Active Learning:From years of being a student myself, I know that the only way I am able to truly learn something is to actually do it myself. I would often leave a typical lecture thinking I understood the material that was covered, but when I went to do a problem or apply what I “learned” I realized that I didn’t really have a good grasp of it. It was not until I actually did a problem on my own or pondered a question about the material that I really understood it. I also found that when an instructor engaged the class, constantly asking questions and making the students think, I was much more likely to really pay attention and get more out of the class.
I devote a significant amount of class time to small group quantitative and qualitative problem solving. As a student in my class, you work the problems with your classmates (with hints and guidance from me) instead of me showing you how to do them. I could show you one way to solve one problem and you could solve that problem, but if I teach you skills to independently approach and solve new problems through constant guided problem solving in class, then you will be able to solve any problem thrown at you!
Conceptual Understanding: All too often, physics courses focus solely or primarily on the equations that describe the various concepts and quantitative problems that apply these equations. Without focus on conceptual understanding students simply try to “hunt” for the right equation to use to solve a problem without really understanding what the equation means and why they are using it. The equation hunting method often does not work for multiple step problems or problems that involve more than one concept (which most of them do). Truly understanding physics concepts is actually quite difficult, but once that deep understanding is achieved, solving quantitative problems involving the concepts becomes much easier.
Real World Applications: Physics is all around us! It’s the study of the universe from quarks to galaxy clusters and everything in between. So much of our everyday experiences are explained by physics and so many technological advances are owed to physicists, that a physics course that doesn’t highlight these applications is a betrayal to the beauty of science.
Understanding physics requires hard work, dedication and inspiration.
Discussions, demonstrations and solving problems about surfing, music, laser surgery, sunsets, fusion and more not only fascinates and open students’ eyes to the magic of physics, but they inspire hard work to understand the material.
I also believe in straightforward teaching and testing. I want to try to reach
EVERY student in the class, not just those elite few students who really have an interest
and affinity for the subject.