Condensed matter, Experiment
Throughout his career, Professor Eric Hudson has fostered an inclusive learning environment for all students. He primarily teaches introductory physics courses and a key component of this work has been his ability to translate challenging scientific concepts into engaging course material.
Embracing a Learning Philosophy
After more than three decades of teaching, Professor Hudson has come to embrace the idea of a “Learning Philosophy” instead of a teaching philosophy. He believes that making learning an intrinsic goal is what ultimately contributes to the success of students both inside and outside the classroom. For Professor Hudson, there are three essential components to consider: motivation, participation, and mistake-making.
Many educators rely on their students to find motivation for studies but Professor Hudson insists on taking an active role in linking the physics being taught with his students’ curiosity about the world. He understands that some students have an innate love of a subject but for many students, inspiration must come from their teachers.
Although interest is a necessary part of learning, it alone is not sufficient — a student must be engaged. In order for students to truly understand what is being taught, Professor Hudson knows they must actively participate in developing that understanding. This is a much more straightforward task in lab-based courses, but he is adamant that a lecturer can and should engage students in the presentation of material.
In Professor Hudson’s lectures, he asks students direct questions and encourages them to discuss concepts with their neighbors and the likely results of the next demonstration. He pushes students to question what they don’t understand and requests feedback at the end of class to find out what they do. This level of engagement not only improves student learning but also provides the feedback necessary to improve his own teaching.
Since making mistakes is a crucial part of the learning process, Professor Hudson works to create an environment where students feel safe and willing to be wrong. He explains that “this is particularly true in an introductory physics class, where students arrive with a lifetime of (perceived) experience and usually wrong mental models to explain that experience.” He acknowledges that his courses are challenging and sees incorrect answers as an opportunity for reflection and growth.
Professor Hudson is equally committed to supporting his colleagues in their efforts to implement effective evidence-based teaching and active learning in their courses. He is a member of the Evidence-Based Teaching Academy (EBTA) planning team and has served as an EBTA facilitator since its inception in 2018.
As a facilitator for the New Faculty Orientation Workshop, Professor Hudson is a valuable advocate for the Center for Excellence in Science Education. In this role, he introduces our science education learning community and educational initiatives and shares valuable resources to support the work of faculty.
Excellence in Science Teaching and Learning
Professor Hudson has repeatedly been recognized for his work with undergraduate and graduate students. Most recently, in 2021, he received the Alumni/Student Award for Excellence in Teaching and was named a Penn State Teaching Fellow, which honors distinguished teaching and provides encouragement and incentive for excellence in teaching.
In 2018, he received an Eberly College of Science Climate and Diversity Award for his efforts to build a more inclusive environment by recruiting students from minority-serving institutions and women’s colleges. In recognition of his ability to turn challenging concepts into engaging course material, Professor Hudson also received the 2017 C.I. Noll for Teaching Excellence Award, the highest honor for undergraduate teaching in the college.