectures and my only way to truly absorb knowledge is to apply it or be fully immersed in it. I love his mention of the lasting value of courses and that it is not what is taught in specific detail, rather it is the philosophical conceptual base and how to apply that to your design as things change over time. Lastly, his suggestion to employ quirky, offhand ideas is genius. Trust your gut seems to be the sum of most of his tips and suggestions. Go with the pace and flow of the class, don’t base anything on a set syllabus or schedule and adapt to your students needs which may call for quirky creative solutions. Give students the freedom to teach themselves, take the content you have taught and allow them to explore it and naturally they will learn. These notes have provided me with an excellent outlook on teaching and I look forward to applying it one day to my teaching methods. I also look forward to showing appreciation for the professors I know who do apply these tips, thanking them for truly valuing my education, and for having a contagious passion for their subject matter.

  2. I read “Notes to Myself” for the first time two years ago. Much of Edward Allen’s words resinated with me then and even more so now. Now I’m at the home stretch of my acidemic career, with nearly 4 years of graduate work under my belt and having been blessed with several GE positions I have much to reflect on. I can look back as see clearly all the professors and instructors who followed much of what Allen suggests, and I also clearly remember those who didn’t. Similarly, I can rememeber the teaching moments I failed at— the moments I saw the empty look in a students eyes. But, I also clearly remember the more rewarding moments when I helped a student grasp a complex or abstract idea. It’s true, it was those moments where I was really excited about the material and passionate about passing the knowledge on.

    It seems so obvious, but the basic idea is to love what you teach, be passionate about it, experiment, take risks, this will result in students that are more engaged and open to learning. Certainly, it isn’t without it’s challenges. It can be intimidating to look out onto the students that are seemingly reluctant to learn, hesitant to talk, intimidated by the task you’re asking of them. If I could change anything about this article, it would be advise on how to navigate these waters, especially as a green instructor. Those moments where you’re desperate for a response, but all you hear are the crickets chirping. Certainly these moments don’t last forever, though they feel like they might, and I think if you approach the situation with the love and passion the Allen suggests, the students will have no choice but to interact… eventually. It’s also within these moments that we can embrace the fact that these students will one day be working professionals and they won’t be able to passively get through a client meeting without some active engagement. Passivity isn’t an option. So, while it may hurt briefly for the instructor, and sometimes may feel like pulling teeth, it’s likely more valuable than anyone could predict in the moment. In fact, it feels like much of what Allen discusses in “Notes to Myself” could be applied to almost anything in life: love what you do, be excited about it, be authentic and empathetic, take risks, start fast, plan to expect the unexpected, move straight and simple, work with stars in your eyes, believe that your work will be the best and then make it so. Such poignant advice for teaching, but also now, in my case, treasured bits of wisdom to carry me into the professional world.

  3. Love it or don’t do it is his basic message.

    Teaching is like hanging out with your best friends learning something new together. Is an opportunity for the teacher to learn from the students. How can something be solved? How creatively can this be done? The classroom should be a laboratory of exploration.

    His suggestions on how to teach is all we treasure on a true friendship: you make eye contact when speaking to each other; you listen; you do activities and learn together; you do anything not to bored each other; you practice respect; you speed up on the last mile to challenge them; you engage them on an activity you love in hopes they will love it too.

    I can see not having a tradition syllabus with dates and deadlines. Perhaps the name syllabus can be changed to Class Objectives. We all want to know what the class will offer. Not having a written description of the objectives could possibly backfire by unfulfilled expectations. What is the ultimate goal of the class? What do you want them to learn in 10 weeks? What is the recommended reading per week? Each project can be introduced as the class goes on, and then, one can stipulate the deadlines. We all need deadlines.

    Engaging the audience is far more instructive than to test them, that I 100% agree with Mr. Allen. On the other hand, if one is to pass the ARE, which is a test, quizzes and exams is a very good practice on learning how to take tests.

  4. Run Risks Indeed!

    It’s great to wrap up the term with a reflection on how to teach the more technical aspects of building for resilience. I don’t think I will go into teaching any time soon, but I believe that all building professionals will need to incorporate Allen’s notes to self. We need to be engaged in teaching the technical aspects of building design in order to move our profession towards our goals of the 2030 challenge to address climate change. If client’s are to be convinced to spend twice as much on the floor slabs so it can act as thermal mass to keep the building cool and warm through out the year they need to be actively engaged in the idea behind the science and feel familiar enough with the science to trust me. We need a lot less monologue and a lot more dialogue if we are going to change the way the building profession pumps out energy hogging buildings.

    What I find enticing about teaching is all the opportunities there are to design someone’s learning experience. I feel so lucky to have had such an incredible pedagogy behind our technical electives here at UO and I hope I’ll bring that out into the world. I could detect that there was something different about the way building construction and ECS was taught and it’s gratifying to read about the ethos behind it now. Every lab that first year was drastically different, full of surprises, hands on moments, experiments and of course quirky offhand ideas. The lack of pretension in the way our technical courses are taught has been so wonderful and I am happy to be freed from the fear of using the wrong technical term to describe something. It’s okay! And starting in the middle and finding the word later is a fine way to get your point across sometimes if everyone is engaged and focused.

    I see in his writing what Kevin VDW has been saying through out my time here “just in time learning.” The best time to learn something is when you need to learn it. For example, we’re struggling with designing our connection for our structural members so a structural engineer was brought in to do a short lecture and then meet with each project to discuss there issues. We are best at absorbing new info when we need it to continue with our design process.

    I love his emphasis on love. I have felt it in some classes and I have tried to give it to the 140 something students I worked with this term. It is so hard to love some and way to easy to love the ones that are super engaged. It’s been amazing to see how much my own attitude reflects in their eyes, even though I am their peer. It is so strange to have my own mood spread contagiously to 14 other people in a matter of minutes. It is wonderful and entirely amazing to me that teachers are able to keep up the focus and energy on their incredibly challenging task.

  5. “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning.”

    After reading Edward Allen’s ‘Notes to Myself’, all I could wish for at that moment was to have him as my teacher. How different would my approach and thinking would have been had someone who taught me were this in love with what they are teaching! But then I realized, I could be that person. I could be that teacher who teaches with stars in her eyes.
    From the very first line, I was captivated. It was simple, easy to understand and follow, yet so utterly difficult to achieve because teachers hardly do that anymore. They are hardly ever in love with the subject they teach, especially technical subjects. They are always termed as the ‘monotonous’, ‘long’, ‘never-ending’ lectures that students sit through to catch up on sleep. I always found that sad and heart-breaking, because with a few little tricks, that dull class can be turned around.
    I loved reading ‘Notes to Myself’ and couldn’t believe it was over so soon. Every little tip goes a long way. Especially in the undergraduate level. Everyone is brimming with energy and enthusiasm when they first get into architecture and if there isn’t anyone to take all that exuberance and spirit forward, guide them with technical knowledge and techniques, the fire is going to burn out and after the arduous and strenuous work load, there is not going to be any enthusiasm left to get back on track. I have been there. That is probably why I want to be part of that change. Going to the other side and reforming the ways we teach for better student involvement and results.
    The best part was reading about the class where Composition was taught with live demonstration, students making models and grading each other. That spontaneous decision would sit with those students forever and that I believe should be the aim of education. It is not to earn good grades, or earn a degree, or get a job, (though that all matters in its own way), it is the way of life, a tool of transformation. Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world. That makes teachers the most powerful people in the world.

    These ‘notes’ are going to be with me when I’m teaching one day and I’m pretty sure, I’ll still be reading this and thinking back to that day when I read it for the first time and felt magic.

  6. How do we define love? Do we open a dictionary to read the definition and practice it to the ones we love? I searched for the meaning of “home” and the definition in the dictionary was far from the “home” I imagined. Do we search the meaning of love through poetry? I found that poetry could be so cruel that a person should sacrifice for the loved ones.
    Love, is a feeling that you belong to something and vice versa, and the writing take us to a short and deep exploration to propose the question: do we really love our subject? Do we really love our acts of teaching? Do we really love our students? As love is sometimes blind, mostly we did not realize that we are not a lovable person, we are not a lovable teacher. Our love to our subjects were sometimes a monologue. We speak alone in loneliness, in the stage, in front of our classes. We introverts enjoying our needs to be alone in those monologues, or we extroverts enjoying our needs to be freely expressing ourselves. We forgot to build connection, we forgot to build attachment.
    Reading Allen’s Note to Myself is a short journey to self-critique, and I enjoy feeling sad that I was guilty. Guilty to speak alone, as I guilty to force my dialogue partners to watch this introvert do his job. This introvert did not listen enough, this introvert did not respond enough. I lied when I said that I love the student. What I did was abuse them in a long boring plain relationship. It was analogous to a long-distance relationship, between Tokyo and Jakarta, forcing you to read letters every day, and judge you the next day for forgetting the last paragraph. I never thought that I need to give balanced praise and critiques. It was mostly critiques, that I felt good to find. To be able to find a mistake to critique felt like my favorite dessert after a romantic dinner. I sometimes embarrassed my dialogue partners. We did it in a friendly way, but heaven knows that some of them walk home crying.
    I did not experiment with my methods. Those dialogue partners knew what they will be having in the next three hours. It could be like having a cold bento, while waiting for the bus in the rainy winter evening, and you forgot to bring your heavy insulated parka. It was cold. But they expected it. With a strong will to have an easy A’s, to help them finish their school fast, but only to know that the real world expecting something more than just a person with a piece of certificate. The world need architects with the perceptive ability, that enjoy the design process as it was their deepest passion.
    Teaching is a dialogue. A dialogue full of excitement and grow motivation. A dialogue full of unexpected surprises to discover new skills and ability and knowledge. And you, teachers, are the leaders for the student to find those excitement. To let them know that you are guiding them in a meaningful interaction with the world they never seen before, to let them know not only things to remember, but what use they can make of all the dialogues.

