I have a PhD degree in physics and have many months of teaching experience. I have taught in the capacity of a teaching assistant as well as a lecturer. As a lecturer, I taught 4 classes, each class consisting of about a hundred students. I designed the syllabus, gave lectures, conducted quizzes, prepared and administered a comprehensive final exam. I am comfortable teaching not only physics, but also mathematics and statistics. I find teaching to be an interesting and rewarding experience. I enjoy interacting with a diverse group of people. My teaching had been well appreciated by my students in the past. I believe that I have the ability to help a student to understand and appreciate a subject better.
I find teaching to be an interesting and rewarding experience. It presents unique challenges in that it is not only about your own understanding of the subject, but also the ability to perceive what issues a novice can face when presented with new material. I find it often brings unique perspectives to light.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, India - Bachelors, Engineering
Graduate Degree: University of California-Davis - PHD, Physics
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I find teaching to be an interesting and rewarding experience. It presents unique challenges, in that it is not only about your own understanding of the subject, but the ability to perceive what issues a novice can face when presented with new material. I find it often brings unique perspectives to light. Also, the need to manage the classroom in addition to discoursing on the topics taught me leadership. As a lecturer I have taught introductory physics courses, at about college physics level. I designed the syllabus, gave lectures, conducted quizzes, prepared and administered a comprehensive final exam. I also gained experience in teaching the discussion labs, where the students performed experiments along with theoretical exercises. Each session had multiple activities. I used to begin with an outline of the topic and the plan. Students were encouraged to form groups to work together. They would answer questions on the board and perform the experimental steps as needed. I used to move around the class and listen to the discussions of these different groups and help out as needed. Although the topics were familiar to me, sometimes some question that a student would ask would refer to issues beyond the scope of the course. I would go back home and work out whatever it was that was worrying me. To summarize, I enjoy teaching and interacting with a diverse group of people on the subject of physics. With experience, I mastered the art of providing useful hints to guide the efforts of the students to reach the right conclusion. I think this is a very important part of teaching. I find it stimulates me to think out of the box. Teaching also inspires me to be able to help and guide new initiates into the field.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a typical first session with a student, I will mainly do two things: (1) I will try to understand which topics the student is particularly worried about and why. (2) I will also try to figure out, if possible, the best way the student can understand a subject material. From my experience, I have seen that different students have different methods of understanding a subject. For example, while learning about a topic of physics, some prefer to understand it through intuitive everyday examples, whereas I have also come across those whose understanding is helped if they saw how the mathematics underlying a physical principle played out. Of course, finding out the style of understanding of a student is hard, and could be an ongoing learning experience for a teacher. But during the first session, a teacher can try to get a grasp on it as much as possible.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I will tell the student that the best way to be an independent learner is that after reading on a topic, he should write down the question that is bothering him. Instead of simply rereading the paragraph, he can then try to find the specific answers to those questions from the material he just covered or, if necessary, from a different book. I will tell the student that being able to ask questions critically is the key to becoming an independent learner. During teaching the student I will try to develop in him an attitude of critical thinking.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I will help a student to stay motivated in the following two ways: 1. From time to time I will ask him to revisit the materials that he has covered. By that, I mean serious revising and discussions of the old material. From my experience, I have seen it boosts the student's confidence considerably and helps him stay motivated. 2. The second way to keep the student motivated would be to encourage him to guess, based on what he already knows, what considerations might be of importance when a new topic is introduced. If the topic is not brand new, but rather builds on previous concepts, this kind of approach might help the student feel more interested to learn.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
First I will try to show him multiple examples on the given topic. Then I will leave that topic for a while and help the student learn other things in the same subject area. From my experience, revisiting a difficult topic is the key to mastering it. While revisiting a topic, the student usually has the advantage of having grown more mature in the subject matter, which might help him appreciate the difficult topic better the second time.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I will read the material to them myself, and will tell them to stop me anytime they have any questions. Basically I will try to teach them that the key to understanding a non-trivial concept, is to read a bit, and then to stop and ask questions to oneself. That is also a good way to stay focused while reading.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I always tell my students that they should feel free to stop me anytime to ask questions when I am explaining something to them. That not only helps them to understand the subject better, but also creates a bond between the teacher and the student. The more the student feels free in an environment, the easier it gets for him to learn. The other strategy that I found to have helped the student in the past is to ask the student to go to the board and make a presentation of the topic he learned. That prepares the student in a way that would otherwise not have been possible.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would try to motivate the student by telling anecdotes, if any, about the topic that he is learning. I will also try to explain to them any important applications that it may have. For example, while introducing Newton's law of Gravitation to the students, I will tell them how the same law that makes climbing up a mountain so difficult, also makes the earth go around the sun. I will then try tell them some stories about Newton as a scientist. How he was not too keen on publishing his discoveries. How he got into dispute with Leibniz over the discovery of calculus because of this very reason. Finally, I will direct back the conversation to understanding the topic at hand again.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I will ask the student to make a presentation of the topic that we just covered. I will ask him questions during the presentation. I will also give an exam to the student from time to time. The questions of the exam will be based on the basic concepts that the student recently learned. I will also give the student practice problems that will help him consolidate the ideas better in his head.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
The best way to build a student's confidence in a subject is by urging him to practice. I will give him practice problems, and will discuss them regularly.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I will evaluate a student's needs by asking him how he feels about the subject. I will then give him a problem and try to ascertain where he stands with regard to his attitude towards the subject by observing how he approaches the problem. A student who is not very comfortable with the subject will try to come quickly to a conclusion instead of thinking though and asking questions about it. To such a student, the subject needs to be introduced slowly, by carefully developing interest in him about it.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I adapt my tutoring to the student's needs by tuning my teaching style appropriately. For example, while introducing concepts of physics to a student who is having trouble with it, I will try to appeal to common sense experiences from our daily life, in which principles of physics are at play.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I like to use old-fashioned pen and paper to explain a concept. If a blackboard with a dry erase marker is available, that's great. I can then ask the student to make a blackboard presentation. Where it's possible, I like to pull up select videos from YouTube, which has cool demonstrations reinforcing the concepts that we covered.