Educational Philosophy

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Mastery Learning

Mastery: Allow students to demonstrate

  1. knowledge of concepts and
  2. the ability to apply that knowledge.
  • Preference for depth of knowledge.
  • Heuristics (mental shortcuts) based on understanding and ability to recombine basic principles.
    • emerges with experience.

Customization: Allow students to learn and demonstrate mastery of concepts and language in the ways that best suit the student.

  • Helping students learn how to learn.
    • Independence
    • Students take responsibility for their own learning.
  • Flexibility in demonstrating knowledge. Deciding how to weigh:
    • Tests
    • Projects
    • ...

Apprentice Learning

  • Language: Each field has it's own specialized words and idioms that facilitate communication.
  • Epistemological: How do experts think?
    • How do experts approach problems?
    • Where do they first go looking for answers?
  • Experiential: Doing what experts do.
    • e.g. The scientific method.

Group Work

Collaboration: Students need to learn how to work well in groups.

  • Collaboration is becoming more and more essential in all fields.
    • A way of dealing with increased specialization.
    • Direct collaboration and collaboration at a distance.
      • e.g. Antivirus companies have offices in Europe, the U.S. and Japan that pass off projects to one another to keep it going for 24 hours.
  • Small group assignments
  • Presentations to the larger group.

Peer learning/teaching

  • shared language eases communication and learning
  • ability to explain requires higher-level thinking.

Non-Academic Considerations


Subject Areas


Students learn science best by doing what scientists do.

Environmental Science

  • Focus on critical thinking about environmental issues,
    • Environmental economics.
  • Field Work:
    • Collecting field data from campus.
  • Working with Real Scientific Data
    • Extensive datasets are available online that students can use for analysis

Conceptual Physics:

  • Making sure students have a good understanding of the physical concepts rather than focusing on the math.
  • The math is introduced for those students who are so inclined.

Middle School Science:

  • Physical Science
  • Life Sciences


  • Reading
    • Required reading assignments.
    • Small groups focus on a specific subject area.
    • Recommended: Questions at the end of each chapter.
  • Presentations
    • Small groups present what they have learned
    • Multi-modal presentations (demonstrations, diagrams ... are important).
  • Experiments
    • Students are tasked with solving specific problems using the scientific method.
    • Students produce lab reports to share their discoveries
    • Reports are peer-reviewed before submitting to instructor.


Math as a way of looking at the world.

  • E.g. Economists think in mathematics and then translate their understanding into English.
  • Students progress at their own pace, typically following the textbook.
    • Cognitive development is important.
  • Lessons are given to individuals or small groups as needed.
  • Small group, and peer teaching are important.
  • Students take tests based on their progress (not as a large group).
    • Students do corrections and extra work as required for mastery.
    • Mastery versus timing?
  • Algebra/pre-Algebra
    • introduction to programming
    • using spreadsheets
  • Pre-Calculus: A graphical approach
    • Using real-world data.
      • student collected and online datasets from, for example, NOAA and the Federal Reserve.
      • Least squares regression
  • Calculus
    • The language of physics


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