  7. Teaching is one of the most under-rated skills a feel a person can have in this world. As I was reading through Edward Allen’s “Notes to Myself” I was reminiscent of all the instructors that had made an impact on me throughout my education. The ones that made me care, the ones that got me excited about what I was learning, to ask questions after class was already over, or to pursue additional studies in related fields even after the course had concluded. Passion and love for teaching are what made all these instructors stand out to me of which Allen alludes to from the very beginning of the excerpt.
    Allen’s take on the syllabus formula I found surprising but at the same time refreshing. Those professors that adhere to it as sacred text tend to not keep my enthusiasm for the subject because it tells me that they have curated a course to the point that they aren’t excited about the subject matter to change it or pivot based on the interests of their students. His quote, “try to uncover a meaningful portion of it for your students,” stands out to me specifically. Students will eventually gain information through various means, but an instructor’s power to engage and personalize learning to create excitement and curiosity within their students is a powerful tool in keeping students interested in the subject matter and perhaps inspire them to pursue related subjects.
    My favorite anecdote was of the instructor that was stuck teaching a 3-hour chunk once a week. As a student that has previously not enjoyed these types of class structures, it gave me some insight as to the struggles professors deal with in teaching this type of course. By breaking up the 3-hours into various activities every 20 minutes, it keeps the class engaged in the material and at the same time tests the recall value in what they’re learning in real-time as supposed to using a quiz or exam later through the term. It’s techniques such as these that keep students from nodding off or lose interest through long segments of instruction.
    “Notes to Myself” is a valuable resource and at the same time inspirational window through the eyes of an educator. I appreciate Allen’s candor of taking risks and going off-script in his teaching methods for the sake of gaining better engagement with his classes. One can see the excitement he has for teaching through his writing. Students can perceive very easily if their instructor is bored with the topic they’re teaching, so as a result causes them not to care much to listen. Engagement is the key to teaching not just in a traditional classroom setting, but in all the various ways we learn.
    Considering my own experience of teaching others in my professional life working at firms, the moment things click for someone under your instruction is always a proud moment. Before pursuing my education in architecture, I had considered becoming an educator in another field of study. But as I’ve come to realize in my short time in the industry, nobody knows all the answers in this constantly evolving career field. I’ve assumed a somewhat teaching role in firms in areas that I excel at, and colleagues have come to me as a reference often said due to my “style” of teaching. Though I won’t be pursuing teaching in a traditional classroom setting, I hope to utilize all the advice Allen has offered here.

  8. I had taught undergraduate students for 6 years in Indonesia before I read Edward Allen’s “Notes to Myself” and my thought flies back to the experience my students got from my lecture. Immediately, I observe myself and find out that what I did in the lecture was not fun enough. This is why several students were falling asleep during my PowerPoint presentation. In this writing, I would like to evaluate my act of teaching through Allen’s lens meanwhile recall the wonderful moment that has connected me and my students as a rewarding experience of both giving and learning.

    There is a syndrome, I call it Superstar Syndrome, that I have observed among my fellow lecturers. This syndrome creates a feeling as if the lecturers are the most superior and the most intelligent creature in the performance of their lectures. In this setting, the lecturer will not be able to put themselves in the student’s shoes. On the contrary, Allen promotes a strong need to have empathy for the students and understand the way they learn. Instead of just give knowledge, a lecturer should make sure the gift is well-received. I have just realized that in 90% of my classes, I lost the first ten minutes to create a spark. I was talking about what the students have to do for the whole week and then dragged them to the structure of the lecture. It was ineffective.

    I almost forget one powerful keyword of teaching: engagement. It does not matter how big a class is, I should make a connection to each student. Allen gives an answer to my hitherto unresolved question by suggesting to interact with different students per lecture to cover up the connections with everyone at the end of the whole class. One thing that I should have learned from my students was that they had wanted to enjoy the class. Allen depicts a very dynamic class by introducing the principle of “live on the edge from time to time” (Allen 2001). I never thought that I have to trigger the student’s adrenaline to endure their curiosity and willingness to explore. Moreover, not to mention, my adrenaline should be triggered too by running some experiments to deliver the materials. In Allen’s word, this adrenaline will keep the student coming to my class punctually.

    All I have done pretty well was trying to remember all my 60ish students by calling their names one by one in each meeting. This is important since I always want to figure out the progress each student makes. However, I need to address a better communication with the students by creating a participatory activity rather than just following the syllabus. Another hardest part is creating two ways of communication instead of a pundit’s monolog. I also think that a lecturer should be open-minded and eager to learn from the students. I have been amazed several times by my student’s experience on the topic that we talked about. This new knowledge made my day and energized me the whole week. I like to treat my students as thought partners. It is proved to be working since the students enjoy to confidently share their knowledge.

    Allen also reminds me that learning means adventuring that brings the wanderers into an exciting journey, unexpected discoveries, gratifying findings, tactile and vivid experience. I have been a student a long time ago before come back to graduate school and pursuing my doctoral degree when I met one inspiring professor who advised my master’s thesis. This professor has made me rode the roller coaster journey of my research. He empowered me to find a meaty new knowledge by myself and never chewed the fresh knowledge and gave it to me. Just like Allen did, he taught two serious graduate-level courses “Design Method” and “Research Method” by introducing the subject areas and matters, show how to apply the basic knowledge, and, most importantly, placed the philosophical concept of the subject. I wish I can share the same experience with my students when I get an opportunity to teach my own subject in the future.

    I will end this reflection by talking about love. Allen mentions love is the foundation of the act of teaching. I believe it is true. Every time I am done with a good teaching moment, I love the subject more. I want to share more with my students. I also love to see my students achieve wonderful improvements. It makes me feel useful that I have contributed good things in someone’s life. Those enlightened students came to me before I left Indonesia for the U.S. and empower me back because they know I would spend many years as a student in my doctoral study. They said, “We love you, Mam. You are not alone and you can discuss what you find in the U.S. with us through social media!”, while graced me with useful crafts they made for me, letters, photos, and a warm scarf. This is the true meaning of teaching for me: an act of mutual giving. My students and I are both learning.

  9. After having a tiring day, in the evening I started reading the “Notes to Myself”. When I picked up the papers attached to each other, I just found it as an assignment. Hence, I began reading it by the small paragraph on the first page. I have no idea how minutes elapsed because I just found my self with the last page. I was motionless and mesmerized for an hour and half overwhelmed by the masterpiece. No need to mention that the whole book including line by line is as enticing as the first paragraph. It is amazingly organized, concise with succinct and brief tips about innovative way of teaching. I believe a majority of people have the experience of being at schools to learn something, therefor, school encompasses a large amount of memories in our mind. We are all able to remember our best and inspiring teacher at school. Thus, we have enough reasons to value this book since it tries to generously endow with author’s helpful tips which have been collected for years.
    I started writing about it when I could not stop thinking of several parts of that book. The part saying that, “What is the best way to teach design?”, has been engraved in my mind, since sometimes I find myself in monotonous lectures which is almost a monologue instead of having an intellectually stimulating dialogue between the lecturer students. I think this is the key factor for professors who are teaching in his field. Sometimes students have no idea what is the utilization and practical implementation of subjects that they are learning during the course. This specially happens when students are obliged to pass numerical courses about static or math. Edward Allen suggests trying to teach the idea at first and then use sophisticated math or statistics to support it. Since, architecture students are taught to think differently and asked to come up with new models, designs and ideas, they learn differently for sure.
    The most eye-catching part which made me think about my own prospective teaching techniques is about “Start in the middle”. Sometimes, it taps into pupils’ curiosity and makes them think why they are studying this course and they gain motivation to study it. It continues to say that you may start your class by a challenge, a video, a question, a group activity which can engage students and get their attention as well. Sometimes, they have no idea about the purpose and target of the unexpected start of the class but it will help them to create an atmosphere to reflect and express their own ideas and points of views. Furthermore, based upon my own teaching experience, some students are not comfortable to openly talk in front of other students in the class, this normally happens with undergrads. On the other hand, graduate students are trained to speak and act in front of their peers and give presentations. The above approach gives both groups of student opportunity to express themselves. What is more, I have heard from international students that they are not comfortable when they are asked to answer a question individually because they are not comfortable with their accent or grammatical mistakes that sometimes they have in their speaking. Tips in this book help professors and students to have a more creative interactions.

    Taken as a whole, Edward Allen’s helpful notes made me think about my future job and it gives me the resourcefulness to become as a university professor. I feel lucky that I could read someone’s experience for years of teaching and utilize them as someone who wants to teach “design” and not building science.

  10. Notes to Myself is a simple, easy-to-read metaphorical set of guidelines. Rather than a firm set of do’s and do not’s, it simply states to trust yourself as an educator and trust your students in return. They’re eager to learn, so provide them that momentum and let them grow. Allen’s response to challenges in teaching such as computers or dense lesson plans is humbling. Avoid letting these challenges control you or your teaching style. Throughout the article, he emphasizes that we do not teach building science, technical methods or mathematics, we teach design; responsible design. We have a responsibility as educators to make sure that the next wave of designers is a responsible group and teaching them in a way that is engaging, pragmatic and fulfilling to both you and them is key.

    I found the final paragraph on love compelling the more I thought about the truly contagious abilities it holds in education. My love for teaching was not realized until recently when I began developing closer relationships with my own teachers seeing them as friends rather than authorities. The care I’ve been given by these people led me to believe that teaching is more of an art and experience than a profession. That in itself follows the interesting notion that things that are experienced are forms of art, and they are not objects. During my undergrad, I simply went through the motions and complained about the fact that we were all seen as just another number. My negative attitude continued until the day I felt noticed and all it took was one teacher to change the course of my entire mindset. This teacher taught me love and compassion indirectly adhered to the finer things of architecture. His love for the game motivated me beyond points I never saw myself reaching. In result, I’ve been eager to pass on the same love and assuring inspiration I received. Its powerful and its overwhelming. Teaching is an experience, not a task.

  11. Full disclosure: I’ve dreaded writing this reading response. I’m new to teaching – I haven’t “taught” a class since I was teaching 8 to 14-year olds martial arts while I was training for my black belt test in high school. I didn’t know what to make of the reading and I certainly didn’t know how the principles brought forward by Edward Allen would affect me in the future. There are a lot of brilliant reading responses within this blog posted by people who are more experienced, thoughtful, and talented teachers than I.

