Teaching philosophy


Learning is an active process

Out-of-classroom learning is challenging, because the group dynamics and the physical presence of the teacher are missing. This places a bigger burden on the student to maintain attention in a learning session, and to stay committed to a course that lasts weeks to months. It is very easy to settle into a passive learning strategy, in which the student watches a lecture without taking notes or thinking, doesn't solve practice problems or apply the knowledge, and doesn't integrate across different topics. This leads to a superficial understanding of the material that is likely to fade quickly. Consistent effort is necessary to gain a deep, flexible, and lasting understanding of the learning material.

To maximize learning, the student must be actively engaged. Distractions like TV, internet, and phone must be disabled. Good posture helps (sitting at a desk, back straightened, both feet on the ground), and a commitment to staying focused for a period of time is required, even as short as 15 minutes.

There is also an increased burden on instructors to provide material in a way that is comprehensive and comprehensible. Two-way communication is limited; instructors cannot determine students' engagement by visual cues, and many students are reluctant to email the instructor or post questions on Q&A forums. Therefore, the instructor must provide sufficient explanations — ideally, multiple different explanations to provide cross-links — for students with varied backgrounds. Instructors should vary the presentation style, such as typical lectures, graphics, pen-and-paper, and (if relevant) computer code.

Instructors also need to deliver lectures in a warm, welcoming, and approachable voice, so students understand that the instructor is a human being with goals and imperfections, not an unfeeling robot with an artificial voice-box.

learning and teaching

Shared responsibility

The teacher and the student share responsibility for learning. The best teacher can’t teach a student who doesn’t care, and the best student will struggle with an uninterested teacher.

I take my responsibility as an educator seriously. I try to put the philosophy above into practice (although I admit there is room for improvement).

In return, I expect that learners take their responsibility as a student seriously, as outlined above, and make an effort to utilize the opportunity to their best advantage.

Education is a great investment in personal and professional development. Each student should be happy and pride themselves in such educational investments. I am grateful that my students chose my educational material as part of their development.

No oops, do it again

Mistakes are opportunities

Too many people are brainwashed into thinking that mistakes are bad. That mistakes should be avoided, and that making mistakes means you aren't "cut out" for the material.

The exact opposite is the case: Mistakes are great. Mistakes are the best way to learn. You should be happy when you make a mistake because it’s an opportunity to learn, to improve, and to take one more step towards gaining expertise. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes. A mistake that is glossed over with no learning is the only "wrong" mistake.


No shortcuts to mastery

The timeline of learning varies widely depending on the goals and topic. Basic proficiency on a topic can be gained in days or a few weeks. Perhaps that is sufficient for someone's goals, e.g., for a short-term project, an exam in a required but irrelevant class, or simply curiousity about a new topic. Superficial and short-lasting learning should not be dissuaded or looked down-upon, as long as the student is aware of the limitation.

Real expertise, however, takes time and effort. Many topics, particularly those in science and engineering, require years of active learning and hands-on applications to gain mastery. The learner must have patience and perseverance, and the instructor must be patient and convince the students that their efforts will be worth it.

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