Statement of Teaching Philosophy

A great teacher has the ability to guide students and help extend their knowledge into new territory in a way that leaves them feeling inspired and empowered. I believe that this is best realized through a multimodal approach to teaching and learning, which takes into account the diversity of university students. My approach to teaching is centered around an apprenticeship model paired with small-group interactions between students (e.g., active learning scenarios, tutorial sessions, and labs) that strengthen the development of collaborative problem-solving and communication abilities—fundamental skills that transcend scientific careers. Learner-centered tutorials involving small groups of students that meet periodically with an instructor have demonstrated remarkable efficacy as a tool for learning physics that also emphasizes other important developmental aspects, such as the ability to discuss one’s thoughts and results clearly. Additionally, active learning scenarios, when paired with good leadership and carefully chosen content, yield positive results that directly engage students in their learning in the classroom. Thus, I ultimately view the instructor as an essential guide for the students—an exemplar of good practice in teaching and learning that aims to spark curiosity and encourage students to become self-motivated learners.

The foundational teaching and learning principles of my teaching philosophy are motivated by the disconnect that my peers and I experienced in our physics education, wherein the traditionally instructor-focused approach employed did not align with how learning actually occurred during our studies. Students who attend my classes can expect a learner-driven environment that combines traditional lecturing with active learning scenarios that challenge students’ critical thinking and knowledge of physics concepts.

My implementations of active learning exercises are best summarized as formative assessments focused on small-group interactions followed by whole-class discussions (e.g., think–pair–share and peer instruction). In these scenarios, students are often given the opportunity to think about a particular problem and then share their thoughts with fellow students. Through the process of sharing and discussing, new ideas may begin to emerge, which students will have the opportunity to challenge or integrate. These discussions are essential when practicing science and promote the development of fundamental conversational skills that translate well to all careers. The role of the instructor is to create a supportive environment that facilitates these discussions, encouraging students to explore their ideas and perspectives. Additionally, the instructor guides students in critically evaluating their thinking, including examining, understanding, and, if necessary, correcting erroneous thoughts and approaches, which can contribute to deeper learning. When used effectively, these scenarios can be both validating and corrective for everyone involved; the instructor is provided with frequent, instantaneous feedback on the students’ understanding of the material and their ability to apply it to practical problems in real time, while students get the opportunity to build confidence in working with new ideas prior to leaving the classroom.

My approach also emphasizes the importance of transforming abstract physics concepts into tangible experiences for students. By incorporating hands-on physics displays and simulations into the classroom that are integrated into the active learning exercises and hosting student-centered laboratories, I aim to evoke curiosity and deepen understanding. These interactive experiences make course content memorable while emphasizing the fundamental role of empirical observation and experimentation in the study of physics.

My teaching philosophy is reinforced by my experience teaching introductory physics labs and facilitating tutorials in graduate-level advanced quantum mechanics and introductory particle physics (mixed undergraduate/graduate). Beyond classroom instruction, I view tutorials and assignments as integral tools for reinforcing concepts, employing them as weekly formative and summative assessments, respectively. Notably, when these assessments encompass analytical, numerical, and/or modern computational approaches, students are offered a more comprehensive understanding of problem-solving techniques in physics. My overarching goal is to familiarize students with a diversity of methods and emphasize the flexibility of different solutions, each often presenting unique advantages and disadvantages. This aims to not only provide students with a larger skill set that ensures their course knowledge is easily transferable to careers outside academia but also target various types of learners that may naturally grasp a particular method better than another. The diverse ways in which students engage with and understand physics concepts are acknowledged and accommodated by this approach, allowing for tailored support and assessment that meets students where they are in their learning journey. Moreover, exposing students to a variety of problem-solving techniques through these assessments fosters a more inclusive and equitable learning environment.

Tutorials structured as weekly seminars in which the class is divided into small cohorts of 3–5 students grounded on active student participation in small-group learning activities with an instructor offer students a small-scale forum for discussion and a more personalized learning experience. Furthermore, by designing tutorials as formative assessments based on attendance and engagement (with a clear rubric provided), the pressure on students is reduced by shifting the focus to participation and learning. This environment not only encourages students to feel more comfortable attempting problems and discussing their ideas but also assures them that mistakes are valuable learning opportunities, as they will not be penalized for exploring different approaches or making errors in their thinking or methods.

Salient in this application of small-group physics tutorials is the way in which they consistently provide the instructor with valuable feedback on student progress, guiding subsequent lectures and exam reviews and inspiring targeted learning exercises therein. Furthermore, students gain experience solving problems with a knowledgeable guide who can provide immediate feedback on their approaches and ideas. The success of this tutorial approach established it as an essential part of my teaching practice and a core component of the physics courses I teach—one which the students, in my experience, reported as invaluable. For example, in introductory particle physics, the Student Evaluations of Teaching Performance highlighted how the tutorials “directly aided [students’] understanding of the class material”, with several students emphasizing that “it would be great to have similar sessions in other courses”.

At the end of a course, students leave my classroom with a deeper knowledge of the laws of physics that govern the Universe and the technologies around them. Through open-minded approaches to problem-solving, supported by discussion and collaboration with their peers, my students develop a wide range of critical thinking, conversational, and analytical skills, ultimately leaving them better prepared for the plethora of potential careers that await them after graduation.