    My goal throughout this term as a GE for Structures was to follow the ideas that both Alison and Edward presented. I wanted to make both teaching and learning fun for myself and the students. Teaching, like all things in life, should be fun – otherwise, why do it? I’ve had both successes and failures in teaching Structures, but over the course of the term, I’ve learned so much about how to communicate technical information to architecture students.

    “Teach with stars in your eyes”. I have noticed time and again while teaching lab that if I lose focus or passion for the material it immediately reflects in the student’s demeanor and lack of motivation to learn the material. As a student myself, I take note of the professors who speak with enthusiasm and I naturally gravitate toward them. So as a GE this term, and especially while moving forward in my career, I need to carry this principle with me in order to become something more… However, I’m still not sure what that something is.

    “You teach design”. Teaching Structures involves a lot of math and physics. I work incredibly hard to understand the subject material simply because my mind doesn’t work like an engineer’s mind – I’m a designer and architect after all. There are students who, in my labs, completely understand the material because they have a mind that is tuned-in to engineering. However, the majority of my students want to become architects because they want to create space and form. So, every chance I have I link structural engineering to actual buildings. I’ve shown Peter Zumthor’s Zinc Mines Museum project as it relates to frames and lateral bracing, pedestrian bridges as they relate to trusses, and trusses as they relate to single-family home roofs. I’ve even brought up Rowell Brokaw’s new office building as a cantilever system for our load paths lab. I’ve learned over the years that as architects we can, and should, take the reigns when it comes to structural behavior and this reading has reinforced that ethos.

  12. “The most important thing about teaching is love. Love your subject matter. Love the act of teaching. Love your students”- Edward Allen. These were the lines that deeply resonated with me when I read ‘Notes to Myself’. The brilliance of ‘Notes to Myself’ is the deconstruct of a complex subject like ‘teaching’ into the fundamentals of good teaching. The simple yet intimate nature of the reading made me feel like I was receiving advice from a close friend rather than a reading. As I turned the pages of ‘Notes to Myself’, I reflected on some of my best learning experiences I have had, and the amazing teachers behind them. Their enthusiasm for the subject, unconventional teaching methods, immersive engagement and their ability to spark interest for the subject; the qualities that made them so memorable.
    As an aspiring teacher in the field of building sciences, this is an invaluable resource to me, that encompasses decades of teaching experience. It comes as a relief to know that teachers are not expected to cover everything in a given subject, but to provide a philosophical base and the skillset for further inquiry in the subject. I have experienced the struggle of trying to cover everything in a subject, and the frustration of not being able to do that. I also found the advice to ‘scrap the syllabus’ very useful as it encourages intuitive teaching and the importance of placing knowledge as per the current requirements of the students.
    Edward Allen highlights the importance of student involvement in teaching, in the line “They learn a lot more when they’re part of the action than when they are passive recipients of a lecture.” He stresses on the value of experiential learning and the power of questioning to promote effective learning in the students, He suggests numerous ways to break a traditional lecture down into a series of short vivid experiences, that are far more conducive to learning than a traditional lecture session. I have found this to be very effective and would like to cite an example from the ‘Research Methods in Sustainable Architecture’ with Prof. Alison Kwok at the University of Oregon. Considering the fact that this class deals with a theory rich subject and meets once a week for a three-hour session, I expected it to be lecture intensive, formal class that would be laborious to attend. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the class was broken down into smaller activities, informal in nature and promoted experiential and interactive learning. I vividly remember not realizing how three hours had quickly passed by at the end of each session. This example illustrates how good teaching methods can transform a potential theory rich subject into an amazing learning experience.
    I am very thankful to Edward Allen for compiling and sharing the wisdom gained from decades of teaching experience into a handy guide for aspiring teachers. I will find myself returning to the enlightening pages of ‘Notes to Myself’ for valuable advice throughout my time as a teacher.

  13. Thank you Edward Allen.

    Teaching should be an act of love. As a student, I have experienced feeling that affection from professors; and I can more vividly remember times when teaching was not an act of love for them.

    The concept of catching the student’s attention by starting with the ‘meat’ of the material is a wonderful idea. Engage the student, give them a compartment in their brain to know where to put the new information, then go back and give them the theory, philosophy and hard tools to uncover the knowledge. Genius. As a student I often am hungry for new knowledge, but am confused as to how to categorize, store and use it. I think this would help students know where the new information is leading them, and how this new knowledge can be a tool for design.

    I contemplate going on to become an instructor. It is a relief to be guided not to “cover” the entire subject in one course. But to “uncover” what you can, and give the tools that will help the students continue learning in their careers and on their own. Accessing within the student, a thirst for the knowledge and teaching them based on what information they seek would be an honor.

    I am reminded of Environmental Control Systems class during my first year of Graduate School at the University of Oregon. Professor Kwok often had hands on exercises in the middle of a large lecture class. At the time I thought it was a bit uncomfortable. I liked to sit by myself and often was sitting near people I didn’t know. Being asked to talk with a neighbor was intimidating. However, working with people and having to practice the skill of communicating an idea (verbally or visually) is, in essence, design. These exercises gave me confidence and built up my listening and communication skills.

    In Building Construction class I loved putting together the wall systems with real 2xs, sheathing, TJIs etc. It definitely left me wanting more. I went on to be on a student construction team, building a student designed single-family residence; and to work in a firm drawing section details.

    I look forward to teaching and look forward to putting this guidance to use. Thank you.

  14. In all, Notes to Myself by Edward Allen was more so a reminder than it was a teaching point in the sense that you need to constantly remind yourself not only as an educator, but any career path that you have to be fully invested in what you are pursuing. It is also a reminder that your commitment and engagement to your career should be a prominent attribute to others in their observations of you as a person. This, in turn, becomes contagious through body language and enthusiasm. A moment that has stuck out to me that I carry through into my teaching endeavors today is the use of music. It is a great tool for expressing enthusiasm and creating a body language of excitement toward a topic. This isn’t for everybody, nor does it apply to pieces of teaching that require a great deal of listening such as a lecture, but as a source of added enthusiasm to a topic, I felt it worked wonders on a crowd of students and their engagement in design. A professor in my undergraduate used to make sure rock and roll music played at all times while we worked in studio. The energy in the music should equate to the energy one should feel while designing something intriguing and innovative. It felt as if anybody could have that much enthusiasm about anything, then we could share that enthusiasm toward design. It got us excited and now every time I teach I make sure the students can feel my excitement.
    This reading also brought about some points that I found to be self-explanatory as we all have been students before and have experienced the boredom of constant lecturing. Hands on activities have proved to all of us in one way or another that it is a far more successful form of teaching than constantly being talked at. The hour rule that Allen expresses I believe is crucial to having undivided attention.
    Though a small segment of the read, the portion discussing the troubles of math based subjects I found to be helpful in creating a mentality around teaching something fairly dry. Thinking about being an educator in future and having to teach something the majority of the population finds to be uninteresting is somewhat daunting. But, engaging with ideas and how those methods of mathematics.
    Technical teaching, in particular, is a subgroup of teaching that changes more exponentially than any other with new building innovations, regulations and needs of humanity. Think about it in comparison to teaching of literature or history, it helps put in perspective that you cannot encompass all of the technical aspects of design in one course. It’s ever-changing and practices become outdated on a daily basis. History and literature has its consistent classics and its landmark events that will be talked about forever. For technical teaching, there is almost no point in expressing outdated building systems when they won’t be applied outside of writing in a notebook. It is a perpetually changing curriculum and we should embrace it.

  15. Notes to Myself is a wonderful little piece by Edward Allen that offers insight and advice for teaching technical subject matters within the field of architecture. For someone like myself, who claims to not be able to read, and therefore has never been able to read an entire book cover to cover, I was dreading having to read this piece, waiting until the very last minute to try to force it down. But to my surprise, I found Notes to Myself to be a well-composed, easy to read piece that left me feeling better than when I started it.

    Edward Allen is clearly excited about the art of teaching and very simply documents twenty concepts that he feels are instrumental in successful teaching, each concept is accompanied with a short description and/or example. Allen begins each of his concepts with a short, simple statement. For example, he leads his first concept with, “Teach with stars in your eyes,” and follows the concept up with suggesting enthusiasm and excitement through voice, eye contact, and body language. I couldn’t agree with him more. When recently asked which architecture professor had the greatest effect on me (of roughly seventy-five professors through seven years of studying architecture at three different schools), it was the two or three most enthusiastic professors who immediately came to mind.

    Other concepts include suggestions to start classes fast, run risks, and lead students to expect the unexpected. With these concepts, Allen recommends beginning a class with a vivid physical demonstration, for example, and often makes reference to engaging students in group activities through several of the concepts. He asks the reader to involve students actively in every single class, stating that students “learn a lot more when they’re part of the action than when they are passive recipients of a lecture.” Another concept of Allen’s focuses on making the student’s involvement hands-on, putting students in direct physical contact with their subject matter. In the portion of our recent ARCH-661 course, where I taught a segment on theatre design, I feel this element of including a group, hands-on design project was very successful in engaging the class and illustrating the relevance of concepts presented earlier in lecture form. [However, I feel my own teaching moment could have been improved with better eye contact during my lecture, less information in my lecture, and using another student’s (and Edward Allen’s written) recommendation of leading with the hands-on project, then going into the lecture, and lastly revisiting the hands-on project once the learning material had been presented. This would have also fulfilled Allen’s “start in the middle” concept also included towards the end of his writing.]
    And regarding lectures, Edward Allen recommends breaking up a lecture session into several parts and never lecturing for a solid hour, warning that students will only retain the first ten or fifteen minutes of a lengthy lecture. He writes, “A long class isn’t long if it is made into a series of short, vivid experiences,” which was the case in this semester’s 8-hour long, ARCH-661 class! Allen recommends being very skeptical of the use of computers, noting first the “wonderful” possibilities that computers have brought to the classrooms, labs, and studio, before illustrating “excessive, inappropriate, or ineffective” use of the tool. With this writing approaching the two decade mark, I feel this comment remains valid, though I did have trouble following the example he describes. Allen’s concept about math is similar to that of computer use, citing that, “Math can’t create ideas, it can only measure their fitness to a given purpose,” asking teachers to teach students how to create ideas before teaching them how to use math to evaluate it. Depending on the specific technical subject and project, as well as other variables for any particular course, this may or may not be efficiently implemented in this exact order. Regardless, I understand his point and will keep this in strong consideration as I hope to ultimately teach subjects in which this will be surely be applicable. Building off of Allen’s concept about math, he writes that we do not teach building science, we teach design. He goes on to say that the “best way to teach design is to engage your students in the process of designing.” Having taken sixteen design studios myself, in addition to other design courses, I couldn’t agree with him more. Allen’s concluding concepts warn against trying to entirely cover any particular subject, to treasure our own “quirky, offhand ideas”, and to “scrap the syllabus”, “quit quizzing”, and truly love what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re doing it.

