Dr Gareth Few

University Physicist returns to Hull to inspire students during COVID-19

A University of Hull physicist who honed his skills in the city has returned to his roots to inspire the next generation of science leaders.

Dr Gareth Few, a Lecturer in Physics at the University, previously spent four years as a Researcher in Hull, before departing for Durham University to teach.

Since returning to Hull this September as a full-time lecturer, Dr Few has inspired students with his engaging online teaching methods, and gained widespread praise from his colleagues in the Department of Physics.

Speaking about his decision to re-join Hull, Dr Few said: “I first joined Hull as a Researcher, but found as time went on that I enjoyed teaching. I felt I was getting back in touch with the subject I had loved as an undergraduate.

“I arrived back at Hull two weeks before the start of the Academic Year in September, so it was really about hitting the ground running.

“That was made a lot easier thanks to the leadership and teamwork we have in the Physics Department. Everyone has been very, very helpful and extremely welcoming. It was the reason I came back to Hull in the first place.”

Dr Few has received exceptional feedback from Physics students at Hull since re-joining the University.

Students have described Dr Few as “friendly and easy to approach,” and also praised the “relaxed atmosphere” of his lectures and teaching.

One student said: “Each week it is made very clear to us what work need to do for said week and that if we have any issues regarding it we are welcome to ask him.

“He also very regular asks us for feedback on both how we are finding the module as well as whether there is anything we think he could improve upon in regard to any aspect of our studies…

“He implements these improvements very quickly which make us feel like he genuinely cares about our learning and wants to make it the best he can.”

As a Department, the delivery of teaching has been adapted to match the University’s blended learning approach – seeing a mixture of online and face-to-face teaching.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Dr Few and his colleagues in Physics have also worked hard to maintain a sense of community within Physics and Astrophysics.

Professor Brad Gibson, Head of Physics & Astrophysics, said: “The way in which the entire Physics teaching team rose to the challenge presented by COVID-19 has been nothing less than astonishing.

“Staff have pulled in the same direction, being agile and responsive to the constraints imposed by the pandemic. We have engaged regularly with our students to ensure this approach met with their needs, and modified accordingly, where it did not - a true educational partnership.

“At the vanguard of all these developments has been our newest staff member, Gareth; his bitesize delivery, balanced approach to synchronous and asynchronous material, use of multi-media, and the truly interactive nature of his teaching, has made his modules “must-see” viewing for staff and students.”

Dr Few said one key to the Department’s success had been the decision to deliver online teaching in bitesize chunks.

“Students have told us they really appreciate the thought we have put in to our online teaching,” he said.

“Everything is in one place online, is easy to find, and online lectures are recorded in short sections. Because the sessions are between five and 20 minutes long, it means students watch one, take a break and digest it, and then move on and do something else.”

Dr Few also said he had seen student engagement in his personal office hours increase since moving to a blended learning approach.

“I run two hours a week where students can talk to me about anything involving their course, and for that entire time, I am now talking to students. That was not always the case before.

“Students like the fact it is online and more accessible for them.”

Dr Few said while the move to blended learning had not always been easy, he thought some effective new ways of teaching had arisen from the COVID-19 period.

“We have always been an incredibly close and friendly department, and we will continue to help students through this in whatever way we can.

“We can change the way we do things in a way which suits the students – there are gems, I feel, which we are uncovering during this period of challenge.

“It is a terrible time without question, but I also think we can learn from this period.”

Find out more about Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Hull here.

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