Tangül Başar receives the 2010 ECE Ronald W. Pratt Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award

5/18/2010 Charlie Johnson, ECE ILLINOIS

ECE Lecturer [profile:tangul] has been named the recipient of the ECE Ronald W. Pratt Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award.

Written by Charlie Johnson, ECE ILLINOIS

Tangul Basar
Tangul Basar

ECE Lecturer Tangul Basar has been named the recipient of the ECE Ronald W. Pratt Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award.

“It’s wonderful to win. When you look at the list of past recipients, and you see the excellent teachers in our outstanding department here who have won the award, it’s great to be included among them,” said Başar.

Başar has been teaching at Illinois since coming from Turkey with her husband, ECE Professor Tamer Başar, in 1981. She has taught ECE 210: Analog Signal Processing; ECE 459: Communications I, where she served as course director; and ECE 313: Probability with Engineering Applications, which she will again teach in the fall of 2010.

Başar was nominated for the Pratt award by students in her class. The ECE department then collects letters of recommendation from other ECE professors and colleagues, as well as from former students who have since moved on to graduate work or careers in industry. Başar’s ICES forms that students fill out at the end of a course (see kids, they do matter!) were also taken into consideration by the selection committee.

“We value this award because it encourages students to be involved in the nomination as well as the selection process. You know that your performance as a teacher is good when your students are telling you you’re doing a good job,” said Başar.

Having taught everything from the 100 students per section ECE 210 to the smaller enrollment class ECE 459, Başar has encountered almost every type of student and teaching challenge. Whether it’s learning names or trying to motivate a room full of 100 students on a rainy Monday morning, Başar’s key to teaching is to be encouraging and enthusiastic, no matter whom or what she is teaching.

“Students should believe, from day one, that they can do well the course work. Some, even though they’ve been admitted to such a strong program as ours, don’t have much confidence in their abilities and capabilities,” said Başar. “Once they develop the confidence that they can do the work, then I try to encourage them to expend more effort and motivate them with enthusiasm.”

Despite her love for teaching, Başar admits it can be frustrating at times. She used to fret over a few negative reviews on her end-of-semester ICES forms, despite the fact they were almost always overwhelmingly positive. After years of good evaluations with a few students expressing dislike, she learned to write off the few negative outliers and focus on her strengths and any constructive criticisms that students have offered over the years. You can’t please everybody all the time, particularly in large enrollment classes, she says.

Even more frustrating than lackadaisical students?

Exams. Başar, much like her students no doubt, is not much enthusiastic in giving exams.

“When you prepare the exam questions, you think, ‘Oh, all the students will surely get the full score, 100,’” she said. “After all, they should know the material inside out. I taught everything covered in the exam in class. But, when they don’t do that well, you wonder, ‘Why didn’t they get it? What did I not do well as a teacher?’”

In January, Başar brought her passion for teaching to Vietnam where she taught an intensive, two-week version of ECE 210 at Ho Chi Minh City Technical University. The course was part of an exchange program with Vietnamese students who follow the same curriculum as Illinois students and are often visited by Illinois faculty. Upon returning to the Champaign-Urbana, Başar had to slow herself down when she found herself trying to rush through the semester-long course as if she was teaching the two-week version. She has also worked on the development of online courses and teaching tools.

Başar will be honored with the award and a small cash prize in September at the ECE Faculty Banquet.

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This story was published May 18, 2010.