    “Notes to Myself” is an interesting title for this writing and perhaps reveals that while these ideals clearly come from a true side of Allen, this writing may have been for Allen himself, to occasionally remind him of what is most important to his own teaching style. We’re all human, experience good days and bad days, and occasionally lose sight of what got us to where we are and where we’re going in the first place. It’s difficult to love something and maintain 100% of our passion all day, every day. It’s the full range of ups and downs that allows for us to love and appreciate. And for this reason, based on the title alone, I’m just guessing that in addition to sharing these thoughts and experiences with others, Allen may have created this little handbook to remind himself of these concepts.

  16. As a teacher you have the power to control not only the situation within the classroom, but the lasting outcome. The power stems from the ability to connect with students effectively and efficiently. A positive connection between student and teacher allows concrete memories to form, allowing insight to solidify. In “Notes to Myself” by Edward Allen, he illustrates how the relationship between student and instructor is a basis for love and care. The article is a detailed list of key points that directs the instructor on how to act towards a student, and in the student atmosphere. The core of the instructor’s relationship is to be respectful, understanding, and to act like a leader.
    Edward Allen stresses that the power of being a great teacher, is simple, not complex or hard to understand. It brings teaching back to the basic idea of listening to students. Currently many experiences are out of a instructor controlling the power of the classroom in a toxic way. The power dynamic can often make the student feel inferior, and belittled in the learning experience. Allen on the other hand brings it back to addressing the difference between a leader, and a dictator. A leader will inspire students to want to be a part of the discussion, they will want to learn, and want to become of part the overall experience.

    After reading “Notes to Myself” it inspires me to be a teacher who is that leader that inspires learning to be fun. I want people to grow, take risks, and enjoy the process. If something is not fun, than people will not want to partake in it. I also never want the space to ever be predictable, and always leave people wanting more. The power of the classroom is in my hand.

  17. Edward Allen’s essay Notes to Myself outlines an elegant story of the lessons he’s learned teaching throughout his years. What strikes me most is the simplicity of the message he is telling. It seems as if these principles are inherent in teaching, but they are not. With the teaching experience I have, some of these principles have been forgotten at times. One main idea that I have extracted from Allen’s Notes are about establishing an impromptu style of approach. Not letting hesitation get in the way of a good idea. Be bold, be brave, and be curious.

    Allen starts off the essay with the statement: “teach with stars in your eyes.” I call this enthusiastic engagement. When a teacher is enthusiastically engaged in a topic he/she is teaching, it will be received through non-verbal communication by the students. I have noticed this through my time in college when a professor is honestly interested in what they are teaching it makes it easier to follow along and be inspired by what is being taught, even if the topic is not that interesting. There is something about the sparkle in someone’s eyes that can have a positive effect on others.

    This idea directly relates to the learn-by-doing approach, essentially creating a hands-on learning environment. I bet that as dull as any subject is, there is always a way that you can turn at least a portion of that learning into a hands-on lesson. All the knowledge in the world was most likely discovered outside of a classroom, and this goes to show that there is always a way to teach interactively by bringing the outside world into the classroom learning environment.

    Allen finishes off the essay by boldly stating to “scrap the syllabus”. I appreciate the audacity of this statement since a syllabus is a legal contract between the student and the teacher that clearly outlines the amount of work the student can expect and what policies they face. As I imagine, Allen is not necessarily referring to this portion of the syllabus, he is referring to the scheduling aspect that commonly becomes modified due to unforeseen occurrences anyway. This method could work well because it simply gauges where the class is intellectually and adjusts to what the students want or need to know. A bottom up approach rather than top down is always a healthier environment.

    In conclusion, Allen’s Notes to Myself is a great quick reading that works as a resource to remind us about a useful approach to not only teaching, but an approach to life. He talks about taking risks, following a quick seemingly crazy idea and impromptu reactions to how to communicate ideas to society. In a lot of ways, this approach reminds me of an impromptu conversation with a friend or a stranger. Allen talks about the “natural way to teach and learn” and in many ways it is directly related to the natural way to carry a conversation. Be enthusiastic, be curious, be engaged, follow ideas naturally as they come to your mind and it will organically come off as an interesting conversation or lecture for the students.

  18. Notes to myself, is a concise and very effective set of guidelines that I found very useful. Reading through the booklet I was able to completely relate it to some of my best teachers and their teaching methodologies. From my perspective the guidelines address three main issues; enthusiasm and passion of the instructor for his subject, course/class structure and student engagement.
    Teaching and learning is a two-way conversation. Just like in any conversation, if the person telling the story firmly believe in his words and if he is enthusiastic about his story then he has a greater tendency to reach out to his audience. Enthusiasm acts as a catalyst for the teacher himself. When a teacher believes that his course is the best, he pushes the standards to make it so. And when a teacher reveals his spirits and interest for the subject, he draws the students towards him. The very first passage of the booklet is just the right example of this zeal, which reaches out to reader through the enthusiastic expression of the Edward Allen.
    The author puts a great emphasis on engaging the students through various methods and then maintaining their attention throughout the class. Natural ways of learning are much more influential than the generic classroom lectures. Getting intrigued by a fact and exploring the reason behind it and identifying a problem and going through a step by step process towards the solution, is how we learn in our lives. Both the techniques do a better job of hooking up students imagination. The teacher can act as a mentor in this exploration rather than merely feeding information. The process stimulates critical thinking capacities in the students, that is more important than knowing the facts. Especially in an ever-evolving world where knowledge is changing every day, it is important to teach the students how to acquire information and interpret it according to your requirement rather than just knowing the facts.
    With this approach in mind, it is necessary to acknowledge that math and software should only be given the attention they deserve. It is more important for the students to understand the basic concepts of the technical subjects. Mathematics and software’s are only tools for execution. They should be introduced as aids and the student must not be dependent on them. For design students, the designs must govern the science and math, rather than being dictated by the calculations.
    Maintaining student’s esteem by involving them in conversation, making eye contacts, engaging them in hands-on activities, responding to their questions with due respect and encouraging them is also very important aspect of teaching. Physical demonstrations, small and quick design problems, experimentation in the class and breaking down longer activities into smaller chunks helps the students in staying attentive even during the long class sessions. Maintaining interest, surprise and diversity in the subject and information delivery method engages the student and keeps them awake. Its basic human psychology that monotony over a longer period gets boring.
    In the modern times, we feel enticed by new modes of learning including audio-visual aids. But relying completely on such teaching techniques ends up in a lack of relationship between a teacher and student. There are several online resources that cover information on every topic, but they lack the one on one interaction of two individuals. Having direct access to a person with vast knowledge and ability to interpret it according a particular problem is a resource far more valuable than anything else.

  19. It is extremely interesting, at this point in my architectural education, to read the notes that Edward Allen has written on teaching. I say that because, in my first year of a three-year master’s degree program, I am very much one of the students about whom Allen writes – and now I am writing about and considering the possibility of me, myself, going into the teaching role, planning assignments, and
    having students of my own at some point. I am not necessarily planning on going for my PhD and becoming a university professor – if so, that decision would still be a ways away – but thinking now about taking the topics I’m learning right now and will encounter in the next couple of years, understanding those subjects and teaching them to a new round of students.

    I’ve always believed that I learn best by teaching. It forces me to really know and understand the material. And even when I think I know all the answers, students have a tendency to ask questions that had not previously been considered.

    I really enjoyed reading Allen’s notes on teaching. He clearly conveys his passion for the subject of architecture (and its technical sub-areas) as well as for teaching those concepts to students. His whimsical, impassioned language leads me to believe that he is even more lively in person; just reading these few pages made me excitedly consider my own architectural education, and to think about my
    role both as a current student and possible future teacher of the subjects, and how architectural knowledge is conveyed. I have to admit that there are many times when I have begun to doubt myself, either because I have trouble grasping a certain topic, or because I’ve put time and effort into an assignment only to receive a mediocre grade.

    Architectural design is an interesting field given its wide reach into other subject areas – it is highly artistic; it involves structures, mathematics, and physics, it takes into account environmental science and sustainability; it has to do with sociology and research. As a Track I student, it has been extremely interesting to see how my classmates came to architecture from their various backgrounds. It has also been another source of occasional self-doubt – I myself studied sociology, and consider myself to think logically and scientifically; on the flip side, my understanding of fine arts and design are not as developed as that of some of my classmates. I do my best to learn and share with my fellow classmates, and stay away from comparing my work to theirs. I wonder what Allen would have to say about this idea, that architecture touches such a vast array of subject areas, and what he would advise a student like me – how best to use existing knowledge and skills, and how to supplement those with the other important aspects of architecture.

    Going back to Allen’s notes to self, I really enjoyed his anecdotes that centered on hands-on, participatory lesson plans. Having benefited greatly from lessons and sections that involved this type of learning environment, I can attest that they do really create such an immersive, inclusive learning environment. Our day-long technical teaching session on Jan 26th featured a great array of lessons from the different class participants, and it has been an interesting exercise to observe the different ways in which design and technical subject matters are taught. I hope to bring these lessons with me into my future architecture education.

