I have been a student for 22 years, and in that time I've learned what I don't like from teachers and what works for me. So, when I began teaching, I prepared so that I could be the type of educator that really stood out. I attended a summer course on teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and was invited back as a guest panelist. I also attended seminars on alternative styles of teaching and helped to redesign the curriculum in a course I was the Teaching Assistant for.
Since I began teaching, I've taught nine sections of small group intro-level physics, which utilized all the basic math courses including calculus. Additionally, I was responsible for office hours, test review, and even spent much of my undergrad teaching elementary aged children college level physics! Often when tutoring "physics" the difficulty actually lies in the mathematical required. This connection is often overlooked in schools, where courses are taught as closed units, when in real life, math, physics, chemistry and many other fields routinely overlap and comprehensive knowledge is needed within all these disciplines. This has led me to a very deep understanding and confidence in educating in mathematics, introductory chemistry and physics.
This sounds all wonderful, but how does it translate to the student? Basically, in all my school and teaching experience I've learned how to study for tests and write tests and I've learned how to share my understanding with students. (This means I've become keenly aware of what material needs to be reviewed multiple times and thoroughly understood prior to a test). Additionally, I've learned to actually listen to others, to find out what they are struggling with and not assume based on years of repetition. (Loosely translated, I find out what the actual problem is and not just guess like most teachers and professors do when they don't have enough time for each student.) I've acquired patience and experience, recognizing that a topic doesn't come as quickly to some as others, and that one explanation doesn't make sense for every student. I've learned to ask probing questions instead of simply giving an answer to a question, because research has shown that an individual who solves a problem themselves is significantly more likely to retain the information and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment leading towards further willingness to tackle new problems. (I don't want students to simply memorize formulas to pass a test, but actually be able to look a new problem and attack it, confident of the skills attained in tutoring).
One of the biggest lessons I learned while completing my PhD was that while I was becoming an expert in my field, I need to rely on others beyond my area of expertise. Tutoring is my opportunity to assist others with all the skills and knowledge I've amassed so that the student can improve and excel.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Lock Haven University of PA - Bachelors, Physics
Graduate Degree: Grad Center, CUNY - PHD, Physics
Sports, exercise, reading, baking
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT WHY DO I TEACH? I have the desire to teach students to introduce them to a field that allows individuals to develop scientific reasoning about natural phenomena. I have personal experience with various types of STEM educators, and recognize that the quality of the education a student receives directly impacts their general attitude on the entire field. This creates a vast opportunity to cultivate problem solving, critical thinking, and many other real-world skills. WHAT DO I TEACH? I have experience teaching introductory physics laboratories, introducing and exploring topics in a hands-on classroom environment. Additionally, I taught in a one-on-one atmosphere within the laboratory setting, office hours setting and individual tutoring. The topics covered in these encounters range from remedial mathematics to advanced multivariate calculus and all levels in between, chemistry, molecular biology, biophysics, medical physics, and all levels of physics from introductory to advanced graduate level course material. HOW DO I TEACH? My approach is to create a strong foundation in whichever area of math and/or science being discussed. This allows each student to fully grasp the material and excel at their individual pace. This method is invaluable, not only for classroom progress but also in developing life skills such as critical thinking. I utilize peer-led learning in small groups, and try and probe student questions with questions to facilitate student understanding, instead of parroting material that the student has read or listened to in a lecture. I am very friendly and prefer to teach from the point of view of patient educator, not via rote learning or lengthy lectures. I am to put the student first and instill a deep level of understanding of the material for real-life application, and not simply teaching to the test. I encourage multiple ways of solving problems, not enforcing a 'my way is the only way' philosophy. HOW DO I MEASURE EFFICACY? I measure efficacy based on the student's response. When a student asks for assistance he or she enters a learning environment in a state of conundrum. I believe a student has mastered the question when he or she is able to answer his or her own question and demonstrate a thorough understanding by correct application to multiple scenarios. In situations where recall of read materials is necessary, I have utilized short answer quizzes. I have allowed open notes, but not allowed the reading material itself. Alternatively, by utilizing a take-home quiz on reading, this also achieves the desired goal of encouraging the student to actually read enough of the material to answer the questions, whereas otherwise they would only read the topic headlines and not the material.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
A first session is not only getting to know one another but, more importantly, the first opportunity to make improvements and begin to achieve results. I will review topics that are troublesome, and discover any underlying fundamental difficulties to tackle.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I pride myself in teaching a student how to solve problems, not simply giving a student the answer. By learning to solve problems, the student becomes more independent and capable of applying techniques to new material.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Personally, I was motivated when I received results. The results that drove me included more than doing well on a test. Results can be as simple as finishing a difficult problem or figuring out a step that has tripped me up in the past. As a result, pointing out these achievements are great ways to motivate a student.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I'd begin by pointing out that everyone has areas of difficulty. A student can compound their difficulty by being hard on him/herself. Once it is understood that the difficulty is manageable, we begin devising a way to work on and beat the difficulty. Simply ascribing a method without the student's input will make him/her feel as if he/she is simply following a recipe, instead of independently learning and accomplishing.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I begin by asking the student where his/her difficulties are. Often, specifically clarifying the issue at hand will provide insight for the student and myself. "I don't get math" is down-putting and counterproductive, but "I don't understand subtracting a negative" helps the student to see areas they do understand. And by beginning with a positive, it allows for more positive to follow.