Teaching philosophy

My teaching philosophy is probably very different from the teaching philosophies you have previously encountered. While mastering techniques and being able to solve technical exercises is definitely important, I strongly believe that it is important also to develop the conceptual understanding of the material. Conceptual understanding doesn't follow from solutions of a large body of exercises and examples. A student with undeveloped conceptual thinking will perceive a slightly adjusted, previously seen question, as completely different. On the other hand, a student with a good conceptual grasp of the material will be much more successful.

I believe that standard lecturing techniques are not well adapted to develop conceptual understanding, and most importantly give very little added value to books, YouTube videos, or lecture notes. Therefore after researching the teaching literature, I came to the conclusion, that I have to adjust my lecture style in a way which will reflect what I expect the students to know by the end of course, which means putting much higher weight on interactivity, discussions and independent work during the semester.

Many times I hear complains of students "the lecturer doesn't teach us anything and expects us to learn everything by ourselves." These complains refer to the fact, that I don't simply read all the required material from my lecture notes. The act of learning is active, and not passive! Similarly to the reason you cannot become a basketball player by watching other people play, you cannot become a physicist by simply reading physics books, or watching your lecturer of TA solving exercises on the board. You need to be actively engaged in the learning of physics. The purpose of the lecturer, is NOT to read the material from his or her notes, but to provide ample opportunities of active learning to the students, and to mediate the process, but there is nothing the lecturer can do if students will resist active learning.
During the semester we will provide you with these opportunities in the following components:

Reading and viewing assignments: Before each lecture and workshop you will have to prepare by either reading or watching some material. Students who will choose to ignore that, will gain very little, if at all, from the lectures and workshops, and moreover will not be able to contribute effectively to the work of their team. The purpose of these assignments is:

  • To provide you with an initial exposure with the material, especially to its more informational parts, which mostly rely on memorizing and not understanding.
    It is totally fine, if you don't understand it completely or get confused. The point is to reduce confusion during lectures, as also the time you need to invest to review a lecture.
  • To ignite discussion of the material between the students, by such creating learning opportunities. It was shown that active participation increases the effectiveness of learning.
  • To serve as reference for the informational or technical parts of the course.
  • To practice critical reading / watching

Lectures: During the lectures expect to actively answer questions, participate in discussions with your team mates, the rest of the class and the lecturer.
The purpose of the lectures is:

  • To develop conceptual understanding of the course material.
  • To clarify the difficult parts of the reading assignments 
  • To create connections between the course topics and other courses
  • To develop your critical thinking

Workshops: The purpose of the workshops is:

  • Provide opportunity to develop and hone the technical skills which are relevant to the course
  • Clarify technical parts of the lecture
  • To practice solutions techniques by solution of practical exercises

Last modified: Wednesday, 2 March 2022, 1:41 PM