Supported Site University of Arkansas: Goals & Outcomes

Goal

The Goal of the PhysTEC grant is to increase the number of highly qualified teachers of physics, K-12. Since there was only one fully-qualified physics teacher licensed in Arkansas in the 10 years before PhysTEC, more was the first goal. Once numbers began to climb, the primary effort shifted to improving and evaluating the qualifications of our graduates.

University of Arkansas’ philosophy has been that you never know who is going to be a future teacher, so you should treat all students as if they might be, modeling good pedagogy in introductory physics classes. This has the beautiful side effect that if all students experience an intro class taught the way we would like future teachers to teach, you end up with more MAJORS! Further, the new teachers you have sent out start sending you new, well-prepared, prospective majors.

Selected Outcomes

  • We present the educational career path as a possible career choice to technical students at all levels, through presentations in class in the PhysTEC classes every semester.
  • Undergraduate teaching experiences--as Learning Assistants--in the reformed introductory physics courses are a good first experience, providing a chance to teach the content in a pedagogically sound fashion with a very stout safety net.
  • Every year, at least a few students who hadn’t previously thought of teaching decide that it is what they want to do, because they like the interactive engagement in their physics classes.
  • The Teachers-in-Residence (TIRs) have built strong mentoring relationships with some of the new teachers. The RTOP instrument (for assessing active engagement) proved to be a useful point of discussion for mentoring, and significant gains were seen.
  • In the physics courses taken by most preservice physics teachers, there is good evidence of strong student learning.
  • Strong mentoring of possible future teachers through their early teaching experiences, such as a Learning Assistant or TA position, can enhance their desire to teach, as well as their comfort level and effectiveness.