Problem Solving in P&ALocation: CSC 13 (CSC 13)
My overall aim in teaching is to empower all students to (1) understand problem-solving both on a computa- tional and intuitive level, (2) be aware of how that translates to critical thinking skills in their every-day lives, (3) have the ability and confidence to articulate their thought process, and perhaps most Importantly, (4) build a classroom community so they feel a deep sense of belonging.
My teaching philosophy has been gradually evolving through numerous interactions I have had with my teachers, mentors, peers and students. It has also been significantly influenced by various conference talks, presentations and public lectures that I have attended and by literature that I have been exposed to. In addition, I have had the opportunity to advance my thinking about best teaching practices while reflecting on my expe- riences teaching physics as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and as an Instructor at the high-school, undergraduate and graduate level for the last twenty years. During that time, I have given physics lectures in two languages, on three continents, and to very diverse audiences. Furthermore, I have benefited from tutoring more than fifty individuals of ages ranging from fourteen to twenty five. Again, these teaching experiences have provided generous feedback that has helped me to strengthen my teaching philosophy and to develop a repertoire of effective teaching strategies.
My teaching experiences have also been improved through more formal training. At the Sudan University of Science and Technology (SUST), I participated in a Teaching Assistant Training Program to help develop my teaching competence. This realistic setting allowed me to get accurate input on my performance, which I could then modify accordingly. Even though I have a theory oriented educational and research background, I consider laboratory sessions a crucial (and fun) part of physics education. Laboratory exercises allow student to fully comprehend and embrace physics concept through hands-on experiences. My time at the Sudan Uni- versity of Science and Technology and Nillen University, Khartoum, Sudan allowed me to practice a variety of demonstrations.
I have taught and tutored courses covering a wide range of topics at various levels of difficulty. At University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands I tutored a undergraduate course on classical mechanics, and at Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy, I tutored two graduate courses: Quantum Electrodynamics and Relativistic Quantum Mechanics. At the University of Utah, I have been an instructor substitute for advanced courses for undergraduate and graduate students. As an example, a faculty member, Miguel A. Mostaf, asked me on several occasions to substitute for him and to lecture in his absence to an undergraduate student audience. This course was on Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics. I have also substituted faculty member Paolo Gondolo, for the graduate course on Quantum Mechanics and gave several lectures.
Since 2019 to date, I have been teaching PHYS 1970, PHYS 1980 and PHYS 2235. PHYS 2235 course provides unique challenges to the instructor, arising from the wide range of computational backgrounds. It’s my job and privilege to address challenges and help students in a kind, inclusive and failure-tolerant setting, so they feel brave enough to try it out, make missteps and then succeed. Please find enclosed the official evaluations of my teaching.
In my view, teaching has to be responsive to the particular audience. In order to reach their full potential, students need to develop their critical thinking and build their self-confidence. It is our duty and privilege to facilitate that development. However, since the personal experiences and learning abilities vary from student to student this can prove to be challenging. In view of this inherent diversity, I find that many different teaching approaches, from traditional lectures to the problem based learning methods, have some added values and some shortcomings. Effective teaching lies in finding the proper balance between various approaches, while also respecting the audience. I always strive to present material in a number of different formats. For the same reason, I use various testing techniques to measure academic progress and the individual aptitude of my students. I value all student questions and I strongly encourage students to ask them by setting an example myself. I also encourage and stimulate students to verbalize personal understanding and reasoning through presentations and group projects.
Finally, the science of physics has reached an unprecedented level of sophistication. In order to pro- mote an understanding and facilitate its further development, it is of fundamental importance that we–physics instructors–at all levels are as effective in communicating the excitement and understanding of our particular disciplines as possible. This goal requires that we stay tuned with the physics community at large and con- stantly improve our understanding of the subject and appropriate teaching techniques to convey it with. These are the precepts by which I try to teach.