Teaching Certificate Report Session 1

I am taking a Teaching Certificate course this semester, which aims to give a quick introduction to the responsibilities, techniques and educational tools needed to be a great lecturer. My goal for this class is to learn from the perspective of a designer and a teacher how knowledge is formulated, structured, trimmed, popularized, and then eventually passed down from one generation to the other. This is in stark contrast from what I am used to of being 20 some years as a passive receiver of knowledge. And to me it is an exciting opportunity but also a daunting endeavor. I hope this class can show me some short cut crystalized through years of scientific study in educational methods, and can provide me a small platform to gain first hand experience.

The class not only have seven weeks of lecturers, but also include microteaching lab where students design and then present their teaching philosophies and teach small sample of their intended subject. This definitely go way beyond what a normal teaching assistant for a graduate student was required to do. And I hope I could enjoy and learn from this seven weeks of intense training.

So, let’s see what the first week’s homework AND my homework solution is like! Isn’t it exciting? There are two assignments per class, one before the class one after the class.


Pre-Session Assignment

  1. In preparation for the workshop, please complete the readings below.
  1. Generate a list of topics from a course that you would like to teach (it may be helpful to review textbooks/readings you would use in the course). From this course selection and list of topics, you will be creating Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) that will carry through all assignments in this program, including your microteaching presentation.  Because you will continue to develop this course through the assignments that follow for each class, be thoughtful about selecting a course you find interesting.  You do NOT need to post your list on Stellar, but please bring it with you to class as it will be an integral part of an in-class exercise.


Session 1 Readings

  1. Aligning Teaching for Constructive Learning 
    Biggs, J. B. (2005). Aligning teaching for constructing learning. Higher Education Academy Discussion Paper.
  2. Backward Design 
    from Chapter 1 of: G. Wiggins & J. McTighe in: Understanding by Design. Expanded 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA:
    Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development pp. 13-23 (2005).
  3. Preparing an Effective Syllabus 
    Slattery, J. M., & Carlson, J. F. (2005). Preparing an effective syllabus: Current best practices. College Teaching, 53(4), 159-164.

Session 1 – Designing a Course and Constructing a Syllabus

My list of courses I’d like to teach are: Quantum Mechanics I, Quantum Mechanics II, Quantum Computation I, Quantum Computation II, Condensed Matter Theory in Quantum Information Science. The last one is made up by me and is the class I would like to open when I am appointed as a new faculty member!

My list of course Quantum Mechanics I topics are:

1.Fundamentals: Linear Algebra1(vectors, matrices, Hilbert space); Linear Algebra 2(eigenvalues and eigenvectors, Unitary matrix, Hermitian matrix); Linear Algebra 3 (Ket bras and Operators); Stern-Garlach Experiment; Measurements, Observables and Uncertainty relation; Position, Momentum and Translation; Wavefunction.

2. Quantum Dynamics: Schrodinger Wave equation; Different pictures: Schrodinger, Heisenberg and Interacting; Harmonic Oscillators; Propagators and Feynman Path integrals.

3.Angular Momentum: Rotation Commutations and Angular Momentums; spin 1/2 system; SO(3) and SU(2); Eigenvalues and Eigenstates of angular momentum; Orbital Anular momentum;Clebsh-Gordon coefficient;  Spin Correlations and Bell Inequality.

4.Symmetries: Symmetry, degeneracy and conservations; Discrete Symmetry; Continuous Symmetry.


Take away from Reading 1:

The ‘constructive’ aspect refers to the idea that students construct meaning through relevant learning activities. That is, meaning is not something imparted or transmitted from teacher to learner, but is something learners have to create for themselves. Teaching is simply a catalyst for learning.”

It’s a goal oriented teaching philosophy where the course design, course participation and course evaluation are completely aligned from the very beginning. This is the ideal outcome, which however hard it is to achieve in reality, is the guiding principle in designing every single step of the course to avoid passive learners and superficial learning ( or they call it declarative knowledge instead of functioning knowledge). To specify the high level expectation of learning outcomes:

“Incorporating verbs in our intended learning outcomes gives us markers throughout the system. The same verbs need to be embedded in the teaching/learning activities, and in the assessment tasks. They keep us on track.”

And in order to achieve such outcome, teaching activity has to be aligned. The good news is, in class lectures do have opportunities to foster active and independent learnings according to this study:

“In fact, problems of resourcing conventional on-campus teaching, and the changing nature of HE, are coming to be blessings in disguise, forcing learning to take place outside the class, with interactive group work, peer teaching, independent learning and work-based learning, all of which are a rich source of relevant learning activities.”

Finally it’s a great reminder that assessment is the beginning of a class for student, not only in the sense of learning method students choose to maximize their scores, but also the next chapter of their learning that’s outside of the course: will they continue their interests and extend their knowledge in higher level courses? will they choose a career based on the current course? Uncountable possibilities could be easily erased by a mindless final exam or poor grading system.


