Lecturer Emily Navarro earned her Ph.D. in computer science, and her dissertation project involved researching, developing and evaluating SimSE, an educational software engineering simulation game. Despite being developed in the early 2000s, the award-winning game is still in use today in software engineering classrooms not only at UCI but around the world. Moreover, SimSE publications are regularly and frequently cited in software engineering education research. “SimSE seems to have been truly seminal to the area of game pedagogy applied to software engineering,” says Navarro. It also proved pivotal in her own teaching.
Navarro started teaching in 2012, and the first time she taught Intro to Software Engineering, she demo’ed SimSE in class. “The students were so engaged in the game that when I earned a perfect score, the entire class of 300 students exploded in applause,” she says. “This was a pivotal moment for me — I realized the impact I could have on students, that I could engage them and make learning enjoyable and effective.” Ever since, she has loved challenging herself to find interesting and engaging ways to teach her students and help them succeed in learning.
As Navarro continues to teach classes centered on various software engineering topics, including requirements, design, programming, and project management, she more generally aims to care holistically for each student’s education and well-being. “My teaching philosophy views students as people with unique and valuable experiences, backgrounds, and creativity, rather than as containers into which instructors pour information,” she says, noting that she values a “continuous improvement” growth mindset, not only for her students but for herself as well. “I constantly evaluate my teaching and strive to make it better through books, podcasts, courses, and activities that allow me to both learn about educational research and keep current on the content I am teaching.”