Matthew Griffiths, Ph.D.
B.Sc. Physics, University of Edinburgh
Ph.D. Physics, University of Edinburgh
My motto for teaching is "Demand Understanding"
And my attitude is that Physics is done successfully by people who understand the concepts. Therefore good teaching is enabling the student to understand the concepts.
I believe that learning Physics should be fun. There are many wonderful aspects of the material world and they can lead to interesting puzzles that engage our natural curiosity. Physics can be mired by confusion and frustration. Our small classes at the University of New Haven allow us to engage students in exploration and allow the instructors to listen to them. Listening is very important as it allows us to filter out confusions and steer their natural learning.
In my teaching I let the students develop concepts that allow puzzles to be solved. Therefore my teaching includes introducing evidence and stepping back to let the students have the solutions dawn on them. "Doing the physics" becomes the same thing as "perceiving the solution". This is an active student role and is diametrically opposed to being "told the answer". I want to share with my students the pleasures of finding things out.
There is a lot of physics that is going to happen as soon as the string is cut. Seeing it is one thing, but being able to explain it is another.
Communication is a second key to learning. Again our small class sizes are beneficial. When students vocalise their conclusions they strongly reinforce otherwise tentative ideas. Letting students express their ideas allows them to develop trust in their own thinking.
Communication also allows students to take ownership of the technical language of physics which otherwise can be seen by them as exclusive to some alien scientific community. With trust in their thinking and ownership of the language, the student is well equipped to use their knowledge in their future careers.
Labs offer unique benefits to the students, including:
- Exploration, Hands on
- Theoretical Modeling
- Discussion, Measurement
- Diagrams, Estimating Errors
- Developing a sense of scale
- Making your own mistakes
- Talking to your class mates
- Drawing pictures and diagrams
- Plotting graphs,Finding words
- Deciding what is important
- Believing in the concepts