Evidence of Professional Development

Evidence of Professional Development

This site contains 2 Synthesis and Application essays and 2 teaching observation forms with one teaching reflection each.


Synthesis and Application Essay #1

Attended Workshops
Active Learning
Facilitator: Dr. Barbi Honeycutt
February 26, 2014
Learning Styles
Facilitator: Dr. Barbi Honeycutt
March 27, 2014
Introduction to Teaching
Facilitator: Susanna Klingenberg
April 11, 2014

 After starting my research at NC State University in early 2014, a colleague of mine who was just graduating with her PhD told me about the different options of the “Preparing Future Leaders” community. After learning about the different programs, I became very excited and decided to accomplish as many of the excellent programs as possible during my time at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

I started off by taking seminars of “Fundamentals in Teaching” (FIT-program) and applied for the “STEM & Writing Annual Partnership” (SWAP-program 2014). I had great experiences with various insights, which led me to enroll into the “Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching” (CoAT-program 2014-2016). To maximize the learning experience, I decided later to apply for the highly competitive “Preparing the Professoriate” (PTP-program 2015-2016) and finally the Dissertation Institute (TDSS-program 2016).

In the “Introduction to Teaching” workshop I reflected on how to establish an effective learning environment and what makes up the essential parts of creating a successful lesson plan. We discussed the way of defining SMART goals for teaching and the importance of compiling learning outcomes for each learning segment. In the seminar “Learning Styles” I learned how to differentiate the 8 types of learning in absorbing, perceiving, processing, and understanding different types of information. It is a good idea to use different strategies and offer activities for e.g. sequential vs. global learners in order to optimize the learning efficiency of the group when tackling important subjects. The workshop included a vast amount of resources for designing teaching plans that support all types of learning. We also studied the strategies developed by Prof. Richard M. Felder on how different types of learners can use their individual learning style to full capacity.

In the third workshop we discussed more than 10 examples of active learning techniques and how to include them into different teaching formats. Learning is not just a spectator sport, it needs to be practiced and trained like a muscle. Active learning methods allow students to work with abstract topics and maintain a connection to the material. The different methods mostly include writing, discussing, summarizing, and various types of group work.

It was very interesting to study these principles after teaching experimental and engineering physics in different settings to students at TU Berlin in the past. In this way, I could reflect on the strategies that I have been using before and was able to extend my horizon towards other methods for new stages.



Synthesis and Application Essay #2

 Attended Workshops
Effective Teaching with Technology
Facilitator: Susanna Klingenberg and Dr. Beth Overman
September 23, 2014
Stress Management
Facilitator: Susanna Klingenberg and Dr. Beverly Savinsky
October 10, 2014
Establishing Credibility and Authority in the Classroom
Facilitator: Susanna Klingenberg and Dr. Barbi Honeycutt
October 23, 2014

In the latter half of 2014, I focused on more advanced principles of teaching. I was able to include several professional development seminars and great talks from invited speakers about education. In the beginning of Fall 2014, I attended the “Effective Teaching with Technology” workshop, which included presentations of several companies like Google, Adobe, and different educational technology start-ups. We discussed in which situations it can be beneficial to use technology, and how it can help to increase student engagement and creativity. New methods via student assessment (clickers, online polling, apps) provide direct feedback and give opportunities to the instructors to react and customize their teaching methods to the student’s needs. These developments enable exciting new ways of improving the way we learn.

In the academic world, it is important to be able to understand and handle stress. Every semester, students and teachers face situations that are more or less stressful, like exams, grading, and project deadlines. For this reason, I was fortunate to attend the “Stress Management” workshop, which was organized by the Graduate School in collaboration with the NCSU Counseling Center. It is important to understand the effects of eustress and distress and the relationship between performance and anxiety, which is a driving factor for most people. Many students experience high stress levels for their first time in college and need to learn how to deal with it in their professional lives, which is why it is helpful to learn about the symptoms and adaptation mechanisms of the human body, when affected by repetitive stress. In order to prevent impaired performance or burnout (in extreme cases), it is advisable to find personal methods for stress relief and support. It was very interesting to learn from everyone about the methods that have proven to reduce stress effectively and to hear the opinion of professionals such as the psychologist Dr. Savinsky. For this topic, it is also very good to be aware of the resources and references that are invaluable to maintain health and prevent the negative impacts of stress on students and teachers.

