In my own teaching, I try to mirror this philosophy – I not only teach learner content, but I also help them build self-confidence and encourage their curiosity to explore the boundaries of their own knowledge. The only way to learn a concept is by being engaged in the subject matter. I find it useful to create interesting frameworks for the students to apply concepts, rather than just explaining the concepts themselves.
My courses include groups of 275 students with very different backgrounds. I make a huge effort to understand the groups I am working with and challenge the students in ways that engages the largest number of learners. When working with such big groups I pay special attention to creating an inclusive learning environment to promote deep learning on the part of all students regardless of background. I try to promote the participation of the students as active learners and not just as passive listeners. To achieve this I often use clickers or create small discussion groups to work together to address conceptual problems I am introducing. This approach not only helps the students achieve a deeper understanding of the physical concepts, but it also helps them develop other skills in demand in the “real world” like team-work, leadership, and communication skills.
A second, but no less important component of my teaching, is my own mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students. Under these circumstances, I really enjoy the Socratic method, working together with the students and challenging their own knowledge and capabilities. I also use this approach when training graduate and undergraduate students in the laboratory. We spend a great deal of time discussing derivations, designing experiments, and analyzing data. In my opinion, these are the moments when the most long-lasting learning takes place. When a student sees the way that scientific concepts relate to his/her own work, the concepts then become an integral part of how they perceive the world from that point forward. I consider having this impact the most important contribution I can make to a student’s learning and development.
I try not only to be a solitary story-teller – I strive to make students partners in the teaching and learning process so they can best integrate their learning into the rest of their lives.