Tiju Thomas

Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Madras
Sardar Patel Road, Chennai 600036, Tamil Nadu, India

Contact

ph. no: +91 8056456442
email id: tt332@cornell.edu or tijuthomas@iitm.ac.in

Our Research Group

Applied Nanostructures Engineering and Nanochemistry (ANEN) Research Group

ID6020 Panel Discussion notes (28 Sep., 2017)

My teaching philosophy and pedagogy

Teaching is certainly an art. Just like any other art (music, painting etc), some people have a special gift for it. However I think that deliberating carefully about one's pedagogy is essential to the practice of good teaching. Even if one is not a "born teacher", one can certainly do justice to students (at least to some degree) if one carefully thinks about pedagogy.

My own science and engineering teaching is inspired by my conviction that learning is best when it is centred on our daily human experiences. To highlight this; one of the reasons why quantum mechanics just did not have enough takers was because it was so far removed from our daily human experience. Teaching quantum mechanics in a captivating manner continues to be a challenge to science teachers for precisely this reason. A nice problem for physics educators to think about is the following: how could one make quantum mechanics more centred on basic human intuitions, so that we will have more takers for the course?!

I think teaching would be most effective if the student can use her/his daily experience, to get a "feel" for the essentials of a subject. How does one do so? In order to answer this question, I have come up with a "flowchart" that I use while teaching both formally and informally. This flowchart is at an experimental stage now, and may be improvised/modified in the days to come, as I gain more experience as a teacher and educator.

My "Algorithm" for teaching effectively:

  1. know your students --- their interests, and backgrounds will help you think carefully about how a new concept can be introduced and elucidated
  2. remember that the average human attention span is less than 1 hour. Hence speak for not more than 35 minutes in total. Fill the remaining time with activities, group discussions, quizzes etc.
  3. ensure that the student is engaging in active learning through simple experiments, simple activities, and reading assignments
  4. place sufficient importance to open ended questions, to emphasize the richness of the subject, and to highlight the scope for future research
  5. assess understanding of essential concepts frequently
  6. use results from assessment to improve/adapt the teaching method
  7. above all, place your students above yourself. Good teachers are those that wish the very best for their students

Acknowlegements:
The writings of Prof. Eriz Mazur (Department of Physics, Harvard University) were an important resource, as I came up with the above "algorithm".