“As Ramsden (1992) puts it, the assessment is the curriculum, as far as the students are concerned. They will learn what they think they will be assessed on, not what is in the curriculum, or even on what has been ‘covered’ in class”

Take away from Reading 2: Backward design is about learning how to be more thoughtful, and specific about the purpose of teaching and what they imply. The writer focuses on what makes a good course designer: identify desired outcome->identify learning evidence -> design the learning experience. The article provide a UdP template, which is convenient for teachers to play with. Backward design might be natural for a senior teacher to apply since they are more than comfortable with the course content and possible outcomes of different goals of teaching, and they can easily run the simulation in their head to design the course backward. For beginners, however, who might not be super familiar with even the content of the teaching, such backward method could be hard but maybe even more beneficial: it forces the lecturer to think through the whole process, in a “client-centered” manner. 

Take away from Reading 3: A clear and comprehensive review of what syllabus is and its significance in teacher-student relation, teacher-university relation and teaching outcomes. I definitely would read the article again before I design my syllabus.

Post-Session Assignment – Part A

This assignment is designed to help you begin developing a syllabus for a course you will be designing throughout this program.  While the final product of this assignment is not a formatted syllabus, the exercises will help guide you through the beginning steps of constructing a syllabus.

  1. Refer to the list of course topics you revised during class.  Complete the exercise of prioritizing and clarifying your course content.
  2. Create 5-10 COURSE-LEVEL Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) based on your selection and characterization. Post only your ILOs, including the name of the course for which they were written, to Stellar.

Answer for 1: According to the class material, we can re-organize the course topics according by assigning priorities ranging from worth being familiar with, important to know and do, to critical skills and core concept. So the four topics of my Quantum Mechanics I can be prioritized as:

critical skills and core concept: 1. Fundamentals.

It’s important for students to be fully equipped with  tools in linear algebra, to be able to apply the methods in linear algebra to solve unknown quantum mechanical problems. 2. Quantum Dynamics. It is the core idea of quantum mechanics that differs from classical mechanics: understanding wave function and how to formulate and solve the quantum dynamics through Schrodinger equation. 

 important to know and do: 3. Angular Momentum.

It’s not only one of the first experimental evidence of quantum mechanics in experiment, but also the beginning of understanding more deeply about symmetry and the underlying algebraic structures of conservation laws and finding such laws through Schrodinger equation. Student should be able to solve the eigenvalues and eigenstates of any given angular momentum operator and able to transform one eigenstates to the other of a different representation through CG coefficient. 

worth being familiar with: 4. Symmetries. Although it’s the introduction level Quantum Mechanics, it is worth while for students to be comfortable with analyzing the symmetries of a given system, which will be crucial later on for more advanced class using quantum mechanics such as solid state theory and quantum field theory.

Answer for 2: ILO for quantum mechanics I.

1. Fluently apply linear algebra to solve the dynamics and eigenstates of simple quantum mechanical systems.

2. Understand angular momentum and the rotation transformation generated by angular momentum, can solve the eigenstate of a given angular momentum and perform basis transformation of different representations.

3. Can identify symmetries of a new quantum mechanical system, define measurement operator of a physical measurement, solve its commutation relation and derive the corresponding uncertainty relation.

4. Able to predict the measurement outcome probability as a function of time if given the initial state, the Hamiltonian and the measurement operator. 

5. Able to solve the quantum dynamics of a mixed state evolution under the given Hamiltonian.


Post-Session Assignment – Part B

Pick one or more strategies/ideas from this session that resonated with you. Reflect on how incorporating this strategy/idea into your teaching will impact your students’ learning and/or attitudes. Your final assignment in this program will be to write your Teaching Philosophy Statement (TPS).  In each post-session assignment, you will be asked to complete this exercise.  Consider creating a single document (for yourself) to which you will continue adding your thoughts and reflections about teaching as the semester progresses.  When the time comes to draft your Teaching Philosophy Statement, you will have already documented some useful information to include in your TPS.

Part B of this assignment should be included at the end of the document you create for Part A.

Teaching Philosophy Statement from Session 1:

Positioning myself as a new student to Physics trying to get an A+, what bothers me the most would be how this lecturer intended to score us. Just like what was mentioned in the enlightening piece by John Biggs on “Constructive Alignment”: 

To the teacher, assessment is at the end of the teaching-learning sequence of events, but to the student it is at the beginning.

This is strikingly true and unveils the major potential conflict between teacher and students in a worst case scenario: a “bad” lecturer can easily let the assessment slip away at the end of the semester thinking it’s just one last task of the semester while “bad” students who haven’t paid enough effort to the class consider assessment is the last strew of opportunity to get away with an A. The gross effect might either be the assessment only includes lowest level of evaluation in understanding that give a flat grading for those who love to just memorize everything, or students who did pour loads of effort and have in depth research into the course material did not get a good enough score due to the mis-aligned assessment from the intended teaching outcomes.

An even trickier problem that hasn’t been addressed by now, but is of critical importance for encouraging and nurturing students’ learning, is how to give grades to different types of talents: memorizing and story telling ability, in depth deduction and reasoning, in breadth connectivity and creativity…, if any student becomes the master of even just one of the talents, it might be enough for them to be successful in certain field of study. So as a lecturer, it’s both hard and dangerous to label the students with these talents without doing potential damages to their personal developments, but also important to help them realize their unique talent early on in their career as students: after all, teachers are not teaching the students not only how to learn but also what to learn to fit their own interests. Different career requires different expertise and different way of thinking, lecturers should not easily discourage students, but to encourage them to find their way of working out a problem with their most comfortable approach.

This is one of the problems I will continue learning through out this program.


To be continued and Happy Valentines day!



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