Murphy Award winner: Jason Weiss

April 15, 2014  


Jason Weiss

Jason Weiss, the Jack and Kay Hockema Professor of Civil Engineer. (Photo provided)
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Five exceptional teachers have been selected as recipients of the 2014 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards in Memory of Charles B. Murphy. This week, Purdue Today will feature a profile on each of the recipients. This profile focuses on Jason Weiss, the Jack and Kay Hockema Professor of Civil Engineering.

A keen knack for explaining complex topics in relatable, easily digestible ways is one of Jason Weiss' teaching strengths.

That skill, along with a strong focus on improving and adapting his pedagogical techniques, consistently earns Weiss stellar feedback from his civil engineering students.

"It's exciting to see students become engaged in the learning process," Weiss says. "I love to watch them learn to do something and subsequently gain a deeper understanding of why this or that happens in the first place."

A member of Purdue's faculty since 1999, Weiss has taken care to ensure that his students get the most out of his classes.

He has created a wide array of Web-based notes and classroom-based activities, and he tailors his lectures to students' individual learning styles. All the while, he notes possible methods for improvement. As a result, professors from Purdue and across the country have used Weiss' teaching notes, his colleagues say.

Weiss also has taken several formal steps to improve his teaching effectiveness.

For example, he has co-organized and participated in a national annual professors' workshop about teaching the material science, engineering and field-based aspects of concrete. Interacting with other instructors during the workshop has helped him refine his classes' academic content as well as hone his teaching approaches, Weiss says.

Further, in large lectures, Weiss frequently uses a method called peer instruction, which involves evidence-based, interactive teaching during lectures. It was developed by Eric Mazur, a professor at Harvard University. 

Additionally, last fall he began exploring a redesign of the foundational civil engineering materials class through IMPACT (Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation), a campus-wide initiative to transform core classes and thus engage students more fully in their learning. 

The redesign will focus on using technology to deliver course content in innovative ways as well as to provide students with real-time feedback about how well they are understanding core concepts.

Students frequently note Weiss' commitment to teaching and learning, too.

"He makes sure the class understands before moving on," writes a student who took Weiss' introduction to structural mechanics class. "Professor Weiss is the best instructor I have had here at Purdue."

Writer: Amanda Hamon Kunz, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu

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