  20. Ed Allen’s insights are thoughtful and inspire me to continue developing a passion for teaching. I love how he concludes the essays with an exhortation to teach out of love and purpose. My favorite professors and teachers have exuded love of teaching and passion for a subject, and I hope to follow their example.

    While reading his advice, I was struck by how much of his advice also can apply to a life well-lived, outside the classroom. For instance, his principle of respecting each student’s dignity (never embarrassing a student and always responding thoughtfully) should be equally applicable to everyone we interact with – no matter if they are family or the homeless man camped outside your apartment complex. Also, his style of active, flexible engagement (hands on, running risks, expect the unexpected) leads to a life that seeks change and growth. Personally, the more I “do” rather than “think,” the greater the results in my life personally and academically. Thinking will happen regardless, and it is ignited by the doing.

    When it comes to teaching, I wholeheartedly agree with all his points, except for one. I am unsure if starting in the middle “meat” of a material is always the best choice. I think that it is helpful to present inspiration and complex case studies at the start of a course, but I think that actually diving into the material may not result in the best long term learning. Dropping hints about what is to come and showing teasers seems like a good way to engage students without losing their comprehension. For example, if I am teaching a new software to students, I will completely lose them if I teach them a complex aspect before teaching any basics. However, if I show them the complex aspect, it will give them something to aim for.
    I appreciate Allen’s reminder that technical teaching IS design teaching. If this were understood across universities, perhaps we would have better architects. Conversely, I think that more traditional design teaching (such as studio) should strive to integrate some forms of technical instruction within the curriculum – even if it is simply providing the resources to study the technical instruction, as Allen did with his structural handout.

    Allen’s advice invites us into a way of teaching that is fulfilling and unique to each instructor’s personality. It is a way that is never complacent, always growing, and joyful. I hope to learn to teach (and to live) in this way!

  21. By Following in Edward Allen footsteps in “Notes to myself”, I’ve realized pretty concise avenues by which I can improve my teaching style in future. To start out with, I’d like to admit that I used to spend plenty of time at the beginning of last term classes, structural behavior, solving students’ problems in running the software through their personal computers, while the start of each class has been addressed as the only chance to engage student’s attention into the new topic. When speaking of computers as teaching tools,
    It dawned on me as well that while being useful, they could seduce us! This has alerted me to keep the track of students’ perception of analyzed problems to use the results in conjunction with other techniques that would help students “understand” what an optimal structure looks like, rather than using it for getting approval of their designs.
    Base on my own experiences, what scares architecture students from approaching technical courses is dealing with math. I’d encourage my students from now to create ideas and only after then use math to develop them as an evaluating tool. Another highlight for me was leading students to design technical aspects of buildings than just doing mathematical computations.
    As part of the idea of being vivid and unforeseen in the class and also to engage everybody in the topic, I would start teaching subjects such as force members or moments by taking physical demonstrations in the class, e.g. to teach what a tension force is, the better approach is to ask them to pull each other hands while twisting a pen would give them a better sense of a moment force.
    In order to sustain a good level of willingness toward class attendance, Edward has suggested to take offhand ideas and put value on instant quirks and whims instead of following pre-defined syllabus. The idea of inviting guests from professional companies or firms without informing students would be constructive which let students participate in group discussions with experts of the other engineering fields. This would also give students an idea of how architects would cooperate with engineers in professional industry and how much important this collaboration and architect roles are in built environment design process.
    As Edward truly mentioned, Love is what make things happen and students would grasp the materials easier when they perceive the love from their teacher and consequently, they would seek to develop such a love for themselves and eventually for their ambition in that particular course.

  22. “Notes to Myself” by Edward Allen broaden my world of teaching with his passion and adventurous nature in teaching. Running risk, creating unexpected learning environment, and treasuring quirkiness are basic approaches that allow him to search for what works well when teaching technical subjects in architecture. I think they all emerges not from when students follows his way, but from a rocky road of teaching.

    As an architecture student myself, I know how I and most of my friends feel taking boring alienating structure or building technology classes. The atmosphere becomes dull. Things pass from one ear to another without travelled into our brain. More and more studies for an exam without knowing why do we need to know them. And right after finishing the exam, we are all ready to dump them out of our head. Learning technical subjects in architecture doesn’t sounds so much fun. Teaching them sounds much worse. Many instructors seem to be affected by these boredom and eventually let it go. I believe, however, Edwards Allen takes these students’ natures as a challenge. He emphasizes our learning process and come up with different techniques that can make a class fun, enthusiastic, and useful.

    Don’t make it boring – “teach with stars in your eyes” – is his first suggestion. For an instructor, repeating same things ten after ten times is not fun. For students, this might be the first time hearing about beam reactions and earthquake, thermal comfort in hot humid climate, or air and water leakage for window performances and controlled system. Other notes I find it worthwhile to keep remind ourselves are: using computer as tool, don’t let it lead; don’t teach building science, teach design for technical issues; be straight and simple. Additionally, he suggests how should we design the class base on students’ behaviors. His tips are: start in the middle at the most exciting part of the lesson; break up the class into 20-30 minute sessions helps maintaining students’ attention; engage students and create hands on lesson are effective for teaching technical subjects; be respectful and maintain eye contact with students help create a connection between instructor and students. Some of these sounds basic and never become obsolete.

    At the end, it is impossible to cover all technical subject, but create a solid foundation. This enable young architects to see laws of nature such as structural behavior or thermal and lighting comfort not as constraints in design. They rather are challenges and opportunities to come up with better and more creative design solutions.

  23. I was pleasantly entertained by Ed Allen’s perspective on successful teaching strategies. I was most drawn to the practical takeaways from the reading regarding time. To me, much of this is about being present to the class. While it is important to both plan ahead and reflect on past performance, by being wholly present and invested in each class, the instructor can have a profound impact on the class.

    First and foremost, by scrapping the syllabus, the instructor creates a present-focused atmosphere. If students enter each class period knowing exactly what is going to occur, they dismiss the impact of the material. They can look forward to three class periods from now and make assumptions that that lecture is more important than this week’s topic. With a fluid class schedule, the instructor has more freedom to teach the topic as the students’ knowledge grows and their interests become apparent.

    Allen also notes that it is critical that every class period starts rapidly. Students’ attention span is not infinite, so the first 10 minutes of lecture are the most impactful. Personally, I have found this to be true. My lecture notes tend to encompass the most information. The first portion of every class period sets the pace for the rest of the session, so a powerful physical or visual demonstration is one of the best ways to make an idea stick – and linger – long after the class period. Furthermore, after this first 10-minute period, Allen suggests breaking up the hour into 15-20 minute periods to prevent losing student’s attention. This can be accomplished with engaging discussions, side projects, design problems. It can be tempting to lecture for the full class period in an effort to fit in all the information desired, but students will certainly not retain that much. Making a class fun and engaging does not make it any less valuable.

    Finally, Allen suggests teaching at different time scales. If an instructor were to always assign short-term assignments, students would not be challenged to apply their knowledge to other scales. Just as it is important to teach both the overall themes of a subject as it is to teach the supporting details, assigning projects of various scales engages the mind at different levels.

    These time notes are among many of the actionable items that Allen includes in his reflection. While the content of the teaching is critical to an instructor’s success, these suggestions for pacing, scheduling, and timing the content are the low-hanging fruit that can supplement any teacher’s regime.

  24. The main idea I pull from Edward Allen’s “Notes to Myself” is that to become a great teacher, you cannot get comfortable. One should be constantly striving for a class that students are excited to come to every day, or at the very least, not dreading. The best professors I’ve ever had are the ones who are truly passionate about their field and their topic, and you can feel that in the way they teach. Things like starting in the middle are a great way to tackle complex topics like structures. Embedded in math and physics, it can be daunting to get into it, one often wonders where to begin. But by jumping in, you see the areas that you lack in knowledge and have a desire, an inspiration, to go out and find that information and use it to build a concept.

    Many of the concepts discussed in Edward Allen’s text remind me of the concepts that were defined in class today as the qualities that make a teacher memorable (in a positive way). As I read them, I found myself identifying professors that I’ve had who embodied those aspects. Even with professors I wasn’t a fan of, or didn’t work well with, diving into these qualities in details helps me understand their shortfalls and teaches me lessons about improving in my own teaching. “Notes to Myself” also helped me recognize why I’ve been able to get along so well with many of my professors at UO, despite differences in design opinions or philosophy. I feel that professors here, being more aware of the concept in Allen’s text, are able to relate to students and teach in the way that best disseminates the information for each person.

    Allen’s writing is succinct and to the point, and doesn’t mess around with fluffy language or descriptions. He uses short examples that can really be applied to lectures and lesson plans. I think many architectural professors would benefit from having this text as a required reading before beginning their own classes, anything from introductory design studio to structures One of the most important notes that I think should be conveyed to all professors in a technical course is that you aren’t just teaching the material, but another aspect of design and a way to use it in future projects. I hope to use these ideas in the future, especially moving up in the professional world and hopefully becoming a mentor to young female architects.

  25. Notes to Myself;
    Reading through Edward Allen’s Notes to Myself I find that it’s surprisingly a poetic ode to every single one of us in the current century, where the barrier between teaching and learning is becoming increasingly benign.
    Knowledge and learning has become so universal that there is no singular pool of source that we dip into or are exposed to. Nowadays unanswered questions don’t remain questions any longer than the curiosity which initially triggered them. To satiate our constant thirst for answers – our books, our gadgets, our friends, our peers and the profession itself transform into the resource pool for finding the answers. We become teachers of our own right to others over the course of time. And assimilating from personal experiences and the notes, one thing that I find common is that effective teachers are those who simplify the enormous complexity of the concepts into experiences that one can remember; charrettes, short experiments, participatory exercise etc. which tend to create memories which can be associated with such concepts triggering a linear flow of thoughts that unravel such concepts better. The more such memories are created through the learning process the better is the ability to remember these concepts as time progresses. One of my favorite quotes by architect Laurie Baker, though not pertaining specifically to the act of teaching, beautifully captures the essence – “Knowledge and technology are increasing at an alarming speed and an ‘Architect’, instead of becoming a storehouse of all the junk information, can be the curator of the library called ‘Knowledge’, i.e. a person who knows to fish for specialist information buried within the vast sea of facts and details”.
    The role of a teacher is similar and more, where they have the added responsibility of fueling the fire of curiosity by educating the next generation and at the same time understanding every individual’s pace of learning and there by being more flexible and dynamic that engages cognitive learning for both the students and teachers together which Ed Allen portrays in the statement – “Earnestly believe that yours will be the best-taught course in the school. If you do not believe that it can be, it will never be. If you do believe that it can be then you have established the space within which you can strive for excellence in you teaching.”

