Together We Are Stronger Than the Sum of Our Parts (A Chancellors Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship Update)

Teaching is a collaborative process. As a Chancellors Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, I work directly with Dr. Tae Min Hong to develop materials for the Honors Physics 2 class. I also collaborate with my fellow Undergraduate Teaching Assistants- Ethan Lilie, Eli Ullman-Kissel, Quincy Bayer, Yiru Wang, and Natan Herzog, with the Graduate Teaching Assistant- Francis Burk, and with the Physics Department Demonstrator- Richard Misura. It is through these collaborations and partnerships that I have developed assignments and lectures that directly benefit the students in the class.

So far this semester I’ve had the opportunity to give a short lecture on combining resistance in different configurations and I’ve helped students understand concepts both in class and in office hours. The material in an honors class is designed to challenge the minds of the students who take the class and as such there are times where it is very helpful to have someone to learn from who has been through the challenge before (or a similar one as this class is developed in a dynamic way and is consistently modified to adapt to a changing group of students and to adjust to concerns expressed by students in previous years). I have a group of students who are specifically assigned to work with me, but I am also often approached in office hours by many of the other students in the class. I’ve found that these interactions often allow me to explore my own understanding of the material and strengthen concepts that I had previously learned, and sometimes questions are asked that extend beyond my own knowledge which gives me a great opportunity to learn. I’ve found that collaboration occurs between myself and the students currently taking the class and that this collaboration often leads to growth on both sides.

I have been grading assignments weekly with the team of Undergraduate and Graduate Teaching Assistants and, in the process, giving feedback that allows students to grow academically. As I’ve gone through the process of grading assignments, I’ve learned a lot about how to format my own assignments to be sure that I communicate properly with whoever is grading, and I’ve discovered a wide range of perspectives and learning styles inherent in the way different students complete their assignments. It has been a genuine learning experience for me. I’ve had the chance to learn how to give constructive feedback, to learn when to remove points or make comments, and to learn to take the time to consider what I want to help students learn, through the feedback that I do give.

In addition to my class responsibilities, I was offered (and accepted) an opportunity to present at the Engineering the Future event at the Carnegie Science Center where I, and fellow students Enzo Brandani and Eli Ullman-Kissel, with the guidance of Dr. Tae Min Hong, had the opportunity to give young students a very basic introduction to particle physics by using a cloud chamber, which is a device that allows one to “see” cosmic radiation. As a part of this event, I also developed a short science-communication video for the students who were unable to attend. Check out the links below to see more about this event.

Dr. Tae Min Hong & His Students Engineer the Future at Carnegie Science Center | Physics & Astronomy | University of Pittsburgh

Short Science Communication Video for Kids

Engineering the Future Event (from left: Enzo Brandani, Eli Ullman-Kissel, Heather Phillips, Dr. Tae Min Hong)
Engineering the Future Event

In direct regard to my fellowship, I have also been developing specific material for the students. As circuits were being introduced to the students, I developed an extra credit assignment designed to allow students to explore these introductory circuits concepts. This extra credit assignment is pictured below. In the process of developing this assignment, Francis Burk and I set up the math together, Rich Misura acted as a sounding board for ideas as I developed the structure of the assignment and also supplied “unknown” resistors to make the assignment a possibility, Ethan Lilie and Eli Ullman-Kissel checked the assignment for logical or other errors, and Natan Herzog developed a general matrix solution for the students to utilize as they completed the assignment. I also had direct feedback from my mentor, Dr. Tae Min Hong. Each of these partnerships augmented my ability to compose a coherent and challenging yet accessible assignment.

I am now looking forward at the final portion of the semester and have been developing a lecture on RLC (resistor, inductor, capacitor) circuits that I will be giving in the next couple of weeks and I’m also in the process of developing a lab that will be implemented in the coming weeks. I look forward to seeing what collaborative experiences come out of each of these developments, and how I and those around me grow through these collaborations.

Extra Credit Circuits Assignment

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