Teaching Philosophy/Statement

Trying to write down a "teaching philosophy" seems to be a haunting task, and perhaps an impossible one for me, so instead I will try to provide a  simple "teaching statement" consisting of my humble insights which I gain throughout my experience.

Teaching undergraduate is quite different from teaching graduate, and teaching students majoring in physics is very different from teaching non-physics majors, and of course teaching students who are well motivated, know what they want, and who are passionate about physics is very different from teaching all other students. As a consequence the methods  and techniques used in teaching, and the emphasis put on the various parts of the material depend critically on the setting and on the audience.

Teaching undergraduate is primary a pedagogical exercise and as such it is a more difficult endeavor. Teaching physics is about simplifying the abstract theoretical/mathematical concepts and gaining real concrete practical skills. Both of which are first and foremost the responsibility of the teacher. But the student remains the central actor in every learning experience. Hence, trying to involve students in lecture demonstrations, in problem solving sessions, in homework assignments and is laboratory work is usually effective with the average student in reaching a satisfactory and desired conclusion. However, this process becomes a laborious  work for both parties, teacher and student, unless students become passionate about what they are studying. And this is also to a large extent another task for the teacher to find new ways to inspires her students which is arguably the hardest of all tasks.

As a general rule I personally would prefer the teaching of graduate physics majors for two reasons. First, because students come already highly motivated and deeply inspired by the great discoveries of physicists throughout the centuries. And second, because teaching graduate physics majors allows the teacher a simplified task in which the emphasis is to get the physics and the mathematics as precise and as thorough as possible and pedagogy comes only second in priority or at least that is what I believe and have done in the past. Putting it differently, precision and thoroughness of physics and mathematics presentations at this level is the central core of pedagogy itself.

I am proud to say that I have extensive expertise in teaching a very wide range of courses. I have been a TA (teaching assistant) for most of my Ph.D years in Syracuse (Syracuse Univ. USA) where I thought basic physics courses,  then I had the chance to teach in Dublin (National Univ. Ireland, Maynooth) and Annaba (B-M Annaba Univ. Algeria) mostly graduate courses such as particle physics, mathematical methods for physics, statistical physics, computational physics, quantum mechanics, quantum field theory and general relativity and cosmology.

But in the past few years I have also been responsible for the teaching of three fundamental undergraduate courses to physics majors: computational physics, classical mechanics and thermodynamics. %The most experience I had is with computational physics and quantum field theory.

In particular, I had personally supervised the introduction of the course of computational physics into the formal physics curriculum at the University of Annaba. This  course I believe is the first of its kind in the country (Algeria). It was a very rewarding experience in which we have been able to bring to students some non-trivial physics problems more effectively using a combination of mathematical methods (numerical analysis), computer simulation techniques and programming. The course is set up in such a way that hard physics problems become tractable to students themselves, who are pushed to write their own codes, and perform their own virtual experiments, using some non-trivial simulations methods such as the Monte Carlo and the molecular dynamics methods.

A much more advanced computational physics (or perhaps computational mathematics) course was taught last year to second year Master students in theoretical physics. The material covered in this course is quite new as it deals with the numerical approach to matrix models of quantum field theory and noncommutative geometry which are not covered in standard lattice field theory courses.

The other very rewarding experience in teaching was while giving quantum field theory (QFT) to master students in theoretical physics at Annaba University. How to make QFT a pedagogical, relatively easy and interesting subject to students without losing the true formal, technical and physical content and with a satisfactory mathematical rigor is a very delicate balance which, for all honesty, I am still striving to reach/maintain.

I would like also to note that I had played a pivotal role in the University of Annaba in the introduction, for the first time,  of a doctoral program since $2012$ in theoretical physics. Trying to attract excellent and good students to these programs remain a major challenge which  we had somewhat met, so far, every year since the introduction of these programs.

Badis Ydri
Professor of Physics
B-M Annaba University

No comments:

Post a Comment