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Dr. Basile Panoutsopoulos

Statement of Teaching Philosophy by Basile Panoutsopoulos, PhD

Dear Members of the search committee:

I would like to share with you some thoughts on teaching in a post secondary academic institution. I must say, first and foremost, that I see teaching not as static but as dynamic and ever evolving process, ever improving and never perfected. My views have been shaped during my years as a student and later as a professional working in the industry as well as a college teacher. As a student, I carry the experiences from being student a Greece and the USA. I have had the fortune to have teachers that became, for me, an example to follow. These teachers encouraged me to pursue further studies and eventually I realized my dream of becoming an academic teacher. As a college teacher, I had the opportunity to offer my students all good things I had acquired as a student and a professional.

As a professional working in the industry, I had the opportunity to get the experience that otherwise would have been impossible for me to acquire. I became a participant to all phases of a product, from conceiving an idea, to proposing, to funding, to research, to development, to acquisition, to supervision, to prototyping, to final production, to documenting the work done and presenting the results to various audiences.

The Beginnings - A short biography:

My first contact with electricity was at a course, Experimental Physics in the sixth grade. After that, I would continuously work with electricity, collecting, wires, switches, old radios, and electrical components. I made my first circuit using a battery, a bulb, and a switch. But the switch was connected the wrong way (in parallel), the light will go off when the switch was closed, but the battery will overheat, requiring another one the next day! When I was in the ninth grade, a neighbor who was studying Electronic Engineering Technology and who tutored me in Mathematics, gave me a book: Technology of Electronic Components. This event was a turning point for me. It introduced me to the plethora of electronic components and the practical aspects of building circuits. At the same time, I was taking a class on General Physics: Mechanics, Waves, and Electricity. Although I had wanted to become a college teacher ever since high school, it took me a long time to appreciate fully what such a vocation truly entailed. In my first years as a laboratory assistant and then as an instructor, I thought the sole task was to deliver the best courses possible. I learned whatever I could to master the art of teaching, experimented with numerous techniques and strategies, developed new courses, and constantly revised old ones. The students’ evaluations, along with their performance on papers and exams, gave me the feedback I needed and guided me in my first steps as a teacher. During my Graduate studies, I discovered the other side of the profession, the Research. I enjoyed this new dimension, conducting guided and independent research, being a member of a team, and publishing papers.

Schooling - Training - Paideia:  A well-rounded education includes professional training and humanistic values. The professional training includes theoretical knowledge and practical skills. The role of the university is to prepare a well-rounded person, a useful citizen. The general education courses provide most of the well-rounded education. The major courses contribute, mostly, to the professional development of the person. The need for education has been recognized since ancient times and continues to today. The post secondary education shall not limit itself to schooling by requiring simply courses to be taken, shall not limit itself to training by providing professional skills, but must develop a well round person by providing the good education, paideia, that teaches a student to think and enable adults to be life-long learners. It is paideia that makes a difference in distinguishing a person.
The Scientist – The Engineer – The Technologist – The Technician:

It is very important for the student to know the whole spectrum of grades in the profession. Although the transition from one to another is not sharp but there is a gray and overlapping area, knowing the whole spectrum is important not to restrict but to clarify what is expected, what will be the approach, and where the student stands. A student, based on his or her natural inclination, will choose the appropriate and natural discipline for his/her abilities and grade of study, where can excel. The Scientist discovers the laws of nature; the Engineer applies the physical laws to solve practical problems, the Technologists uses currently available technologies to implement the solution, while the Technical realizes the solutions. All professions are linked and important to the well being of humans.

The Academician – The Teacher – The Student - The Scholar – The Researcher – The Citizen:

 A view of the college teacher:

The same person, the college teacher, carries all theses roles. The characteristics of these roles distinguish the person and make him/her a positive contributor to the society. All these functions require and result in a mature and well-rounded person. It is these characteristics that give to the university teacher special rights and obligations.

A College professor is first of all a student, a student of Science and a student of his/her students. I personally can recall many instances, where various meanings became “clear” to me as I was preparing to explain them to my students. And I found myself searching for a better understanding of a concept after a question from a student to explain it. And of course, I enjoyed the opportunity to explain a concept and transmit the knowledge during a lecture or an office visit.

As a professional with more that ten years industrial experience, I do have an understanding of the practical importance of otherwise unnoticed matters. I can recall when teaching about electric sources in an Electric Circuits course; I gave an assignment to the students, to find the data sheets of various battery cells (AAA, AA, C, D). Some students went on to complain for the “kind” of homework; a kind they were not used to. I elaborated to them on the importance of the electrical, mechanical, chemical, thermal, etc. characteristics of the batteries and their importance on the operation and overall performance of the system they are a part of. They understood that a battery is not simply a battery but there are other factors to be considered.

