I have a new job! My postdoc at the Exploratorium ends next week, and I will be taking off for the mountains. I have a fixed term position as Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I’ll be doing research on physics education — studying how students learn and offering suggestions to restructure their upper division undergraduate courses (quantum and electricity & magnetism). If there are any teachers reading this, I would be really curious to hear what they think of education research and whether it’s helpful at all to them.
It will be quite a change from the buzzing pace of the Exploratorium. I’m very excited about the job — I’ve always found it interesting to understand how people learn and think about things. We usually think that other people learn how we do, by default, but it’s not true. “Metacognition” (or thinking about how we think) has always helped me as a learner — I tend to know what it is that I don’t understand, which helps me ask the right questions. Or, it used to. Before I was a “Dr” I asked much better questions. Now that I feel I’m supposed to know the answers I’m more shy about asking questions, which is a real shame.
I admit to some trepidation in returning to academia. I didn’t enjoy my graduate experiences, but the physics department at Boulder seems very friendly. Still, you walk into the halls of a physics department, and there is still certain quietness. After being near thousands of yelling and wide-eyed children, it will be a change. The other thing that is different about academia is the pace of life. At the Exploratorium, we have to create things that are pretty great, but there are a dozen other things waiting behind it, so we have to do it quickly. In academia, the standards are higher, the products must be much more meticulously polished. Will I have the patience to return to the slower pace after the fast-paced efficiency of the Exploratorium?
So, stay tuned!