After working for six years as a Systems Engineer with the Department of Defense, I recently decided to switch careers in order to pursue a calling in Medicine. This decision required a return to academia to complete a litany of core science classes required for medical school. Having recently completed these requirements, I would be thrilled to assist students in their journey through these subjects. With the new MCAT format heavily emphasizing Biochemistry, I feel confident that I can help students achieve their maximum potential, having personally scored in the 99th percentile in the Biological and Biochemical Foundations section.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: East Carolina University - Bachelors, Systems Engineering
Graduate Degree: Boston University - Masters, Masters of Science in Business Administration
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 131
Personal training, EMT, Rock Climbing, Cycling, Playing piano & guitar
Anatomy & Physiology
High School Biology
High School Chemistry
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
In my previous experiences as a tutor, I observed how passive learning is among the most ineffective means of teaching complex concepts. Students should be actively engaged in the learning process. I work with students to seek out their weak points in a subject and then identify a strategy for improvement that is tailored to their unique learning style.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Obtain an assessment of their learning style to determine what methods will work best. Are they auditory, visual or semantic leaners? I would also have a detailed discussion with the student to ascertain which aspects of the subject are causing trouble and then use this information to develop a plan for improvement.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
By identifying and nurturing learning and studying strategies that will work for them. I work to eliminate any semblance of learned helplessness which can result from low self-efficacy in a subject. For instance, many students hear horror stories about Organic Chemistry before even entering the course. This notoriously difficult subject has the ability to demotivate the student and give them anxiety before it even begins. By helping the student obtain the ability to break down the concepts into manageable pieces, they can quickly gain confidence in managing the course as a whole.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Motivation can be derived and maintained from previous academic successes. Often, the first step in developing or increasing motivation is to work towards improving the student's academic standing in a course. One of the biggest killers of motivation is a student working diligently only to do poorly on an exam. Helping a student identify ways to effectively spend their time studying can help prevent them from "spinning their wheels" and getting burned out in the process. It's fairly common for a student to enter into a course with a very broadly defined goal in mind: "I want an A in this course." Enabling them to identify, define, and conquer much smaller goals, such as "I want to master this concept" or "I want to figure out this problem" can be immediately rewarding and also beneficial in terms of their overall academic goals.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
There are often multiple approaches to a single concept. I am of the opinion that no undergraduate or graduate level concept is too difficult to master. Sometimes it's simply a matter of perspective. If a certain explanation is not helping the student find a foothold in understanding a concept, then I back up and take another approach, whether it's a different conceptual approach or perhaps an analytical approach. The adage "practice makes perfect" exists for a reason, and working multiple problems on the same topic can be immensely helpful in solidifying the skill or concept in the student's mind.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
If it's a mathematical struggle, asking the student explain to me their though process in an attempt to solve a problem can be immensely helpful in identifying where they get tripped up. If it's an issue with a science-based course, the problem is often the student's grasp on the underlying concepts. Working with the student to develop a conversational understanding of the subject matter (i.e. can they explain a concept to me? vs. can they understand it?) has been incredibly useful. Once that conversational understanding takes place, they can apply it towards solving complex problems.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I work to find ways to draw parallels between what they are learning and everyday life. One of the most inspiring things that teachers can do is to identify the practical applications of a subject in the real world. E.g. talking about diffusion of gasses in a container and partial pressures has the potential to put students to sleep; however, relating this concept to the way in which our bodies intake oxygen through the billions of epithelial cells in the lungs and the passive exhalation of carbon dioxide in each and every breathe can get students thinking about the bigger picture and why the concept might be important.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
An assessment of a student's understanding can usually be accomplished by asking them to explain the concept back to me. If their technical mastery isn't quite there, I sometimes ask them to explain it as if I were a friend who knew nothing about it; could they dumb it down for me? Can they explain it in layman's terms? Once they have a baseline understanding of the material, we've built a foundation on which more complex concepts can be built.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Confidence is typically a measure of their self-efficacy with a particular subject. One simple way to increase this in the short-term is to ask them questions based off of what they already know. As they are answering correctly, their self-assessment of their own ability to understand the course material is improving. When explaining or working with new concepts, it's critically important to keep them engaged by asking them leading questions. In doing this, you're attempting to get them to think ahead of their current comprehension and have them predicting what possible explanations might be. Over the long-term, confidence can be a matter of momentum, i.e. if they understood most or all of the previous material in the subject, there should be no reason why they can't master this new concept.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Examining any previously completed coursework can be a good way to identify their current understanding of a subject. Speaking with them candidly about their study habits and how they prepare for exams can highlight important variables for determining how the student might improve their time management or study strategies. I also like to ask them questions that illustrate their conceptual grasp of a subject. How capable are they of explaining a concept or solving a problem? Sometimes the best strategy is not to march ahead with the material but to work backwards to identify which material they have mastered and what aspects of the subject matter still need work.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I believe that the ultimate goal should be identifying strategies that work most effectively for the student. Some students I've tutored in Organic Chemistry were solely reliant on flashcards while others worked mainly to solve problems. Though the subject matter was the same, these are two entirely different approached to learning similar concepts. Helping the student to identify the various ways in which they can spend their time studying will enable them to dabble in each and figure out what works best for them. Ultimately, the goal of the tutor should not be a permanent fixture in the student's academic career; the tutor should adamantly work towards developing a skill set in the student which enables them to confidently take their academic success into their own hands.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
It all depends on the subject matter at hand. For analytical subjects such as chemistry or math, it may be best to go over practice problems. The student will ultimately be on their own when they sit for an exam, so fostering problem solving skills and correct approaches to solving those problems can be helpful for when the student is by themselves. For conceptual subjects like organic chemistry, I've found it beneficial to use model kits which help the students visualize the structure and properties of a molecule. In almost every study session in the past, I've brought a list of sample problems or questions that, when answered correctly, demonstrate a core comprehension of the subject matter. Whether or not these questions get asked during the tutor session, they can be valuable in supplementing the student’s independent study in the absence of a tutor.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
There might be many constraints impinging upon a student's ability to comprehend a passage. For reading passages presented in exams like the MCAT, time is always a factor, and students are typically pushed to read as fast as possible, which can result in limited comprehension of the material. In these instances, an effective way to improve this limitation is to get accustomed to reading at a pace that exceeds what the student will have to do during the test. E.g., if there is an average of 8 minutes given for each passage, the student can practice by giving themselves only 6 minutes to read and then answering the questions. By doing this repetitively, they can become more accustomed to reading quickly and may help eliminate some of the anxiety associated with being forced to read a passage faster than they feel comfortable with.