Teaching Certificate Report Session 2

Times flies, now we are two weeks into the program and have only one week before the first micro-teaching lab, woohoo! And this week covers the details of how to teach in classroom: all the details that students will keep a close eye on. My favorite sentence from the class is: I took off my bangles today before class since it will distract you guys! Let’s delve into the homework first.


Pre-Session Assignment:

Watch the first 24 minutes of Lecture 2 of Sylvia Ceyer’s 5.111 class

  • Identify some specific techniques and strategies that the instructor uses to engage the class. You do not need to post your observations, but come to class prepared to discuss them.

Anyone can watch this video by googling her name and class name followed by MIT open courseware. Prof. Ceyer is a very active lecturer who run around the classroom like participant in “dancing with the stars”. Moreover, she reminded me a bit of Richard Feynman who like to recall history and break down experiments into tangible physical models. I enjoyed watching the part where she re-enacted the classical version of Rutherford’s experiment in measuring the atomic nucleus of gold with alpha particles. She cheated at the end by not calculating the actual number was a little bit disappointing, however.  Her articulation is outstanding, which resonates with my reading material below.

Session 2 Readings

  1. Improving Presentation Style 
    from: Washington University in St. Louis Teaching Center website.
  2. Week 3:  In the Classroom: Lectures 
    On Course: A Week by Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching. Lang, James M. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA (2008). pp. 63-88.
  3. Preparing to Teach the Large Lecture Course 
    Gross Davis, Barbara. Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass, (1993) pp. 99-110.

I particularly enjoyed the second material where James talked about his experience of listening to two priests of distinct preaching styles: one is more stiff in formats and seamless in structural planning, the other is more spontaneous and casual, but both are enjoyable, at least to James’s standard. He continue to expand on the importance of switching different teaching styles, even teaching personas while teaching. The reason, if not obvious to beginners, is that not all students are the same, but all are to be taught by the same teacher, and the only way to meet such diverse need is to have diverse teaching methods. 

The frist and third material offers a complete package of advice towards vocal, verbal and visual effects in teaching:speak louder than you like to, articulate verbs and nouns, speak more, write less, engage students every other 15mins (which is their longest attention span….which is very pathetic I think if the statistics is taken from American undergrads), etc, etc,. The third material is a little bit too comprehensive, that specifies even when and how should you walk around in the classroom. As was mentioned by James Lang, there is no one correct teaching method, and thus all the course materials should be taken with a grain of salt. I do find it amusing reading these materials, from a physicist’s perspective, how lack of evidence any of these “teaching” are based on.   


Post-Session Assignment – Part A

Considering what you’ve learned to this point in the program, plan and outline your first microteaching session.  The outline should include the following aspects that contribute to the organization of an effective lecture:

  • Goals & intended learning outcomes: Articulate ILOs that are specific, measurable and reliable
  • Opening/attention getter:  Use strategies to capture students’ interest; connect to previous lectures, if applicable
  • Overall organizational structure of the body of your lecture:  Proceed from point A to point B, etc. in a way that is easy to follow; make connections between points explicit and logical
  • Closing:  Summarize main or key points; connect to future lectures, if applicable

I will take “uncertainty principle” of Quantum Mechanics I for example.

Goals & ILO:

students understand the mathematical principle behind the uncertainty principle, can derive the uncertainty principle of any given discrete measurement operators and infer the measurement variances, can identify conjugate measurements among a given set of measurement operators.

Opening/attention getter:

1. Ask questions at the beginning of the class: what does it mean when two matrices do not commute with each other, any guess? 2. Heisenberg’s joke about speed ticket on the high way. 3. The history of ever increasing and then decreasing and then increasing accuracy limit of human measurements.

Overall Structure:

1. History of measurement accuracy.

2. Harmonic Oscillators.

3. Commutation relations and Fourier Transform.

4. Uncertainty relation.

5. General uncertainty relation for continuous/discrete variables.

6. Applications.


Uncertainty principle describes the basic feature of observables in quantum mechanics, and offers a framework of evaluating the accuracy of measurements. It is the tip of the quantum iceberg, where non-local correlations manifest itself in observables that cannot be measured simultaneously. It also paves the foundation for understanding different symmetries of different quantum systems.


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. For your own use, consider adding your thoughts and reflections from this session to the documentH you began building in the assignment from Session 1 to continue adding relevant information for your teaching philosophy.  It is only necessary to submit your reflections from Session 2.


This session is about details during teaching in the classroom. A good lecturer starts by clarifying the goal of the class and critical structures of the lecture: how to kick off, when to take a break, when to engage student and integrate the knowledge into their exercises, when to summarize and arrange homework. Before each class, there are endless many strategic things to do to prepare for a better class: visit the classroom before hand, do breathing practice, do a survey on the students’ background… During the class, it is even more strategically demanding: students have limited attention span but unlimited expectations on teacher’s logical flow, how to lead the students through the ever increasing complexity of knowledge without draining them out?

One idea, that keeps me calm and clear-minded through out this all-consuming thought of being a good teacher in class goes back to James’ personal reflection in the Church: there is no one perfect teaching method, but to think for the students and plan without losing one’s grip of the fundamental understandings. Once we prepare ourselves with a clear goal and well construed course material, all the left is to communicate and re-adjust. A good teacher is not just an actor, but a communicator and a beacon, she/he inspire the students to look for the most exciting frontier of the expansion of human knowledge and how such adventure into the unknown is carried out. 


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