Teaching is the best way to learn. Having interacted with students as part of my teaching duties during my PhD has made really positive impact on my academic development. Not only have I realized, that I can only fully understand a concept after explaining it to someone else; I have also begun to enjoy these interactions as they continually challenge my thinking abilities! I strongly believe in the philosophy of teaching as peer-learning. My idea of effective teaching is to help the students to raise questions and to guide them on their path to find answers to those questions.
- Graduate Teaching Assistant for Introductory Physics Labs 2305-2306 : This role included supervising 30-40 students per lab session and conducting basic Physics experiments of mechanics, Newton’s Laws, forces and kinematics, electrostatics, electromagnetic, electronics and wave motion.
- Graduate Teaching Assistant for Introductory Physics 2305 : This role involved conducting recitations where students work in a group of 3 to solve a real-life based Physics problem and then grading the solution submitted by the group. The main purpose of the recitation is to create a studio setting for students to improve problem-solving skills, work in groups, analyze and critical each other’s work. Class strength is 40-45 students each recitation.
- Graduate Teaching Assistant for Scale-Up Physics 2306 : In the newly designed scale-up classrooms, the conventional lecturer-student setting is discarded for a more discussion based lecture. The students sit in round tables and engage in discussions on a topic being talked about by the instructor and topic slides being displayed in multiple projectors around the room. As a teaching assistant I had to be present in the class during the lectures and would go around different tables participating and guiding the student discussions. I also had to conduct a couple of these classes as a substitute for the instructor. This role also involved grading
As a woman Physics graduate student, I am well aware of the underrepresentation of women in STEM, extending from the early stages of academia such as undergraduate student population to the highest levels of faculty career. In my pedagogical approaches, I would like to combat the existing biasses and stereotypes that lead to this gender-gap. I would like to actively participate in outreach programs to middle and high schools, and encourage students, specially female to be part of science research; since this is the stage when students are most influenced by the existing stereotypes and make their higher education decisions. As a graduate student in Virginia Tech, I am part of the group of female faculty and students in Physics named “Ladies of Robeson”. One of the things we do here to encourage female students to keep pursuing science is, we invite successful female scientists and ask them to share their stories of science and life. I would like to organize similar invited talks and discussion sessions.
In order to be fully committed to the idea of diversity, equity and inclusion, one needs to acknowledge the differences. The classes I have been part of as teaching assistant, has always had a diverse group of people not just in terms of race, ethnicity, language or region but also in terms of ability to understand the teaching material, to take good notes, to do homeworks efficiently. As a teacher I would take seriously the challenge of addressing a diverse pool of students, keeping in mind they all have different limitations and thus probably need different approaches to make things work.
Being from India, where each state has completely different language, culture, food ways of life and completing my undergraduate and graduate studies from different parts of the country, I have had a fair amount of exposure to diversity. I have come to respect and honor different belief systems and life choices. Pursuing PhD in the US and having friends from all over the world has further helped my understanding towards diversity. I have come to appreciate how different perspectives of a heterogeneous group of people speeds up the process of finding solution to problems (from our group study sessions where we would work on assignments together) or how communicating with people from different backgrounds broadens my own thinking capacity.
Thus, as a future teacher, I will be committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. I would work hard to give a positive and inspiring experience of science to all my students.