Faculty Spotlight on Innovation: Jill Nelson

Originally published in “Notes of Excellence” newsletter, issue 015 – March 2015.

Jill Nelson HeadshotJill Nelson is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her research focus is in statistical signal processing, specifically detection and estimation for applications in target tracking and physical layer communications. She received the NSF CAREER Award in 2010, and she was a recipient of a Mason Teaching Excellence Award in 2014.

What is the most innovative thing you do with your students and/or your classes? Why do you think it is effective?

This semester, I’m asking my students to write reflections about each class project they submit. I hope it will encourage them to synthesize what they’ve learned more deeply than they do in the rush to finish a project and submit it by the deadline.

What do you do that creates a strong learning environment for your students?

I have students work together on problems in class and try to make sure they get to know as many of their classmates as possible. Knowing each other goes a long way in making class more enjoyable and encouraging attendance.

What’s one tip that you would offer to faculty new to teaching at Mason?

Never stop reflecting and improving your teaching. That’s how you stay engaged and energized. That said, “change” doesn’t mean “overhaul.” Small changes are much more manageable and can still have a profound effect on students’ learning.

What’s the most challenging thing for you in your teaching, and how do you address this challenge?

One of the biggest challenges for me is finding ways to give students meaningful feedback with a short turnaround time. I view formative assessment as one of the most important elements of the teaching-learning process, but providing good feedback takes time. When I figure out how to address this, I’ll let you know!