Artifact of Teaching & Student Learning

Description/Context

I have been teaching the majority of the lectures: “Interaction of Electrons with Solids” and “Interaction of Photons with Solids” at the Department of Materials Science & Engineering in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016.
These two lectures are a consecutive introduction to the electronic and photonic behavior of materials. They include a large amount of experimental physics and quantum mechanics and focus on applying these concepts to high tech solid state devices. It can be very challenging to bring together the fundamental modern physics aspects with an engineering perspective that is meant to focus on applicability. Also, the students in these lectures have very different backgrounds, which requires a way of teaching that embraces the different perspectives of different disciplines. This is why I introduced a multi-perspective teaching approach throughout the lecture that provides the students with multiple perspectives for each topic. An example is given in figure 1 that provides 4 perspectives on the Doppler effect: 1) A mathematical description with a formula, 2) a .gif image that illustrates the dynamic model, 3) a youtube video that visualizes the effect with mechanical waves (speed of sound), and 4) an image that provides an example of the effect for electromagnetic waves (speed of light). These concepts resonate with students with different backgrounds (e.g. mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, physics/chemistry) and help them connect the other perspectives to an interdisciplinary understanding of the Doppler effect.

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Figure 1: Explanation of the Doppler effect with four different perspectives. 1) Mathematical equation, 2) Abstract visualization, 3) Mechanical example (sound wave), 4) Electromagnetic example (light wave)

 

Furthermore, I have created a lecture folder on Google Drive that allows the students to add material and links that help them comprehend more advanced topics (mostly from quantum mechanics) that are important for understanding the behavior of semiconductors and other crystals.

 

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Figure 2: Shared lecture folder on Google Drive that enables communication between students and includes additional materials

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Figure 3: Subfolder with extra material such as .gif files and material on quantum mechanics for deeper understanding, students are sharing their own selected material in a Google Doc file

Reflection

I was not 100% sure about how the interactive lecturing approach would be perceived by the students. In the beginning of the photonics lecture, there was e.g. only limited collaboration within the online folder. Within a few weeks, however, there would be a growing number of students posting their favorite material and asking for links for extra material on specific topics. I learned that there is a big difference between undergraduate and graduate students in this field.

My multi-level approach inside the classroom was taken very well by most of the students, I received some excellent feedback and learned a great amount myself. Overall, I was quite happy about being able to try things out and learn which methods and materials were the most useful for the students and for me as a lecturer.

 

Artifact of Student Learning

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Figure 4: Artifact of Student Learning – Exam grades of students in MSE703, Fall 2015. Student grades after guest lectures by F. Kaess were improved significantly. The average grade was raised by over 5%

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