My teaching philosophy

I have always considered teaching an essential part of my academic life, and have devoted much thought and energy to it. My aim as a teacher is not only to teach students to work easily with mathematical concepts, but also to do it in an effective way, making the learning process interesting and enjoyable, as mathematics itself is.

I have a rather extensive experience in teaching large and small courses at different levels, working with students of different temperaments and mathematical abilities. I always take into account the unique "chemistry" of my students. I use student "reactions" to understand their level, needs and concerns. Some students are more active and motivated - they are independent and do not hesitate, for instance, to state their questions in class. Other students are shy and can do well only with strong support and encouragement. Students with weak capacities often need intensive individual help and monitoring.

I try to discourage "memorizing." It is unfortunate that many students do not realize that understanding the basic definitions and concepts of a subject makes route memorization unnecessary.

I encourage students to ask questions. As a part of this encouragement I promote active learning in my classes. My favorite trick is to ask the students to vote against or in favor of different options related to a difficult problem. This forces a student to wake up and create his/her own opinion related to the problem. Even if a student is wrong, after a correct explanation is understood, in my opinion, a better and deeper understanding will be achieved.

I always try to create an atmosphere in class that makes students feel comfortable, and is conducive to doing math. Sometimes a joke is appropriate. "Eye contact" is absolutely essential for students' attention.

My  work  with students is not finished with the bell, and goes beyond the "lecture time." Web sites with outlines for course material and grading procedures are maintained for all my classes. From such a web site students can obtain up-to-date information on the course, such as notes for upcoming tests, test samples, etc. Some students face problems with understanding material in class. Based on individual cases I use different approaches to help these students. Some students prefer to ask questions in one-to-one situations, such as personal consultations in office hours or discuss their problems immediately after the lecture. Others prefer to get in touch by e-mails or by phone. In any case, I always find time for my students.

I intend  to be a good and fair teacher. I try to achieve this by well-prepared assignments and tests, as well as a good deal of feedback and personal interaction with my students and teaching assistants. I do my best to make the examinations rest on the course requirements and on the average level of the class. The tests always reflect what was taught in the course. Regular quizzes and home works help me to find gaps in the students' understanding. Graded assignments are always returned very promptly. When I see that the students do not follow me, I repeat the same argument/concept in another, perhaps simpler way. I strongly encourage attendance at my lectures to make learning more efficient and less time-consuming for the students. I always learn from my students through their questions, observations and challenges, just as they learn from me through my lectures and assignments.

Although  most of my teaching skills are a result of teaching experience, as well as numerous conversations with master teachers, I do have some pedagogical background. I have completed a course in pedagogy for future university teachers called "Becoming a University Teacher" given by the Chalmers Centre for Educational Development from 21 February - 29 March 2000, which consisted of five full days of face to face workshops and two half days of microteaching. Also, at Novosibirsk State University, I completed a course in psychology, which helps me avoid conflict situations with my students.

By working  in the UK, US, Iceland, Sweden and Russia I acquired broad international teaching experience. It gave me a good opportunity to compare and analyze aspects from different educational systems, as well as to interact with the students having different mentalities and cultural background.

I close by saying that I enjoy teaching, and I receive positive teaching evaluations from my students.

Copyright © 2011-2012 Sergey Kitaev