Education

The department provides a wide range of BSc, MSc, and PhD level education which is anchored in top-level research. All staff are involved in teaching. The department constantly monitors, evaluates, and develops all aspects of education.
Education management was renewed in 2014 for the four-year term 2014-17. As a result, the department now has a vice chair for education and the role of education board (“opetustoimikunta” in Finnish) is more pronounced. During 2014 the objectives for the board were set and work began to reach the goals in teaching culture, teaching methods, and supporting actions. These efforts are evaluated by the number of students reaching 55 credit units per year. This evaluation criterion can be easily layered e.g. for each main subject and start year of studies, and enables posterior evaluation of the Department’s achievements. The role of education office and its staff has been very valuable in the transition.
Educational high-lights in 2014 are

Exercise workshops have been found an effective measure to activate students as learners in the Department of Mathematics. Department of Physics has now adopted this “best practice” of the Kumpula Campus, and assigned and equipped a special lecture room for this purpose. The effectiveness of exercise workshops derives from the fact that students as individuals have their own learning strategy and it is a slow process to modify the adopted strategy. On the other hand, students as members of a group are more apt to modify their learning identity and are thus exposed to alternative learning experiences. There are already indications of students being content with the change, and some quantitative evidence of improved learning outcomes.

Teacher students learn to implement and design school physics experiments.

Teaching education for new staff was enhanced so that all necessary teacher information was collected in one web-page that is easily accessible for everyone. This material is now used in the once-a-year teaching education events at the start of the academic year. Lecture course assistants are often the closest contact of students to the education staff. It is thus important that all assistants are up-to-date about their tasks. This is the aim of the new annual education events for course assistants.
Teaching development days of the department are now held twice yearly (May and January). The events have been well attended and have served their purpose very well in presenting evaluation results, collecting teachers’ development ideas, and “airing” sentiments about the current state of teaching affairs. This practice is going to be followed in the coming years, too.
The following teaching related events in 2014 are noted:

Physics teacher education

The Physics Teacher education programme of pre-service teachers for lower and upper secondary schools is an important part of the Department's teaching responsibilities. For teacher education, special courses are given in the Master's degree studies. The number of the physics students taking the physics teachers' study programme and the teacher's licence seems to be settling to below 10 students per year, but the number of students taking the teachers' studies as a minor subject is expected to be around 25–30. Clearly, this trend needs to be taken into account in future planning of the structure of the studies. In addition, in teacher education first steps have been taken to take better advantage of the multidisciplinary character of the current physical sciences – including e.g. environmental physics, biophysics, geophysics, space physics and astronomy and physical meteorology. All these branches of physics have much potential to enrich the current teacher education.

Teaching in Swedish

The teaching of physics in Swedish serves the Swedish-speaking population of the country, in accordance with the bilingual status of the University of Helsinki. It helps to attract students to the Department from Swedish-speaking schools from the whole country and makes their transition to also take courses lectured in Finnish or English easier. The number of students is fairly small, with around 10 new major and 10 minor students coming in each year. This allows for tailoring the teaching programme annually to the needs of the students. In a joint forum between the students and teachers, the "Studiekollegiet", the higher-level courses to be taught and their timing in the following year are selected to match the students' needs as well as possible considering the teaching resources. The same forum is also used for evaluation of the teaching. All Swedish-speaking teachers are also involved in outreach activities, such as arranging continued education of teachers in Swedish, handling the matriculation exams in physics, and information of physics studies to high schools.