Teaching: the ideas and beliefs that are taught by a person, religion, etc.
Learning: the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something.
As defined above by Merriam-Webster, teaching and learning applied to a classroom or laboratory setting is a simple transfer of knowledge from an instructor to a student. However, in my opinion the dictionary definition lacks two fundamental aspects necessary for the success of these interactions: motivation and effective communication.
My teaching philosophy is centered on these two elements and my experience suggests that motivating students and effectively communicating knowledge are the two factors that make a quantitative and qualitative difference in classrooms and labs. Thus, besides paying attention to the fundamental concepts and learning objectives in each of the elements that compose a class, I aim to establish an environment conducive to igniting interest in the topic by encouraging participation. Although always present, these two elements take distinct forms depending on the context in which I teach: from large classes with more than three hundred students to small classroom settings and the personalized independent research in my laboratory.
The quality of teaching does not solely depend on the accuracy of facts stated by the instructor. A list of accurate facts on a screen is no easier to learn than an inaccurate list. Thus, while we must preset accurate information, it has to be presented in an appropriate context. While studying seems to require effort, students learn the rules to various games in minutes. The difference between these rules and a dry list of facts is the motivation to learn and the presentation of the material in a relevant context. My solution is to embed concepts and facts into challenging and relevant problems. Thus, students recognize the importance of the topic and feel challenged: Motivation.
Once students are motivated to learn, it is important to establish effective communication. Thus, to make a goal achievable, a big and challenging problem is divided into small, solvable components. Learning then becomes an exercise of progressively solving increasingly complicated problems. I also believe that a class does not work if the students do not find a channel to learn how to communicate back to the instructor, classmates and outside of class. As a result, students become active members of the instructor-student interaction, and therefore information flows in both directions: Communication.
In summary, my teaching philosophy is not only centered on the accuracy and quality of the material but also on establishing a conducive environment for learning. I believe that motivation and communication are the two cornerstones to maximize the learning experience for students and instructors. In addition, students learn to contextualize their knowledge and communicate their own points of view beyond the learning goals of each class.