Teamwork Is Key to Feigh’s Teaching Strategy

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For Karen Feigh, regularly putting her students into teams isn’t just about making sure they learn the material — it’s also about making sure they learn about each other.         

“I’ve realized that students have a hard time breaking the ice with one another,” said Feigh, an assistant professor in the School of Aerospace Engineering. “I would put money on the fact that students who don’t know anyone in a class aren’t as connected, and in turn, they don’t do as well.”

So Feigh regularly puts students in her undergraduate and graduate classes into teams to do homework and to take in-class quizzes as teams (after they take the quizzes by themselves).

“Once the students have gotten to know one another and feel comfortable, they’re more likely to participate and be engaged in our class discussions and assignments,” Feigh added. “The benefits of using this type of peer-based learning are endless.”

Recently, The Whistle had an opportunity to learn more about Feigh and her time at Georgia Tech.

What did you want to be when you were a child, and how did you arrive in your current field?         
From ages 7 to 10, I lived in Hawaii and wanted to be a marine biologist, because I loved dolphins. I eventually figured out that I wanted to be an engineer of some sort and as an undergraduate attended Georgia Tech’s aerospace engineering program. I returned to Tech to complete my PhD in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering’s human integrated systems program and eventually accepted my current position in 2008.

Tell us about your research.      
I design computer systems to assist people whose work requires them to make quick decisions. For example, right now I’m working on a program that simulates how pilots descend into Los Angeles International Airport, which will help the airport upgrade its air-traffic control system.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your research?    
I work with researchers from a wide variety of fields, and while we all speak English, we have been trained to use a highly technical version of the language, which results in most of us not understanding each other. So the most satisfying part is when you can make yourself understood and feel like you can finally understand the other person’s position.  

What have you learned from your students?
A lot of computer shortcuts. In class, I will sometimes struggle with getting things done on the computer, and one of my students will shout out a shortcut that I wasn’t aware of. It’s great.

If you weren’t in your current field, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be an economist.

What piece of technology could you not live without?
My laptop. I’d be worthless without it.  

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken, and did it pay off?
The risk involved hitchhiking in the Alps — and the fact that I’m still talking to you means that it did.

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My grandfather, because he died before I was old enough to get to know him.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t ask for permission. Just do it.

Where is your favorite place to grab lunch?
It was Junior’s. I loved how I could walk over there for lunch alone — whether I was a student or faculty member — and could always find someone to eat with. Now it would have to be Spoon.

If you were stranded on an island, what is the one book you would want with you?
Being the pragmatic person that I am, it would be the Army Survival Manual; barring that, probably a guide to edible plants and animals.

Tell us something unique about yourself.
I have a group of girlfriends from college, and every year we take a major trip to places that have included South America, Europe and Thailand.



  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Amelia Pavlik
  • Created: 07/05/2012
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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