In this section, Prof. Aram Harrow shares how he determines what materials to cover in this fast-paced lecture course.
The 8.06 Quantum Physics III curriculum is extremely fast-paced. We cover a wide range of topics and I have to select what material, related to each topic, to include in each lecture. It can be daunting.
I’ve to come to realize there are three things I need to teach related to each topic: the physical principle, the technique related to the principle, and an application of the technique. If I don’t teach the application, the technique can be very dry and abstract. Without the application, it’s hard for students to remember the technique, and difficult for them to get a sense for how it should work. If I don’t teach the physical principle, students won’t understand the larger framework shaping the technique and the application. I need all three elements in each lecture. Accordingly, I select materials for lectures based on whether they’ll help me teach a physical principle, a technique or an application. If a particular material doesn’t help me teach one of these elements, I have a hard time justifying its inclusion in the lecture and usually leave it out.
In planning for lectures, I also consider how to get from one element to the next. For example, I think about the minimum amount of information I need to share with students to help them move from technique to application. If information is extraneous to this purpose, I look at it skeptically. I think about lecture material in terms of what is essential, and what is bonus material.