The College teacher is a Researcher of Science in its own narrow field, contacts research, involves his/her students into it, collaborates with his colleagues, consults with the industry and publishes the findings. But in addition to the narrow field of each one of us, there are areas that are better served by an interdisciplinary team, where everybody makes a contribution as looks from his/her own optical angle.

Ethics is an important factor that is found in every contact with the college teacher. The teacher must set the example professionally and socially, of ethical conduct and transmit the ethical values is to his/her students.

As a member of the society, the college teacher, is called to be an example of a citizen. Respecting the laws, abiding to ethical values, practicing justice, and being a light of inspiration.


We can simply define learning as the process of acquisition of either skills or knowledge or both. The university level education provides both, skills and knowledge, at different levels. Learning is taking place through lecturing by a direct transfer of knowledge from the teacher to the student. This takes place in the lecture or reading a book. Students learn mostly through lecture, while professionals extend their knowledge reading professional books, attending on job training, and attending short courses. Also, knowledge is acquired by thinking and building on previous acquired knowledge. Through lectures, a teacher can help the students in their first steps to learn to think and build on previous knowledge to extend their knowledge, and to find an answer to a question. Additionally, skills are learned in a laboratory and a recitation environment. In the laboratory, a student acquires practical skills on how to use instruments, how to use equipment, how to manufacture components and systems. In the recitation period, a student learns skills on how to use basic principles to solve practical problems.

The first leaning takes places near a teacher, since ancient times, and this makes the role of the teacher important, justified through the history. Learning, at the professional life, is usually a self-learning or peer supported. Of course, the distinction between skills, and knowledge, and instruction in a school environment, and self-learning, is not clear. People are distinct persons with various personal abilities. This makes the role of the teacher more important as is called to be a teacher in various environments, from the traditional lecturer, to laboratory instructor, to a continuous education teacher.


We can simply define teaching as the method that is used to transmit skills and knowledge. The teacher is called to implement the proper and suitable method to transmit the skills and knowledge. It is the teaching method and the instructor’s personality that makes a teacher more or less successful.

Every teacher has his/her own approach to teaching. I personally believe that a teacher must introduce the basic concepts to the student, and stimulate the student by actively involving him or her in a discussion asking appropriate questions. The teaching must be a lecture – live discussion of the topic under consideration to actively involved audiences and not simply a monolog to a passive audience. The student should not come to the classroom to copy the teacher’s notes from the board at the expense of participation.

Teaching takes place mainly in the classroom, and the laboratory but my office is always open for those seeking extra help. My experience indicates that the office is the place that a special bond develops between the teacher and the promising student.

Goals for Students:

When a student registers for a class, we have an agreement between the student and the university. The product to be delivered, the course material, is described in the university’s Catalog. Further details as clarified in the instructor’s syllabus (that I always make available during the first class meeting and is continuously updated on the web with further links). We can think the student as a customer (in a market environment). The student is the customer of the teacher, the department, the school, and the university’s. When the product (course material, teaching) is of good quality, the customer will be happy, more customers will arrive, and the school will get a good name.

I provide at a minimum what is commonly agreeable. I always offer the possibility for extra work in more specialized topics. I found out, early on in my career, that not all students want to get an A in a required course. And this is natural, as not all students will major in Electromagnetics. I encourage these students that want to major in Electromagnetics, to take advanced specialized courses, and I involve them in my research. To all my students I present the world after graduation by providing trade magazines and newspapers that I subscribe.

I am not a crowd pleaser. I do not give inflated grades in exchange for good evaluations. I read the evaluations carefully, and I pay special attention to the ones that include comments. I have values, ethics, and goals. I treat all my students equally and fairly. I would like to transmit these values by example to them. To all my students I am available for assistance at all times. My reward is at the end of the semester when I receive a handshake with a simple Thank you or a Thank you card.

Implementing my Teaching Philosophy

Organization of a class meeting: the Lecture – The Recitation – The Laboratory



I follow few simple principles in organizing my lectures:

  1. State Subject and Goals.
  2. Review pertinent material.
  3. Introduce new concept with an example.
  4. Develop formally the topic.
  5. Stimulate questions and ask questions. Discuss the answer.
  6. Relate topic with other areas and practice.
  7. Solve an example
  8. Point out practical applications
  9. Assign homework and discuss homework.

It is in the lecture that students come in contact with the new material and where most of the learning takes place. I use modern technological tools like, presentation slides, computer algebra systems (CAS), the Internet, demonstrations, etc. in order to attract the attention of the students, provide demonstrations, and make the learning process more enjoyable. The course, whenever possible, is organized as an living subject that finds applications in our lives.

