I love teaching, whether in a classroom, in a lab, one on one, over email, or anywhere else I get the chance. (My propensity to set aside my own work to help others understand things has occasionally gotten me in trouble in the past; I'm trying to be a bit more balanced these days.) A few of those teaching-related activities can be seen below. I hope to add more here eventually, including a complete list of my actual teaching experience (and possibly reorganize the site a bit as well). For now, all of the real content is in the "Tutorials" section. Those who are interested can find my current statement of teaching philosophy here as well.
- Tutorials: introductory explanations of concepts in math and physics. (My Lagrange multipliers tutorial is particularly popular.)
- Conversations: online conversations I've had about physics and math.
- Our Solar System: a poster for the Alma planetarium and list of best available planet images.
- Wow, Good to Know!: a collection of surprising but important life knowledge.
My teaching history
- Assistant Professor of Physics at Alma College in Alma, MI. I teach more or less the full standard undergraduate curriculum, from introductory algebra-based mechanics up through the junior/senior level core. I also teach a class in medical physics, and I have designed a math methods half course to help prepare our sophomores for their upper level courses. A medium-term project of mine is an overhaul of our curriculum to help motivated students complete the major in less time.
- Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics at the Joint Science Department of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges in Claremont, CA. I taught lecture and lab sections for an introductory calculus-based physics class aimed at students majoring outside the physical sciences (often life science majors or premeds). I also taught several upper division courses: statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and electromagnetism.
- Co-Instructor for physics GRE review sessions: my graduate advisor and I ran the University of Chicago physics department's review course for senior physics majors planning to take the exam. As before, I was already being paid as an RA; I just wanted to do some more teaching, and this was another opportunity to actually help design the class. Review courses like this and the candidacy course also gave me an opportunity to really think through the physics curriculum in general (which has been an interest of mine for some time).
- Teaching Assistant for advanced undergraduate labs: I have supervised lab sections for "Solid State Physics" and "Atomic and Molecular Physics". This gave me the opportunity both to improve my lab teaching skills and to do some amount of teaching or tutoring of upper division course material.
- Instructor for PhD candidacy exam review course: the physics department invited me to run a series of review sessions for grad students attempting the exam for the second time. Getting a little extra money was nice, but I already had a fellowship; mostly I just welcomed the opportunity to do some more teaching. That was especially tempting because TAs in the department rarely if ever get to actually run a course on their own. I enjoyed the experience, and the students really seemed to appreciate our time together.
- Teaching Assistant for honors freshman physics: in my first year of grad school, I was one of three TAs for the University of Chicago's 140s series (aimed mostly at prospective physics majors). I ran a discussion section and a lab section every week. Attendance at my discussion sections was quite high; in fact, I learned that a few students who were assigned to different TAs' sections at the same time were quietly sneaking into mine instead. (I'll indulge in one little anecdote that felt really rewarding. On the first day of lab in the second term, I was at the front of the room writing my name and contact information on the board as the students came in. When one particular student got to the door and saw that I was the TA for her lab section again, she got a big grin on her face and said, "Yes!" She seemed a little embarrassed, but I couldn't think of a higher compliment.)
- Online: I have used the web for teaching at times; some of my tutorials can be found on this site. I have also often discussed physics over email, sometimes at length. (I recently had an email conversation over several weeks in which I did my best to explain special relativity to a friend of my parents', for example.)
- Grader: I regularly worked as a grader for physics classes in college, for everything from freshman physics to upper division courses like "Fields and Waves". To be honest, I find grading maddening, mainly because I feel compelled to figure out what each student was trying to do in order to give fair partial credit and because I then feel obligated to write a brief note to them about what their mistake was. (That would feel more rewarding if I seriously expected them to read my comments.) I've done grading as part of each TA assignment in grad school, too.
- Tutoring: Most of my
tutoring has been informal and unpaid, though I did do a little
paid math tutoring in high school. Since I've done this at so
many times, I'll break it down a little:
- In grad school and as a professor, I have had office hours associated with some of my courses; that often feels like more formalized tutoring.
- In college, I quickly became my dorm's unofficial physics tutor: anyone who had a physics question was welcome to stop by my room, and I'd usually take time to help. They started calling me the "Torque Dork" (named after the offical dorm "Port Dork" who was in charge of the local ethernet connections). I understand that after I graduated, "Torque Dork" became an official dorm officer (at which point they started picking official tutors in other subjects, too).
- In 11th grade, a friendly acquaintance asked me if I would be willing to tutor her in math (precalculus, I think). I was quite shy at the time, and I felt weird accepting money for talking about math, but it turned out to be a good experience for both of us.
- My earliest teaching experience was when I was about eleven years old when my 6th grade math class was learning some basic logic (as I recall, the handouts had names like "Conjunction" and "Disjunction"). I decided that my six year old sister would enjoy it too, so I spent hours explaining my "fun homework" to her. She did pretty well!
Up to my professional page.
My personal site is also available.
Any questions or comments? Write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2004-12 by Steuard Jensen.