It is both exciting and rewarding to pursue knowledge not only through research but also through applying research in practical settings and through teaching, sharing, and advising. Teaching and supervising students are valuable learning processes for the students as well as for myself and I have been doing so ever since I started in academia. Teaching is indeed very rewarding.
I have taught numerous courses, ranging from information retrieval and statistical language modeling to data mining and research methods. In these courses I have taught various topics at various levels, including the MSc, BSc, undergrad, and postgrad level. I have even taught at a high school in my free time, teaching youngsters the basics of computer science and preparing them for college, university, and beyond. They are likely to become the students and educators of the future, which makes teaching them now even more rewarding.
The themes of my teaching include introduction to the main algorithms and methods being used in information retrieval, their applications in the setting of web retrieval, models and algorithms for retrieving web information, with a special focus on “the unit of retrieval” (returning document parts, answers, entities, etc instead of documents) and “user generated content” (blogs, email, discussion forums, comments, community question/answer pairs, etc), the importance of evaluation, as well as recent developments. I have advised several undergraduate students and PhD students through regular meetings and cooperations. I’m also a big fan of project-based teaching, where teams of students jointly work on an assignment or project. I have supervised several of such teams and found that the group dynamics and team play can yield very rewarding results, often greater than the sum of its parts.
I have taught PhD-level tutorials on information retrieval and information access in general at international conferences and summer schools, explaining the use of statistical language models in information retrieval with an emphasis on the underlying principles and framework, empirically effective models, as well as language models developed for a broad range of retrieval tasks, both traditional and non-traditional, including semi-structured document retrieval, expert finding, question answering, cross-language IR, blog retrieval, and topic detection and tracking. To me, the contact with other researchers in the field is the most valuable aspect of international teaching.
I have finished an intensive teaching course that covers: the design and provision of teaching, supporting the learning process, organizing education and quality control, and fostering a professional attitude. During this course I discovered active teaching methods like peer instruction and fast feedback. I have experimented with these techniques in class and I find it amazing how effective these are to energize students and to revitalize the classroom. A professional attitude towards education is necessary to improve upon teaching and mentoring skills and I consider my open attitude towards innovations inside the classroom an important teaching asset.