Individual and teamwork are emphasized. The assignments reflect both realities. For the teamwork I always emphasize the reality in the industry: your colleagues are there to provide you with help but it is up to you to solve the problem and you are ultimately responsible for the provided solution. The homework assignments reflect current industrial approaches using available technological innovations. Homework includes both pure and applied problems. Use of a computer algebra system is required, along with use of industrial software, some in its student version. The reports must be typed and professionally organized.


The recitation is a non-obligatory session that I conduct, one hour per week, on a time mutually agreed on by all students, whenever practically possible, and it is possible in most of the cases. The recitation period does not cover any new material. It is a problem solving and a questions and answers session. Students, in general, take the opportunity to meet with the instructor and the other classmates in an informal setting. The emphasis is not to provide solutions, I could have post them, but to discuss the methodology or methodologies to solve a problem, properly and accurately make necessary assumption and approximations, and discuss the meaning and consequence of the results.


The laboratory session helps to clarify everything learned. I organize the laboratory around a problem that the student solves analytically, if possible, simulates using an available simulation program, and prepares an experimental setup to measure the quantities under consideration. At the end, the student compares the three different approaches, analytical, simulation, and experimental, thus having the opportunity to appreciate and become familiar with industry approaches and methods.

The laboratory is an integral part of the lecture. It comes in two flavors. The simulation laboratory where an experiment is taking place using a simulator, and the hands-on laboratory where the experiment is taking place using real equipment. Both forms of the laboratory are valuable. The traditional form of the laboratory was the only one available until the development of simulators in the early 1960s. Electromagnetic simulators became available much later in the late 1990s.

Although a laboratory, traditionally, does not supplement a course in Electromagnetics, I use both laboratory forms to supplement the lecture and introduce the students to the transition from the abstract concepts to the real applications. The wide use of personal computers, the availability of CAS (Computer Algebra Systems), the availability of Electromagnetics simulator’s, even the light versions, make the simulation a reality, while the availability of inexpensive of-the-self components makes the hands-on part easily realizable. Student need to know how to use modern tools, that are widely used in the industry, and this is the time and the place. I have seen many students involved and appreciate this form of learning.

During the various interactions with the student, I always provide them with handouts of the material covered and further topics; I use presentations slides, solve examples and emphasize how a physical principle can be used to solve a practical problem. The problems discussed cover both analysis and synthesis.

I believe that the student must develop critical thinking while still in school. I strongly disagree with memorization. During the examinations, I provide Tables and Formulas. Sometimes the textbook is allowed, too. In Homework, Recitations and Laboratories, discussion is encouraged along with individual responsibility. The critical thinking is valued. This is the industrial environment the student will encounter after graduation.

The World after Graduation:

It is during the school years and especially during the senior year that the student should be prepared for the transition to the industrial world or to advanced academic studies.

The senior project course or courses is one crucial step that helps the student to put everything the student learned together. I go a step further and I make sure that they become familiar with other aspects of the professional life by immersing them into the industrial life by distributing:

Trade Magazines
Trade Newspapers
Data books
Application Notes
Commercial Software (Professional and Light versions)
Team assignments

The purpose of the university is to provide general and professional education, to form a person, to prepare a useful citizen. The general education shapes the responsible citizen and this is accomplished mainly by the core curriculum courses. The professional development takes place mainly by the major required and elective courses.

After graduation with a baccalaureate degree a student will either enter the industrial workforce or will continue to graduate studies. I discuss both options with my students and share with them my experiences but I let them choose their path, appreciating and supporting their decisions and making myself available when they need me.

My Future Plans:

Having seen both the academic and industrial world, I decided to return back full time in the academia. My immediate plans include:

Organize a series of courses in my area of expertise.
Develop the sequence: Lecture – Recitation – Laboratory.
Involve my students in my research and publish with them.
Supervise Senior Projects in my area of expertise.
Finish writing my book on Electromagnetics.
Serve my department, school, and University in various Committees.
Serve my department, school, and University in various administrative positions.
Promote undergraduate and graduate interdisciplinary studies
Continue my education through Continuous Education courses.

It has been a long road from the first time I went to school as a student and the first time I entered the classroom as a grader and as a teacher. I take with me the good things I learned, I improve them, I add more and I transmit them to my students. Teaching is a heuristic process. It approaches the optimum between the boundaries of students, instructor, technology, available resources, subject matter, etc.

I realize that there are many more issues to discuss and share. Future un-ended discussions trying to find the “Best” teaching philosophy can be the forum. All of these form my dynamic and ever-evolving teaching philosophy, the world of the Academician.


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