Physics is a subject that tries to explain the physical world we all live in and interact with, in our day-to-day lives. Although when it comes to learning Physics, it has an infamous reputation of being a difficult subject that only “smart” people can understand. I, on the contrary, am of the firm believe that anyone can understand and learn Physics. I believe that the most important component of learning Physics is the student’s curiosity and interest. At the same time, It is equally important to understand that all students might not be inherently interested in learning Physics. Here comes my part as an effective teacher, who can pique in his students, willingness, enthusiasm and interest to learn the subject.
How do I do this? I think the most effective way of gaining students’ attention and interest is to communicate the material in the right way. It is important to make students’ think that Physics not all about solving difficult equations and problems but it is actually really cool. This can be done by giving student’ real world examples and how Physics applies to them. For example, how the modern devices like smartphones work on principles of Physics like electron motion and capacitance sensing, how the pens they use, work on the concept of gravity, how their favorite super-heroes defy the laws of Physics. These kind of examples make student understand and appreciate the subject matter as they can relate it to something they already know. And when the students understand that how these technological advancements are a result of research in Physics, they realize that they may have impact on the world which further fosters their interest in the subject.
I understand that there are different types of students in a classroom and everyone have their own way of understanding things and there can be some concepts, especially in Physics that can be too abstract to understand and visualize effectively. I think technology can come handy in such cases. One thing that I intend to incorporate is the use of virtual reality and augmented reality tools to help visualize abstract concepts. These tools can really enhance the learning process and their implantation in a classroom is not difficult.
While lectures do play some part in developing students’ interest, it has become clear through research that courses that solely use traditional lecturing methods, do not provide an active learning environment and do not prepare students for the practice Physics after their graduation. Therefore, I think there needs to be a significant experimental component which goes in sync with the lectures to enhance students’ understanding because Physics is best learnt by doing. This gives a completeness to the course and also to the learning of the students.
In addition to help students understand the world around them, I also want them to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills through reasoning. Physics is not about memorizing equations and formulas and plugging numbers into them. It is about understanding the process of solving problems to understand the things quantitatively while applying proper reasoning at the same time to comprehend qualitatively. One way I think of doing this is including quantitative and qualitative questions in the assessments.
Teaching introductory and advanced laboratory courses as a teaching assistant at Virginia Tech, has given me an opportunity to be a facilitator who can work with students, assist them with their learning and in the process, develop a comfortable rapport with them. I maintain appropriate level of informality with my students and show them that I am also their peer in this process of learning Physics and that makes them comfortable enough to ask me for any assistance.
I believe that teaching is a great learning experience as well and as a teacher, I wish to keep my zest for learning alive. I am open to learning and implementing new techniques/ pedagogies because that would help me to polish my skills as a teacher. I intend to be a teacher who does not only teach but also inspire students to explore their potential, understand the world in the ways beyond imagination and act as peers in this learning process.
- Graduate Teaching Assistant for PHYS 2306 undergraduate introductory Physics course: This is an introductory course taken by students irrespective of their discipline. I was a GTA for three sections of 50-60 students each and my role was to help students with conducting general physics experiments on Newtonian mechanics, electromagnetism, forces and kinematics etc
- Graduate Teaching Assistant for PHYS 4574-5574 undergraduate and graduate Introductory Nanoscience course : My role included grading assignments of 60-70 students and helping the instructor to create assignments which encourage critical thinking skills among students. The assignments included writing a paper style essay for the topics taught in class.
- Graduate Teaching Assistant PHYS 4315 undergraduate senior modern experimental physics lab : This lab was for seniors in Physics majors and included experiments of advanced Physics like Hall effects, NMR spectroscopy, Diode Laser Spectroscopy, Optical Pumping, X-Ray spectroscopy, Alpha particle scattering, muon scattering etc. My role included helping 15-20 students conduct the experiments and grade reports for the experiments.