  26. In the teaching world of 21st century, the classroom is filled with students from many cultures. Many observe that these cultural differences among students have a dominant impact on the cognition process. For instance, students from certain cultures find it very difficult, sometimes feel uncomfortable with For example, students from high power distance cultures often seem uncomfortable with the learning environment – Asian students appear quiet and reflective in the extroverted, high participation American classroom. Similarly in organizations, workers from different cultures appear to exhibit different styles of work and quandary solving. This paper discusses about “Teaching with stars in our eyes” (quoted by Edward Allen) by understanding cultural differences amongst students and the differences in their learning process.
    A culturally inclusive classroom is one where students and staff alike recognize, appreciate and capitalize on diversity so as to enrich the overall learning experience. Humans differ from each other in a level of curiosity. Some of them look ahead in the future expecting exciting challenges, others are submerged in everyday life, coping with surrounding reality. Everyday process of ‘self being’ is tough and demands a lot of self-consciousness and discipline. Education was just invented to regulate this process make it easier. Fostering a culturally inclusive learning environment encourages all individuals – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or political beliefs – to develop personal contacts and effective intercultural skills. Culturally responsive teaching is a means for
    “The concept of learning style describes individual differences in learning based on the learner’s preference for employing different phases of the learning cycle. Because of our hereditary equipment, our particular life experiences, and the demands of our present environment, we develop a preferred way of choosing among the four learning modes.”- David Klobb. Inclusive practice is dynamic. Cultural inclusiveness addresses and supports the needs of people from diverse cultures, and values their unique contribution. It involves ongoing awareness raising, where negotiations and compromise may be necessary. So, when the experiences were different for varied cultural groups, understanding and celebrating the difference should be a priority.
    Culture has a significant effect in deciding a person’s preference for abstract conceptualization versus concrete experience. Now with the new challenges facing organizations such as design and sustainability, which require paradigm shift in understanding and resolving the problem, these teams are becoming much more multidisciplinary as well. In order for these multicultural multidisciplinary teams to engage with each other effectively, they may have to understand each other’s sense making and problem solving approaches and how their cultures and areas of specialization might have predisposed them to certain approaches. Therefore, educators in each area of specialization may have to ensure that the learning situations they design have elements that the students from different cultures can comprehend. In management, multicultural teams became prevalent with globalization.

  27. ARCH 661 – Teaching Tech
    Notes to Myself – Edward Allen

    Teaching effectiveness is dependent upon the interaction between the instructor’s subject-matter knowledge and teaching ability. Teachers, instructors, and professors are required to fulfill many roles and perform many duties that may be considered ancillary. At the core of the roles and duties is the actual practice of teaching. The primary purpose of this teaching practice is to facilitate student learning. Learning may be defined as a change in behaviors, attitudes, or capabilities. Effective teachers promote student learning, and related instructional methods have been extensively documented in the educational research literature. A successful teaching methodology is one which involves a two way conversation between student and teacher and vice versa. The outcomes must be on a positive note for the students as well as the teacher. The Students must gain knowledge and learn or a willingness to learn something new. The teacher should have successfully imparted knowledge/ interest within the specified time of class.
    Looking back into the concepts of teaching during previous years, the idea involved an open classroom concept where the student considers their “Guru” – teacher at the highest level, since they impart knowledge and teach them the basics of life and society. Technology has developed and methods of teaching have changed , from the blackboard and chalk to video and online lectures. The traditional lecture can be extremely effective, if delivered by a lecturer that presents the subject with enthusiasm. Lecturers can cover their subject in a great deal of depth, which arguably could be lost when relying on faster-paced, innovative visual or digital techniques. Lectures certainly appeal to those who learn by listening, and a well-structured lecture can be organized to meet the needs of the particular audience. Lectures also offer clarification of complex problems or information and access to the lecturer’s personal overview of the material based on their extensive knowledge. There’s no doubt that the face of modern lecturing is undergoing significant change, and with the net generation as the main audience it is vital that lecturing moves with the times and adopts more innovative techniques to keep students engaged and motivated. Many studies show that the use of video during lectures greatly assists with attendance, participation and retention of knowledge and information. It’s also clear that active learning, support from peers and collaboration are critical components of successful lecturing. But it’s also important to remember that the traditional method of lecturing offers students the opportunity to hear in-depth, quality information from an expert on the topic at hand with personal overviews that may well not be available online.
    Combining the quality of information from traditional methods with active learning and the use of videos during lectures holds promise as a progressive model that will suit a wide range of learning abilities and will hold the attention of students from a fast-paced, digital generation.

  28. Edward Allen’s, Notes to Myself, is a wonderful proclamation on the beauty and excitement of teaching. I love how Allen breaks down the tips and tricks of teaching in order to maintain a students attention and engagement. For example, Allen notes, “Lead your students to expect the unexpected”. This simple method will maintain enthusiasm and engage a student much more than a standard lecture, day in and day out. In fact, many of Allen’s recommendations resonate with me, due to the simple fact that I am still a student, and I have often been surprised at the outcome of past classes. I can say with certainty that his theories are quite proven. I know from my own experience what teaching methods have worked and what haven’t. I have sat through a term on a subject that I naturally loved, and been bored to tears because the instructor failed to express excitement for the material. In the end, I found the class to be a great pity, which is the opposite if the desired outcome. Alternatively, I have also felt the joy of learning something new in a previously feared (math-based) subject through a hands-on project. So much of the excitement of learning is transferred from the professor to the student. Passion for the material is contagious.

    I feel empowered to have read this “omiyage” so early in my teaching career. I feel it’s a wonderful resource to help facilitate the passing down of knowledge. Having been honored with a GE position last fall I can say with certainty the joy I felt when I helped a student fully understand challenging material. But now moving forward I can take Allen’s gifts and apply them to every teaching moment offered.

  29. Notes to Myself.

    Engage. Excite. Encourage.

    As I reflect on the advice Edward Allen shares in “Notes to Myself,” these three words come to mind. Engage, excite, and encourage. He makes it a point to state that teaching is not about ensuring your lecture contains every last piece of topically-relevant material, but instead about captivating your students on whatever it is that you decide to cover. While Allen describes various teaching techniques to foster excitement, he states it is only achievable with passion. Passion is contagious, and Allen believes that the only way to captivate students is if you have that same excitable passion for the subject that you want to cultivate in your students. I couldn’t agree more. Thinking back through the many teachers I’ve had in my life, whether those were in the classroom or out, it has been the passion and excitement that has made the difference.

    Allen also argues that teaching is not merely conveying knowledge. The best teachers also inspire and encourage. They encourage students to dig deeper. They encourage students to want to learn more. They encourage students to develop the passion. I believe exciting and encouraging students is at the core of what teachers should strive to achieve. This is not easy to do, however. Through years of experience and experimentation, Allen offers advice on what has worked well for him in the past. Overwhelmingly, his most effective technique is to engage. Engage students early and often. Engage them in conversation, exercises, and experiments. Do not speak to slides, speak to the students. After all, you must first engage before you can excite or encourage.

    What was amazing in reading “Notes to Myself” was not only the message, but someone Allen managed to engage, excite, and encourage me to become a better teacher in the future.

  30. Reading ‘Notes to Myself’ has helped me understand how I can teach while keeping the attention of the students and has great examples of things I can say in teacher evaluations for those who need the critique. Edward Allen clearly lays out how to make teaching more rewarding for both you and your students. I think the most valuable pieces of information that he wrote reminded me of professors who had used these teaching tactics.
    Allen’s note “Listen to every student seriously and with undivided attention” caught my interest and reminded me of a past professor that taught in this way. To make a student feel like they matter, I feel it is important to give them individual attention and listen to what they have to say. Having professors that make time for each student and send them articles that relate to their current project makes the student feel valid. Creating close relationships with professors has helped me as a student; I now go back to my undergraduate school and have meetings with past professors to discuss design issues and sometimes non-architecture topics.
    Another important teaching philosophy is to “do awesome physical demonstrations”. When taking a class involving technical teaching, it is important to keep students engaged. Sitting in a classroom for long periods of time can cause students to stop paying attention, so switching up classroom activities is a must. During our technical teaching session, Rebecca’s presentation was last after a long day, but we were all engaged in an activity of bend sticks which kept our attention. This was the perfect tactic after we had been watching power points for an hour.
    “Putting students in direct physical contact with their subject matter” is a vital teaching method. In construction technology classes, it has helped me as a student to physically build wall sections as a way of understanding what we are designing. Professors who have their students physically build models in construction technology, physics, and studio have been more memorable to me, and the concepts taught in class have stuck with me for years.
    Overall, Allen’s approach to teaching has helped me understand why my successful professors use the methods they do. I would suggest this read to anyone curious to becoming a teacher.

