Socorro Adventure Day 4: Sparks of Understanding

Our Physics professor stood in front of the room the first day, and asked the class, "Do you have any questions for me?"

No one asked any. He repeated, "Do you have any questions for me?", then came questions of anxiety.. Will the class be hard? Are we to memorize all Physics vocabulary? What will happen in the next 5 days...

He allowed students who took his other class to answer. We were quite relieved with their responses.

He then proceeded with Newton's law. He wrote all laws on the board (we were in the laboratory) and told us what his requirements were: 7 write-ups; we were to answer the questions: What did you do; What did you learn; How did you learn it. Quite simple.

The first activity was an experiment. He allowed us to play with the spark generator machine and discover for ourselves and as a group insights from it.

Then we were given a test - Force Concept Inventory. Out of 30 questions, I got 10 correct! Thanks to the first experiment I was able to answer questions related to it with ease! Lol!

He then went through all the questions one by one and gave us the answer to all 30 questions. I was OK with it, I just needed to digest it and I could very well memorize the concepts.

The surprise was, after that day, he reinforced all the concepts using different styles of learning!!! (visual, auditory, tactile/kinesthetic)

while walking to NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory - HQ)

He allowed us to rediscover, rediscover until we can discover!

He allowed the spark of understanding to come to us. He facilitated the experiments, answered questions from all spectrum and just became a catalyst for us to learn it.

during our field trip at the VLA (Very Large Array)

My, my, my! As a student once more, I just had to relate to my students with special needs (especially) and how they could be feeling when concepts were forced on them, and the teacher was just doing it one way- his/her way! Sad!

Our professor (he's got a Doctorate Degree in Astrophysics; he has published a "Big Science" through the years) didn't like classroom set-up! We were most of the time in the field, collaborating, questioning, learning!

while he was answering questions, I was having my photo taken, lol!

I'd ask questions, my classmates would ask questions.. and he'd answer with "C'mon, let us try it... Let's do it.. Here's the gadget, let's see what the results are..."

He was never demanding, controlling and "I-know-it-all", rather, he was giving, open and encouraging!

The sparks of understanding came, not through memorization, lecture, book reading, worksheets but the overall experience - experimentation, field trips, technology, question and answer, collaboration, observation - the whole nine yards! plus our professor's willingness to just bring learning out from within (educare and educere)!

......and it made all the difference!

Post test: 30 out of 30.


  1. Definitely agreed. The best way to understand and learn effectively is through experience. All of your senses are helping to educate you.

  2. What a job there. To study, learn and engaged more by discovering! But this will help you a lot in collecting proper and detailed data. More power sis and keep discovering.

  3. I agree the questions is better than lecturing. Your professor is good because he knows how to truly teach students. Indeed, it is about rediscovering to discover. Thanks for this thought provoking piece.

  4. being in the field all the time can be less boring than simply sitting in a room all day listening to your professor...

  5. Memorization, I hate it coz I am not good at it even on my younger years. I like your professors way of teaching.

  6. Wow. 30 out of the possible 30? You're fantastic! It's good that you have a patient, intelligent and very willing to help teacher. It seems like you are enjoying the class because of your professor. Happy learning!

  7. Engaged learning is really effective, because you can interact and be able ask questions that you want to know more about it.

  8. a very nice technique for learners like us. I guess he thinks we don't need all those traditional/old school procedures anymore.

  9. He reminds me a lot of my own Physics teacher (Physics was my first love as well). We'd learn a lot in the college football field or at the car park, and he used a lot of real-world examples when teaching kinematics :) I've always appreciated experience-based learning.

  10. Memorization? what can you benefit from that? after a week or so, it will vanish. I hope all teacher are like that during my highschool days.

  11. Actual experience and experimentation are far more effective than just by reading and memorizing because the information was easily absorbed by the brain and retained for a long time.

  12. Great ! Happy to see people enjoying the wonderful world - experiences , teaching, learning, discovering ... :)

  13. I like this kind of teacher...on the field and doesn't like the classroom setup much. A teacher needs to let his/her students go out and look at the real world because it is more effective in learning. :)


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