Indian-American named Professor of the Year

An Indian-American professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida, has been named US Professor of the Year by an influential think-tank.

Autar Kaw, 52, is among the four recipients of the 2012 US Professor of the Year award, who was recognised as "an engaging instructor who uses a variety of teaching techniques, including social media and learning assessments that are informed by his research to reach, encourage and challenge a diverse student population."

Kaw has been awarded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

India-born and raised, Kaw, also known as the "Numerical Methods Guy," makes complex mathematical equations lucid for engineering students beyond his classroom through his popular website and YouTube video lectures.

With the open courseware, which Kaw and his team spent 11 years developing and testing, students can learn and test concepts at their own pace, and not have to wait until the next class for the professor to bring back answers to their questions.

Kaw and his team were also sure to include a variety of different delivery formats, including videos, textbook excerpts, and short quizzes, so students can approach a topic using whatever method they prefer.

"My students love it," Kaw said adding "It has really helped students see the implications of what they're learning."

He is a strong proponent of guided instruction – falling on the "sage on the stage" (vs the "guide on the side") side of the debate, he says – but he believes that instruction is more effective if it's not given in slide form.

"Students are novices, they are not experts. If you are an expert, a guide on the side is a good way to teach you something new, but if you're a novice you need guided instruction," he said.

"You can start with a sage on the stage and then slowly start taking away the support structure and become a guide on the side.", he said.

The US Professors of the Year Awards Program was created in 1981 and is the only national initiative specifically designed to recognise excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

This year's award winners were selected from a pool of nearly 300 nominees.

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