  31. Edward Allen “notes to myself” is one by favorite reading until now. It made my interest in the response and wanted to read more. It made me think how to be interesting while teaching and compare how teachers in my past taught me and left an impression.
    Ellen talks about the preparation, during and post-lecture which not only engages students but keep their interests throughout the classes. He expresses that teaching is a practical approach, which can make classroom active and can be a positive and vibrant environment to students.
    According to Allen, the best way to teach is making people involved in the design process that can be using activities, group discussion, videos, field trips etc. Switching to different ways of teaching makes people concentrate and be active during the session. Every student has their favorite teacher and when asked why it is the teaching style and the subject matter they tell which defines the teacher they love. Classes cannot be always thrilled. I still remember during my undergraduate some professors were not excited to teach their subject and showed just power point presentation in every other class. As a result, we as students did not find it interesting. It is important to include variety and maintain eye contact with students. It is not possible to maintain with everyone but talking and listening to everyone can be done. As a result, it makes students more connected to professors and talk about their doubts.
    In conclusion, I think Allen’s writing encourages us to learn and practice and be involved both as a teacher as a student. It is important to have end-to-end discussions and explore more always. Such readings should be recommended to both professor and students in order to know about different perspectives about teaching. I do see myself teaching in future and “Notes to myself” has outlined some characteristics that one should follow and use them in everyday life. In order to teach well it is important to enjoy teaching because the ultimate goal is to create the attentive, engaged and flexible environment.

  32. Notes to Myself by Edward Allen

    This is my first (and last, I’m afraid) quarter of GEing at the University of Oregon and I am really enjoying it. Since we are already in week 6, I conducted quite a few classes before taking this Teaching Tech class and doing this reading. It is really interesting to learn how to teach while teaching, because I can immediately apply what I learned to my next class.

    As the Myers Briggs test emphasized in our Saturday session, I am an intense introvert, so needless to say, I was very nervous before teaching my first class. I have had a little bit of experience through reviewing at both the UO and at the University of Washington, TAing for an undergraduate studio course, and just throwing myself out there in the working world, but that was different than instructing my own groups of students. Luckily, I have very patient and understanding students and I feel like we are in this journey together. While I am much more comfortable now than I was, I have a lot to work on. Reading Notes to Myself was a great, quick overview of techniques that are essential in successful teaching. Here are a few that stood out to me:

    Talk to everyone in the class at least once during each class – This is something that I need to work on. I am getting better, but I have a tendency to plow through my material instead of consciously addressing or acknowledging each student in my class. I know I am very aware as a student when teachers never make eye contact with me. When that happens, I tend to wonder if they even know my name and it makes me quickly disengage.

    Avoid routine – I believe this tip is equally important for the sanity of the teacher and the students. Once a class starts to become predictable, it becomes boring. Mixing up lesson types and activities will help make the class more interesting.

    Dialogue vs Monologue – Getting the students engaged will help them retain information and fight off boredom. The tough part of this is when the students are reluctant to speak. I still haven’t figured out the best way to approach this yet. Calling on people makes people nervous but sitting in silence is awkward and unproductive.

    Break up the hour – This is crucial if possible. Since I am teaching a section rather than a lecture, I am easily able to break up the section into twenty-minute chunks, which keeps us all much more entertained, especially since they are one hour and twenty-minute classes.

    Just teach the basics in simple words and short sentences – I tend to be turned off by academic-speak. A lot of students use what we called at the UW, “$5 words”. $5 words are words that architects and architecture students use that no one else uses to fluff up their presentation (eg. the horizontality of the windows). There is an interesting ArchDaily article that discusses this phenomenon ( This comment from the article resonates with me, “I don’t think we are contributing to public discourse by using a language that is incomprehensible to a layman. When I talk to a physicist, I expect him to be able to translate his work into terms that I can understand, and all trades and professions should be held to the same standard. If you cannot explain your work simply, you don’t fully understand your work.”

    If anything, this handbook encouraged a good amount of personal reflection and I will definitely continue to think about these techniques and what they mean in a classroom setting. But besides all of this, the most inspiring part of the reading was how much Ed Allen genuinely seems to love teaching. That passion is something that cannot be faked and that will continue to inspire students. If I am inspired just by reading this short book, then I can imagine his classrooms are something to be reckoned with.

  33. While reading Edward Allen’s notes to himself, I found myself thinking “I wish I would have known this as a GE”. I think all GEs within the College of Design should receive a copy of these wise and practical suggestions. I enjoyed how Allen not only gives advice, but also gives examples of how to apply the advice; He does not only say “scrap the syllabus”, but also says give students a thirst for knowledge that makes them want to learn.

    A common thread I noticed throughout each note is Allen’s appreciation for design despite his technical background in courses like structures or environmental systems. From the very beginning he writes “there is great beauty, elegance, even magic in every branch of technical knowledge” and later “You do not teach building science. You teach design”. He also mentions that math and calculations are means to an end, that end being design. I believe a lot technical subject teachers should work on the balance between teaching building science vs. teaching design. Allen suggests that relationship between the two is not an “A vs. B” situation, but design schools seem to operate under this dichotomous assumption. In my personal experience at Ball State, the intent was to fuse structures and environmental systems with studio, but students seldomly did so. Furthermore, the majority of professors hardly encouraged the intermingling of design with technical knowledge.

    As mentioned earlier, Allen insists to scrap the syllabus. I found this to be the most intriguing piece of advice. It makes me wonder what is holding professors back from teaching like this? Is it enforced standards from NAAB? A lack of creativity? The size of the class? How would Enclosures look if it followed a more organic structure that responded to the student’s interests rather than a prescribed topic? The answers to these questions are probably quite complex and would require a dramatic restructuring of current teaching methods. Nevertheless, Allen offers valuable advice relevant to both the aspiring teacher and to the most seasoned educator.

  34. All I could think of as I was reading “Notes to Myself” was how much I (and others) would learn if every professor taught using Edward Allen’s methods in architecture school. We are designers and creatives who think, process and work with our hands and just as much as we do our minds and tapping into active, kinesthetic methods of teaching goes a long way.

    His philosophy of involving students and hand on exercises stuck out to me the most. The most memorable course lessons I have experienced have involved both of these things. Attention span not only lasts longer, but I believe many of us learn best when we are practically applying or teaching material to other classmates. I can remember almost every design project I have completed in grad school but struggle to recall any specific lecture I have listened to.

    I also greatly appreciate the passion and care he brings to his writing and teaching. The best professors I have had teach with fervor and “stars in their eyes”, making what could be dull material more exciting simply because of the passion they bring to the class, students, and delivery of the material. I think of Shevy Rockcastle’s Human-Centric Design class where we are currently beginning a design experiment that will involve using a new software for many of us. She is actively going out of her way in order to help us create and execute our individual experiments. The care she is putting into each of our projects not only increases my respect for her as a professor, but encourages me to create something that really matters.

    I have the desire to learn from the methods that Allen proposes. His writing gave me, as a student, ideas on ways I could learn and understand material better. My hope is that if I ever GE or teach someday, that I can apply these useful “Notes”, granting others the opportunity to engage, grow, and learn in ways that are lasting.

  35. What I appreciate most about Ed Allen’s Notes to Myself is the degree to which passion comes into all of his suggestions. He is focused on actually caring about content, about people, and about the process of learning. This is echoed in the fact that he is, first of all, writing notes to himself on how to become a better teacher. And this approach is supported by his practical solutions to making the classroom a vibrant and positive place for students.

    One realization I had while reading the work was the idea that, even in building science courses, we are teaching design. In the Building Construction course, which I have taught labs for during the past two years, I often tried to bring the content back to the basics of design choice and process. Of course, we focus on the nuts and bolts of how a building goes together, but design intent remains a key part of all of those decisions. Allen’s writing gives me some revitalized thinking about how to present that approach even in this course: “The best way to teach design is to engage your students in the process of designing.” This occurs in Building Construction through both of the major projects and, for me, it makes the content easier to teach because the students are more excited about the process of learning through design challenges.

    Ultimately, I think Allen’s writing encourages an approach that I truly believe in and aspire to. I think this approach takes more work which means more time. I know that teaching at the university level includes many demands on professors’ time. This writing reminds us as current and future teachers to take the time to create an engaging and positive learning environment by being passionate, attentive, engaged, and flexible. I will keep these thoughts as inspiration and am encouraged to write my own version of Notes to Myself based on the great experiences I have had at the University of Oregon.

  36. While I read Edward Allen’s Notes to Myself I couldn’t help but think about all of the teachers in my past that made an impression on me. Allen talks about key strategies that make a successful instructor and learning environment. He mentions different ways to make the class room more engaging, exciting, and effective. I thought it was really interesting when he talks about the importance of using the computer correctly. It is without question that they can be incredibly useful tools but if used inappropriately can result in poor design.

    In my opinion the most valuable point Allen talks about is the importance of loving what you teach. I’ve had plenty of great instructors in my life; even my least favorite had their strengths. There is something incredible that happens when you are able to recognize the love a teacher has for their subject matter. I instantly thought of my mentor in undergrad when I read the closing paragraph. He loved what he taught and every student in the room could tell. This professor taught most of the technical courses in the program, classes many students were not always thrilled about taking. No matter how dull the topic might have been in Materials and Methods that day he would always ask questions to the class and get us out of our seats to look at physical building details. That being said, it is very apparent when an instructor does not find passion in the subject matter.

    Allen is correct, love is contagious. The passion that certain professors in my past have possessed has not only influenced my interests within architecture but has sparked my desire to be a great instructor one day. Whether it is an academic or work environment I believe that level of enthusiasm will lend itself to success.

  37. As I read through ‘Notes to Myself’ by Edward Allen, all I could think about were some of the best teachers I have ever had because it was describing the very reasons I enjoyed them so much. During our seminar, the question was asked “what is one of your most memorable teaching moments?” and many of us answered by talking about our favorite teacher and why they had such an impact on us. Most of us have this “favorite” teacher that we remember, whether it be from our younger years in school, or in college, but what makes these teachers so special to us? Usually it has something to do with their teaching style.
    Design is a very unique area of study to teach, and especially architecture, where it is a mix or art and science. We not only have to know how to design beautiful and aesthetically pleasing buildings, but we also have to know the technical side of things as well. With that in mind however, a lot of time people in architecture are very visual and design oriented, so when teaching the technical information it is important to include design because that is what we relate to. Edward Allen touches on this by stating, “it is neither science nor math. It is design” and this is true even for classes like structures where it is mostly about calculations…it is still design and we should be taught it that way.
    Edward Allen gives clear and concise points about what makes a teacher effective and engaging. These methods are simple, yet incredibly powerful ways of being a successful teacher and keeping students interested in what you are teaching. As stated above, it really rang true when reading through some of these things that the teachers who taught that way, were truly some of the most effective and most memorable. We tend to get stuck in an environment of lecture-based classes, but in reality these are not effective ways of teaching or learning. A major takeaway from this reading is to really strip teaching down to the individual level and get involved with each student. And most importantly to “love your subject matter. Love your students, and students will perceive your love”.

