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Award for Excellence in Instruction

Award for Excellence in Instruction

Peter Carnell

The UGA College of Engineering’s annual Award for Excellence in Instruction honors outstanding faculty who demonstrated sustained commitment to high-quality instruction and creativity. The recipient of this year's award is Peter Carnell, an associate professor of practice.

Peter Carnell's many innovative approaches to instruction include introducing design thinking into Statics and Fluid Mechanics courses, including capstone design-like projects in Fluid Mechanics and Honors Statics to give students experience with the sort of projects they may handle as practicing engineers. Students use computational fluid dynamics to make an engineering design decision or answer a question of interest.

In addition, Carnell holds voluntary study sessions two or three times each week, inviting all the students in his classes. Students can ask questions of Carnell, his student helpers, and each other. These group sessions enable him to give intensive assistance both to struggling students and to students seeking to further excel.

“What Peter is doing in his approach to teaching is very novel and highly commendable, especially in engineering," said Michael Yoder, a senior lecturer in the College of Engineering. "He knows that for students to do well in a class and to also succeed in life, they must develop professionally. He wants all of his students to be resilient, so they will persevere in learning and not give up when the work of learning is difficult. He wants them to have a growth mindset, to believe they can learn, despite the common fixed mindset of many parents, teachers, and friends.”

Through a research project sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Carnell is exploring resilience-related professional skills – adaptability, persistence, optimism, self-control, and self-sufficiency – affect students’ academic performance. The aim of the research is to clarify the relationship between resilience and academic performance and to help students develop specific skills to enable them to overcome adversity during their studies and careers.

"My experiences in industry and academia have given me a unique voice in the classroom that benefits our students," said Carnell. "At the same time I am humbled that some of my best teaching has involved open-ended problems where students have been able to put their own signature on the solutions and go further than I would have imagined if I had more explicitly defined the finish line."