Seeing Students As Resources

Gina Cancelliere, with additional reporting by Dana Bauer.
May 01, 2000
Curly haired man with glasses, in front of window, sitting at desk, hands on keyboard

The world of energy, says Semih Eser, "is so broad and diverse; it's rapidly changing." Changing so rapidly that Eser learned a thing or two about energy during the CAUSE 2000 cross-country tour.

For over a decade, Eser has been teaching science and engineering majors and non-technical students about energy. He knows that every course he teaches—whether it's "Problems in Fuel Science", "Energy and Modern Society", or "Energy and the Environment"—is a learning experience for himself and his students.

Because the CAUSE 2000 seminar is different from a typical class, Eser gained a different type of enrichment "through subject and social interrelations," he says. "There are many opportunities for sharing. And I learned a lot from the students."

Having the students "address us by our first name helps," says Eser. After all, "we're staying in a motel together and sharing personal experiences. We are all people," he says, chuckling.

"Another great experience was getting to know Derek and working closely with him," says Eser of his colleague and co-instructor Derek Elsworth.

The duty of CAUSE professors isn't just to transfer information, but to facilitate discussion and group work among students. That's pretty easy to do with such a tight-knit group of students who know each other both academically and socially. However, group work can be a major hurdle. If not done correctly, says Eser, it can be "detrimental to learning and performance. It could slow you down."

It's difficult when "four people are pulling in different directions trying to reach consensus," Eser says. He adds, "it would have been best to have a professional come talk about group work."

Eser has been able to incorporate some of the things he learned during CAUSE 2000 into his other courses. "I look at students as resources—a two-way street. Don't shut them out. Listen to them," says Eser. "My principle objective in teaching is to stimulate meaningful learning," he says, "not just in CAUSE but in all my of my classes."

After earning bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical engineering at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, Eser moved to the United States in 1981. The move not only changed his lifestyle, but his academic focus too. He transitioned from engineering to science, earning a Ph.D. in fuel science at Penn State in 1987.

Semih Eser is associate professor of energy and geo-environmental engineering in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, 154 Hosler Building, University Park, PA, 16802; (814) 863-1392;

Last Updated May 01, 2000