  38. Reading Response to Edward Allen’s “Notes to Myself”

    This quarter I was a GE for ARCH 470 Building Construction and had my first experiences with teaching. As I read Allen’s essay, I have been reflecting on these experiences.

    Much of Allen’s guidelines could be boiled down to being receptive, present, engaging, and respectful. When managing a classroom full of students, this is much easier said than done. As a student, I have criticized many instructors. While it is very important that they do their job well, it’s also incredibly difficult. I taught three sections a week and for the first month I was exhausted by the end of each section (and I was not doing a perfect job). It’s clear that Allen has been doing this for many years and to begin to tackle his guidelines takes significant practice and patience.

    I think Allen is just trying to explain how to get students involved with their own learning. A teacher aims to convince students that what they’re sharing is worth learning. How do you teach someone to want to learn and keep them hooked?

    As a student, I’ve had many enjoyable professors who follow Allen’s guidelines. I’ve also had professors who didn’t – often because the volume of course content seemed to require long lectures. A student who is receptive to what makes a good instructor would probably come to many of the same conclusions as Allen does here.

    My one qualm with what Allen suggests – and this may be an issue of personality – is the idea of throwing away the syllabus, being spontaneous, and relaxing the structure of a class. Maybe this comes from Allen’s learning style and his own experiences rather than an empirically “best” way to teach. I – like many others – need a structured environment to learn. I need to know a little bit of what to expect so that I can focus on the material. As such, I probably teach more to students that learn like I do.

    Allen’s talk of working fast, taking risks, keeping everyone engaged sounds exhausting. This experience has given me a renewed respect for teachers and the enormous effort that they must put into their work.

  39. It is amazing how well Edward Allen has successfully put the basics of architectural teaching in just 20 pages. ‘Notes to Myself’ is a very casually written, crash course not just for architectural education but for any form of teaching. I think architecture is a complicated subject to teach. Combining technicality with design is a complex process and teaching it is even more difficult. ‘Notes to Myself’ has valuable pieces of advice on how both technical subjects and design can be taught hand in hand.

    Having studied architecture in India for five years and then diving into an architecture school in the US, some of the pieces of information on ‘Note to myself’ was relatable for me personally. The education system being so outdated back in India, many of the points mentioned by Edward Allen was refreshing to me and to experience professors here at University of Oregon follow some of his basic ideas is an excellent way for students like us to learn about technical teaching.

    “Because of technical developments and changes in standards and methods, most of what I know and use in any technical subject area I learned is after I graduated from architectural school…” This is so true in the profession of architecture as students start working in the real world. Due to ever changing standards and rapid technological developments in the field of architecture teaching technical subjects can be huge challenge for professors. As Allen Edward says you can only try and uncover a meaningful portion of a subject and filtering pieces of subject areas that can help student develop their skill is key to forming a strong base for students. The issue about the use of computers and maths also interested me. The debate about how much we should be relying on it and understanding the actual reason of why we use these tools in design is crucial. One of the points Edward Allen clearly mentions is that maths and computers are to be used as a medium rather than a solution which has to be logically explained to students.

    “Teach with stars in your eyes. If you’re not totally smitten with the subject matter that you teach, you can’t expect your students to get excited about it…” Although the reading has many important do’s and don’ts of technical teaching the most important thing is to have the passion and love for teaching. Respecting the subject and students, experimentations, risks, creativeness, humility, practicality are just few of the qualities Allen mentions that can be extremely beneficial if you desire to have satisfied and knowledgeable people who you pass on your knowledge to.

  40. As I was reading through “Notes to Myself” I couldn’t help but compare the little bits of advice back to all the classes that I have taken throughout my life. The common theme was that every time I read through a section I found myself thinking of a class that I could relate that experience. Unsurprisingly these classes were some of my favorites and the ones where I not just learned the most, but the courses that I absorbed the most and carried that knowledge with me to other experiences in my schooling and career.
    Edward Allen organizes his notes and advice on teaching technical classes in a very concise easy to understand format. This makes it easy to translate any of these strategies to a multitude of situations. One of the major themes that I caught on to was that you must engage the students and make them excited and interested in what they are learning. This idea rang very true with me. In my undergraduate degree program, I had two very different experiences with two courses in a Materials and Methods of Construction series. The first course was taken in the 2nd year of the program and was taught solely in the lecture format. Meaning that the entire 2nd-year architecture program sat in a lecture hall twice a week and listened to our professor talk about whatever material was scheduled that week. It can visibly be seen in my note taking even if I went into the class with the greatest intentions of absorbing as much as I could my notes and attention span would start to die off about halfway through. Needless to say, although I learned a lot in that class most of it was quickly forgotten.
    On the other hand, after a staff change, the Materials and Methods 2 course taken in the 4th year of the program was much more engaging. There were still lecture-style classes but they also incorporated a few term projects that had students physically interacting, experimenting, and constructing things using these materials and methods. In addition, we did field studies, and class walks around campus to see in real the types of construction and building materials and techniques that we were learning about in those lectures. Understanding the material on many different levels really helped the students get a better grasp on the subject and concepts being taught throughout the course.
    The other aspect of Allen’s reading that resonated with me was the idea of not sticking to a syllabus. Students will learn more from a subject if they understand the underlying concepts and then use those to design and apply that thinking to a project they are working on. I always found it helpful to be able to relate things that I learned in my technical classes back to my studio projects or implement them into a project within the course.

  41. Edward Allen’s Notes to Myself is a casual yet fundamental compilation of points that lead to a successful educator. Allen talks about points that generally fit into three categories of advice: Excite, engage, and challenge your audience.
    He both starts and ends his comments with emotional advice: the first point noting the importance of being excited about the material you are teaching and the last point stating that teaching with love will spark the most interest in your audience. These ideas, along with believing your class is truly the best one offered, further cements the importance that teaching is more than something you can learn from a book and or rely in a presentation. The passion for knowledge must come from within and you as the educator must believe it first.
    Allen then delivers a myriad of practical and experiential advice. His comments such not relying too heavily on the computer, breaking up the class time, and experimenting with different types of teaching methods all show his interest in transforming how teachers can offer knowledge in new ways and break from the conventional lecture style class. It is reassuring to hear him recount his past trials of hands-on activities and risky teaching ventures resulting in positive student engagement and class improvement.
    I also appreciate his attention to teaching on an individual level. Speaking to one student through meaningful eye contact, respecting your students as people, and discouraging random quizzing can dramatically change the mood and overall outcome of the class. I’m glad these topics are valued just as highly as others on the road to a successful class. He also stresses the importance of challenging your students as well as the topic in general. Not relying on the syllabus, teaching out of the obvious order, and always teaching under the pretense of design excellence are all positive ways that allow each student to make the subject their own and learn it in a way that makes sense to them.
    This book provides a supportive base for how to make students want to learn. This book illustrates that Allen has taken his experiences over time and compiled it in the hopes of spreading what he truly thinks is the most beneficial way for students to learn.

  42. Notes to Myself

    I thought this little book was full of many useful little facts about teaching. I thoroughly enjjoyed reading this. The reason I enjoyed it so much was mostly because my favorite classes that I have taken here at UO were prime examples of some of these tips.

    To start, I thought it was interesting that he said a professor should engage with his/her students in the first 10 minutes. From a students perspective I have found this to be entirely true. And at the begginning of your class you were able to achieve probably 10 of those tips he gave in the first 10 minutes! (good job) I guess for me it has really showed that these things I have noticed are real and not just a theory.

    Second, when he talks about the begginning activity involving the sticker circles, that reminded me of Jim Givens class. His design for media class has been one of my favorite classes for a number of reasons but I think the fact that he added in activities like this all the time was what made it so engaging.

    Third, I liked how he said don’t try and cover your subject but uncover a meaningful portion. Its absolutely true, we students have so much information cramed into us that it makes it impossible to remember it all. The fact that this might be realized is exciting to me because I find it ridiculous to be expected to read 400 pages of information and be able to answer specific questions about some very specific sentance. It is like trying to find a needle in a haystack in your head.

    In conclusion, I found this book to be entertaining to read, and again reminiscent of all my favoriite classes here at UO thus far. It really gives me hope that most professors here probably have this little book for reference and are trying their best to teach us. Thank you!

  43. Nearly every note that Edward Allen made in this book reminded of a positive or negative teaching moment in my life.

    At my undergraduate university, most of our lecture classes meet once a week for three hours, and I found it incredibly difficult to remain engaged. An environmental science class that I took had very interesting material, however, the professor lectured for the entire block, so the second half of the class generally went in one ear and out the other.

    I often sit in the first or second row of every class I take. I think I do this to keep myself accountable, I’m less likely to space out or doodle if I know the professor has clear view of me, especially if I make eye contact with the professor throughout the class.

    I’ve always learned and performed best with hands-on exercises. I took physics in high school and did terrible on the homework and exams. Applying formulas to hypothetical problems was never a strong suit of mine. However, when we were tasked with the Egg Drop assignment, I did really well, better than the top students in the class actually. If the teacher had tested us on our ability to design using the principles of physics, rather than simply memorize and execute formulas, I likely would have done much better.

    One of my favorite lecture classes was an introductory art history class I took freshman year of college. It was in a huge dark lecture hall with 200 students but the professor was so animated that I remained engaged. The professor always had a story to go along with each piece, which is why to this day I remember the meaning behind Caravaggio’s “Judith Beheading Holofernes” painting. The professor delivered historical facts in an exciting and engaging way.

    I enjoyed this reading by Edward Allen, it reminded me of all the times teachers have affected me and helped and inhibited my learning, and I hope I can take these notes and apply them to my own teaching one day.

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