Philosophy of Teaching

I, Hiro Shimoyama, express my thoughts about my role as an educator. Every teaching policy is subject to change under actual and practical situations. As it is a principle of maintaining the quality of education, the philosophy of teaching from my formal and informal experiences in education will be discussed.

The university education represents teaching people who have various motivations. For instance, some students seek the technique and knowledge to succeed in their future careers. Other students want to extend their general knowledge. Even one physics class will include a range of students with backgrounds in biology, geology, education, music, engineering, and more. Therefore, the basic postulate of effective teaching will be:

  • Perceive the students' background.
  • Create an effective and efficient curriculum in accordance with their background.
  • Make efforts to maintain students' motivations through the semester.

Now, I would like to talk about my way of teaching.

  1. Introductory physics education

    We can categorize introductory physics classes as follows:
    Physics 101 (algebra based for non-physics majors) Mechanics, fluid, thermo-physics, etc
    Physics 102 (algebra based for non-physics majors) Waves, electromagnetism, optics, etc
    Physics 201 (calculus based for phys. & engineers) Mechanics, waves, etc.
    Physics 202 (calculus based for phys. & engineers) Electromagnetism, circuits, etc.
    Physics 203 (calculus based for phys. & engineers) Fluid, thermo-physics, optics, etc.

    I have been teaching physics 102 both the lecture and lab, for several semesters. Most students in the class do not know how to do physics and apply it to their study fields. The most probable reason is that students separate the concept from the mathematical description and vice versa when they learn it. Thus, the possible solution follows:
    • Give students the conceptual idea first, and then explain how the concept is involved in the physics equation.
    • Provide basic examples that teach students how to use the math.
    • Give them quizzes and let them discuss the problems, then answer the solutions with explaining a possible mistake.

    Performing a physics demo has the same effect in that the instructor considers how students learn the material. The other ideas are:

    • Let them learn by trial and error without grading for small quizzes.

    This is effective because it does not give them a sense of risk at the final grade. Students tend to have the positive attitude toward understanding. In addition,

    • Encourage students effectively.
    • Provide consistent materials in exams, assignments, and labs.

    If the class size is small, the instructor should design and teach both the lecture and lab. It is more effective to evaluate students, and gives more opportunities to answer questions. Also the instructor can easily adjust the way of teaching depending on the situation. Psychologically, when students are able to understand and solve some problems, they will be interested in the subject.

    For physics 201, 202, and 203, we can use the same methods listed above. However, those students have more interest in solving the mathematical part in physics problems. Thus, the instructor should make a more challenging atmosphere and promote a good discussion.

    Here is another thing to be discussed. If a class size is large -- 100 students or more -- what will the teaching method be? One effective way is to "pull out" different times for various levels of students. The class will be split into general lecture, recitation, individual tutorial time, lab, etc. Each time has to have a distinct purpose. Then we can perform flexible teaching, which does not cut off any level of students.

  2. Undergraduate physics education
  3. I taught a second course of quantum mechanics for senior students. I attempted a very different way of teaching (interactive and discussion type including lecture) from the traditional way (top-down type).

    Other notes for general undergraduate education are:
    • Provide an appropriate difficulty and amount of homework.
    • Give some projects and let the students present what they find; and procure some computer simulation in the subjects.

    The above ideas enhance problem-solving skills of the students, provide an opportunity to improve their communication ability, and allows for the visualization of abstract topics.

    As for my future plans, I am interested in making more flexible classes. Most students are confused with tensor analysis and group theory. A possible idea is to procure a more compact class (two credits) besides Mathematical Physics. For the Math Physics class, giving more physics examples behind the math will be more effective. Teaching fluid mechanics is beneficial to enhance students' physical sense because it deals with vector and tensor analyses, and it will be useful to understand the math and concept for electrodynamics, the theories of relativity, etc.

  4. Web- and computer-based learning and teaching
  5. Using Microsoft PowerPoint-like software is useful to show some multimedia files compared with transparencies and overhead projectors. In addition, using WebPages can provide class and laboratory materials online for students. Then students can print them anytime anywhere, which is efficient for both students and instructor.

    I am using a textbook by Johnson & Cutnell for introductory physics. The 6th edition facilitates web-based quizzes. It is beneficial for students to make self-evaluation. For the laboratory classes, using a computer is necessary for the data acquisition and analysis. It provides more opportunities for students to learn a topic with different ways.

  6. My philosophy of teaching
  7. Good teaching is based on good organization skills. In addition, a good amount of knowledge and high quality knowledge is important. Also learning from good teachers is beneficial.

    Back to Hiro's Physics Main