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My Teaching Rationale and Philosophy

To be successful in learning a physical science course, memorization should be minimal and limited to conventions, nomenclature, and practiced solely through listening, reading, and writing. The aim, rather, is to understand the concepts; even better, to apply the concepts to understand new concepts, or still better, to create new ideas from the application of the learned concepts. As an instructor, I always consider the required depth of learning in each one of my physical science classes, in each one of the concepts individually, based on Bloom's Taxonomy, before designing the course syllabus. It's only then that an alignment between course learning objectives and assessments is possible for the most efficient learning.Traditionally, it is known that the best strategy to tackle confusions in the process of learning, among students, is to have the courage to ask questions during class or else through email accompanied by a re-statement or reflection summary of what is understood in student’s own word. However, time is changing and society’s norms as well. Not all students feel comfortable participating in the classrooms. There are times when the instructor has to interfere directly through careful use of technology in order to trigger students' enthusiasm on the subject and guide their cognitive reasoning. Research has shown that frequent quizzing and effective feedback go a long way in the process of learning scientific concepts. Such environment can be created most efficiently via careful use of applicable technologies such as clickers and small-group discussions.Our brain is wired such that both knowledge and skill are learned cumulatively based on our prior experiences. Despite the argue being made for either extremes of this two-sided spectrum, there must be a balance halfway in between. To create an environment where students would learn both the theoretical concepts as well as the required skills needed to apply those concepts in their later careers, as an instructor, I believe that the presence of three elements is crucial: course syllabus, course website, and a Learning Management System. It’s only through these means that an instructor could create the best learning environment based on Universal Design Learning according to which materials should be accessible conveniently for every and each one of students regardless of their cultural background and different learning abilities.To facilitate learning, as an instructor, I use education technology carefully as a means to support learning experience through the realization of the way human brain works. Technology itself is neither a problem nor a solution; but rather the way it is utilized could be either a problem or a solution. For example, in the creation of course website and its contents including lectures for a classroom, utilizing desktop video/audio recording systems (e.g. Panopto) or virtual/web-based classroom environments (e.g. Zoom), I apply the concepts of dual-coding while avoiding cognitive overload. Research has shown that when the same learning materials are offered in more than one format (verbal, visual, etc.) simultaneously, then different parts of brain partake different tasks towards creation of a single concrete understanding of the concepts. However, it's important to not complicate the presentation means by including too many details overloaded.Physical sciences are the products of different cultures at different times over the course of history. History of science has taught us that our collective knowledge is a by-product of many brains that, at times, worked together but individually, always, worked critically. Therefore, it follows that an active learning environment is one in which learners are enthusiastic about the subject. This will help them to enjoy the materials in the class allowing them to ask questions during lecture anytime they have problem understanding a concept. In my philosophy, asking a wrong question or giving a wrong answer has value in it more than keeping quiet; one who puts an effort into composing a question or an answer, by virtue, is in fact actively involved in the messy process of learning. The purpose of using technology in classrooms is to ensure that students are active learners. To aim for that purpose, I teach my students to think critically. It's important for them to learn that they should question every and each step of their quantitative or qualitative analyses. As an instructor, I force them to do so by creating careful lecture slides or homework problem sets that have multiple parts all connected to each other logically and intellectually. This is doable through different quizzing technologies such as D2L Quiz or TopHat.I personally believe in the usefulness of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in academic environments according to which the healthiest classrooms (traditional, online, or hybrid) are the ones that are learner-centered. I commit myself to utilize the vastness of the available and prospect technologies to get students’ attention through careful design of pre-class, in-class, and after-class activities. Technology is an aiding agent for the instructor to facilitate teaching. Technology cannot be the sole facilitator of a classroom; it's merely a means in the hands of the instructor waiting to be used wisely.Regardless of my teaching experience, I have positive attitudes towards the physical sciences. I too am a learner in a sense. Each semester indeed gives me an opportunity to learn about diverse backgrounds, cultures, thought processes, etc. I am increasingly learning about my teaching as well as my students.
Ashoordin A
Experienced Physics Tutor
University of Illinois at Chicago
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