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Teaching Philosophy


Teaching Philosophy


I have been teaching in some form or another for over a decade. As a graduate student, my teaching career began leading discussion tutorials for the series of introductory physics courses at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Since then I have taught courses in a variety of science related fields all over the world, in the US, Sub-saharan Africa, the Middle East and am now engaged in the Common Core Curriculum here at the University of Hong Kong.

Although these experiences are rather varied, I find some common threads hold throughout that have shaped the philosophy of my teaching practice. Globally, there is a trend to move away from specialization and towards adaptability and critical thinking. However, students from exam-based secondary school curricula may have relied heavily on memorization of model answers and too little on analysis and insight. In this light, it is important that students entering university study have the opportunity to interact with examples from a variety of real world contexts and to be confronted with competing ideas.  A teacher should be equally comfortable talking at a white board or in front of a Powerpoint presentation as they are kneeling down at a table where students are working in small groups. A teacher should bring enthusiasm, passion and friendliness in order to inspire students in an active learning environment. Finally, a teacher must continuously reflect on one's own practice with open-mindedness, adaptability and innovation.

Increasingly, I am drawn to the importance of assessment for learning. Coming from a background where continuous and informal feedback is commonplace, I believe that this is a very effective mode of learning. In my work in the HKU Common Core, we are encouraged to provide a variety of different assessment modes. This experimental and innovative environment has shown me how innovative assessment practices can increase student engagement, self-assessment and transformation. Teachers should be willing to put aside the assessment modes that sufficed in the past and contemplate new methods to engage students

Since joining the Faculty of Science in August 2012, it has been my pleasure to engage in supporting teaching and learning activities in the Common Core Curriculum as a course tutor and more recently as a key teacher and developer of new courses. The role of a course tutor is greatly varied. It seems that delivering tutorials is only the beginning. Tutors are relied upon by course coordinators to assist in the development of course materials including diverse assessments, guidelines, rubrics, tutorial curricula and lecture notes. We mark assignments. We plan and coordinate special events and activities. We serve as intermediaries between students and professors and respond to student inquiries big and small. We perform administrative tasks and maintain course home pages. It has been a great pleasure for me to take on these many roles in a variety of different courses. As each course coordinator has a unique style, each course demands different contributions and support. I have had to draw from the entire breadth of my experience in order to perform this job well. 

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Simplifying Complexity


Simplifying Complexity


Simplifying Complexity is a course I have developed with Dr. Tim Bonebrake from the Environmental Science program.  This course exposes students to the failures of reductionism and introduces some of the tools, methods and applications of complexity science. 

Below you may find links to to my lecture notes I have developed for this course. 

Tutorial activity about network structure

It was really really awesome. Mind blowing eye opening and made me sit there in awe. I learnt so much about different aspects of complexity and fractals and evolution and scaling and cellular automata. Basically this course taught me a lot that I would not ever have a chance to learn about if I had not reg this course. What’s more, there’s no exam, which means we don’t have the burden to cram all the things we learnt at the end of the semester. The coursework really aimed to see whether we really understood what was learnt or not. Everything was obviously thought through.
— Student Feedback
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Our Place in The Universe


Our Place in The Universe


Our Place in The Universe has been developed by the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Prof. Sun Kwok and Dr. Jason Pun from the Department of Physics. This course gives an historical account of the interplay between culture, philosophy and our increasing understanding of our place in the cosmos. 

My role in this course is to primarily facilitate small group discussions as well as assist in developing the materials for use in these tutorials. 

Tutorial activity about calendars

He always interacts with students and tries to make our class interesting....
— Student Feedback
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Hidden Order in Our Daily Lives


Hidden Order in Our Daily Lives


Hidden Order in Our Daily Lives  was first developed by Dr. Patrick Ng and Dr. Tsing NK. It has been further developed by a number of other teachers throughout its history. This course covers a variety of mathematical topics covering two major themes: information processing and decision making. 

My role in this course is to deliver and develop materials for small group discussions and problem solving.

Tutorial activity about doping in sports  

The best thing about this tutor’s teaching is that he had used many examples to illustrate the concepts and theories. It is interesting. Also, the teacher has assisted us to think in a logical and creative way so as to achieve the learning outcomes.
— Student Feedback


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Statistics and Our Society


Statistics and Our Society


Statistics and Our Society has been developed by Dr. Cheung KC and Prof. Li WK. This course focuses on the ability to design and interpret sample surveys and various indices as well as how they are reported in the press or other research publications. 

My role in this course once again involves developing materials for small group discussion and problem solving tutorials.  I am then largely responsible for delivering those materials.  

Tutorial discussion about gun control

Tim is an extremely nice and good tutor. He is very hard working. He enhances our
understanding of the course and provide us with effective exercises and inspiring
discussions.
— Student Feedback
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Time's Arrow


Time's Arrow


Time's Arrow has been developed primarily by Dr. LI Yiliang in Earth Sciences with support from myself and Dr. William Cheung.  This course deals with the nature, measurement and perceptions of time as well as the discovery and importance of "deep time". 

Of the lectures listed below, I deliver the first and the last.  You may find  links to my own notes below. In addition to this, I have been involved in the development of assessments for this course. 

  • What is time? Time’s Arrow, Relativity and Time Travel
  • Perception of Time in Different Ancient Civilizations
  • Measurements of Time: Clocks and Calendars
  • Time and Human Society. Time in Popular Culture
  • Time and Life: Evolution and Biological Clock
  • Earth Through Time: Its Age and Its Geological History
  • Observing Geological Time: Stratigraphy
  • Formation and Evolution of Galaxies, Our Solar System and Planets
  • A Brief History of the Universe
  • The Philosophy of Time 

These videos are meant to be a game.  In each video one side of the frame is moving forwards in time and one is moving backwards.  Can you tell which is which? 
There are two types of videos.  In the first type, the two sides show the same footage, one side playing in reverse.  In the second type, the action in one frame is being done in a time-reversed manner so that the two sides look similar. 

The course is strongly inspiring and shows the students to understand the concept of time
from different perspectives.
— Student Feedback