Teaching Development and Experience
In my view, the basic tenet of teaching is not to help students learn how to solve specific problems, but to get them to see how specific problems fit into a broader context, which is amenable to a general form of analysis. Whether the subject is on game-theoretical concepts or statistical methodologies, my goal as a teacher is to provide students with an analytical lens, through which they can view the world. It is simply not possible – or even desirable – to provide a laundry list of every conceivable tool or technique. My objective is to teach students how to figure out A so that they can on their own figure out B, and not simply to have them memorize A and know only A. To misstate a proverb, you can teach a student a trick and she will pass an exam, or you can teach her how to think and she will be set for life.
Teaching has been an integral part of my personal and professional development. On the personal front, I taught taekwondo and Korean, for which I developed instructional formats for individual age-groups and designed learning activities tailored to students’ interests and skill levels. On the professional, academic front, I engaged in teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as in course design by leading a team of graduate students in a core course restructuring process. While participating in projects funded by the Army Research Office (ARO) Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant, I presented research papers at academic conferences and, as the student representative of the research group, progress reports at annual grant meetings, which required dissemination of advanced results at not only technical levels for academia but also practical and policy levels for the government. Currently as a PARISS Fellow, I provide research mentoring service to students and faculty through one-on-one consultation sessions, an interaction which I especially enjoy and would like to continue through mentoring and collaboration opportunities with students.
Collectively, these personal and professional experiences shaped my three-step teaching approach. The first step is to clearly define objectives for each session and share the outline at the beginning of the session as a visual reference. This reference serves as a guide for myself and students to check where we stand before moving on to the next section, and also ensures that I pause enough times during the session to review how we get here and help students who may have gotten lost to re-engage. The second step is to motivate concepts not only mathematically but also with relatable stories or real-life examples, enabling students to learn how concepts relate to the world around them and eventually build their own analytic capability to observe the world. The last step is to encourage students to participate in active learning sessions scaffolding questions answered through group discussions. For this goal, I take a special care to call on students selected by a random number generator. This selection scheme is transparent by design, effective to encourage participation from students who normally do not voice their thoughts, and helpful for me to assess students’ level of understanding class-wide for each session. While I taught selective sessions of advanced undergraduate and graduate courses (Artificial Intelligence and Computational Market Design) as a guest lecturer, I used this three-step approach with a big success.
During my service as a teaching assistant for a computer science course (Computing with Data), I took proactive steps to provide students support beyond what is normally expected from a teaching assistant. The class consisted of two heterogeneous groups of students: a group of “requirement-takers” with no experience in programming and the other group pursuing a degree in computer science. Through informal conversation with students I realized that the first group could not keep up with the progress of the course, because the instructor taught the course using example codes as the primary tool. I took the initiative to arrange additional review sessions, where I first explained programming concepts through relatable activities, such as moving a stack of books, and subsequently explained how these map to the programming concepts. I regard provision of extra support to willing students in and out of the classroom as highly valuable, because it encourages students to venture new, difficult, interesting subjects and fields.
I enjoy discussing economics at any level—from explaining inflation to a 14-year-old to discussing limitations of data envelope analysis with an undergraduate writing an honors thesis—and accordingly my teaching interests are broad. I am as happy and capable of teaching core courses such as Principles of Microeconomics, Microeconomic Theory, and Econometrics, as I am to teach electives aligned with my particular research interests (Game Theory, Industrial Organizations, Managerial Economics, Research Methods and Statistics, and Experimental Methods). In particular, I would love to develop an interdisciplinary course in computational microeconomics that incorporates methods such as linear and integer programming. Based on my research consulting experience as a PARISS Fellow, I know I would also enjoy teaching a senior seminar where I could advise students on their research projects and in turn benefit from the wide array of research topics and questions they explore.