The third workshop that I would like to include here was called “Establishing Credibility and Authority in the Classroom/Lab”. This is kind of a hot topic for young educators and we had a very helpful seminar and constructive exchange. When thinking about establishing credibility, one can take the first viewpoint of the “teaching self”: What kind of teacher am I? What are my strengths, weaknesses? We discussed the presence of nervousness in almost every teacher and how to maintain a positive attitude (which will highly affect students). The second perspective is the one of the “professional self”, defining yourself by your relevant experience and organization of the lecture. We evaluated the topic of changing roles between meeting students inside and outside the classroom and the new role of social media. The third viewpoint is given by the teaching methods we select when working with students. We have a certain freedom in selecting our methods, but should always keep in mind that the greater goal is achieving the most effective learning environment for our specific group.



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Teaching Reflection #1

In this classroom session, I introduced the Kronig-Penney model of quantum mechanics. This model represents the transition of the theoretical quantum conception of single electrons towards more realistic, periodic systems (crystals). The lecture was therefore about introducing a change of perspective to make the previous, theoretical concepts translate into the practical concepts of semiconductor physics (bandgap, density of energy states). I started the lecture by giving the students a short philosophical motivation (5 min) and telling them about the analogy of today’s lecture to a 3 course meal, consisting of an appetizer, a heavy main dish, and some dessert. The appetizer was my personal version of Prof. Sitar’s favorite question: “How would you explain XYZ concept to your grandma?”. I told them about my personal perspective on one of the most fundamental cornerstones of quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and how you can see it in action in everyday life. In fundamental physics, you can think about position and momentum being like brothers, and energy and time being like sisters. This simplifies the understanding of the correspondence principle, which leads via the conservation of energy (something very fundamental, too) towards the Schrödinger equation, which is what the students have been working with up to that point. After this appetizer, we started the derivation of the periodic crystal potential, and with some tricks and the introductions of Bloch’s theorem we went towards a big and abstract matrix determinant. I compared this mathematical journey with a scary dungeon, which gets colder and darker as you try to solve for the final equation. Fortunately, the physicist Felix Bloch has already solved the ugly parts of the derivation some decades ago, which allows us to pick up the golden treasure at the end of the den. After explaining what this treasure is (the so called “Principal Equation” of the Kronig-Penney model), we went for the last part, the dessert: Applying the equation and using Wolfram Mathematica to play around with it on the projector. This illustrates how energy gaps and bands exist in a periodic crystal, which are well-known concepts in semiconductor physics.

In this class session, I had the impression that most parts of the lecture went very well. Fortunately, I had a lot of time to come up with creative ways of explaining everything. I prepared the transitions and use of the whiteboards in advance and made plans about how to include the use of technology at the end of the lecture. If I could change anything about it, I would pay a bit more attention to keeping all parts of the matrix equation in good shape, while improving my rhetorical performance throughout the lecture. Furthermore, I would make sure to get more familiar with the available resources in the classroom (especially the projector, which goes into standby after 10 minutes and is hard to turn back on).

With regard to the feedback that I received after this lecture, I will try to keep presenting future topics as adventure-like stories to keep the student’s attention. Furthermore, I will try to improve and extend the didactics of the course of events within the lecture, e.g. work with multiple whiteboards and colors to keep every topic of the lecture manageable and clear. The observation process itself went very well this time.


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Teaching Reflection #2


Today’s lecture was about the different aspects of superconductivity in materials science. I started off by explaining the phenomenological perspective on superconductors, e.g. critical temperature, magnetic field, current, and the distinction of type I and type II superconductors. After this, we discussed the different theoretical approaches for explaining the effect, which are still under debate in the research communities. An alternative perspective on the phase transition of the state of electronic conductivity is through thermodynamics, which I decided to explain in a rather qualitative then quantitative way. We then went into detail of the so-called BCS theory, which is to date the best theoretical model for explaining the superconductive state. We concluded the lecture by discussing superconductivity as one example of Bose-Einstein-condensation, meaning that we can describe it from the very fundamental perspective of particle physics.

I feel like the majority of the course today went just as planned. The flow of the lecture was structured and I received positive feedback on the part on particle physics, which is usually perceived by students as something very universal and interesting. Unfortunately, I was stumbling on explaining a graph in the beginning, which took some of my confidence away for the following minutes. If I could teach it again, I would try to prepare myself better to have a smoother flow and be more confident with the equations. This classroom observation stated that I will just need a bit more experience to further improve my teaching skills. I think that this does not just include the teaching side, but also the scientific understanding itself. Superconductivity is one of the more advanced topics that I did not do research on yet, so I had to recap on my experimental physics and tutoring experiences from about 3 years ago. On the other hand, I am sure that by now I have gained a lot more confidence about the topic, so for the next time I will have a better base to start from.

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