Supported Site University of Arkansas: Teacher-In-Residence

Successes

  • The 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.
  • The TIRs recruited two future teachers from among our graduate students and mentored many of our other future teachers in the course as part of our Learning Assistant program.
  • TIRs have enhanced the department’s image with local school districts not yet deeply involved in PhysTEC activities. For instance, a TIR presented an electric charge lesson in a local school district’s annual career exploration day, letting the students explore science (and getting an enthusiastic invitation to return in following years!), A TIR worked with another district’s high school physics teachers (including a new PhysTEC teacher) on an ultimately successful Toyota Tapestry grant application for an outdoor physics activity area that will benefit the community as well as the schools.
  • The strongest mentoring bonds were those built between preservice teachers and a TIR. We hope to maintain some of this effectiveness through having preservice teachers actively engaged in our teacher alliance so that these early bonds can be formed. New teachers in the classroom seem to have too little time to build new bonds, but find it much easier to turn to someone with whom they already have a trusting relationship.
  • Our TIRs enhanced TA preparation through their involvement with weekly TA meetings in PhysTEC classes (the particular PhysTEC class in each case was chosen to match the interest of the TIR) and in the process helped our TAs do a better job.

Challenges

  • A TIR can be helpful almost everywhere. It can be hard to find the right focus.
  • It is hard for a TIR to successfully mentor many new teachers in the first year back in the classroom. As new teachers spread out, it becomes hard to meet face to face, and alternative mentoring techniques, such as mentoring by e-mail, become prominent.

Sustainability/Institutional Buy-In

  • The College of Education and Health Professions has hired a full-time science-specialist TIR to work with the elementary education majors.
  • TIRs can be brought in through full-time instructor positions. A significant part of their time is spent in traditional TIR roles, while fulfilling related instructional duties. (An example is teaching methods classes for preservice teachers, building mentoring bonds, and conducting classroom visits with the new teachers, continuing those bonds.)
  • TIRs can carry out valuable tasks as part time adjuncts, paid through the existing budget lines, while still classroom teachers. While these lines do not directly support mentoring, careful choice of assignment puts the TIR in a position to develop mentoring relationships.

Lessons Learned

  • For ongoing mentoring needs, a local alliance of physics teachers looks like it may be the best alternative.
  • To hire the TIR, first recognize that every school district is different. Carefully research the district with the teachers before approaching the administration. Sometimes it is the principal who needs to make the decision, perhaps in consultation with a curriculum coordinator, sometimes the superintendent, and if you approach the wrong party first, even if that office is highly supportive, the other may make things difficult. Reevaluate the situation after a major personnel change.

List of TIRs over the Project

  • 2006-2007—Tracy Bond: She taught physics for three years at Lutheran High School, Little Rock, AR. She was secretary of the Arkansas Science Teachers Association her first year as a new teacher. She received a master's degree in physics teaching in 2003.
  • 2004-2006—Donna Owen: she taught in grades 2-6 for 24 years. She received a master's degree in elementary education and represented AIMS (Activities Integrating Math and Science) as a 15-year instructor traveling throughout the U.S. presenting hands-on, inquiry based science. She integrates math and science within all subject areas.
  • 2003-2004—David Allen Young: He taught in Fayetteville Public Schools at East Campus High, Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences, Springdale High School, Oakdale Junior High School, Rogers, and the Arkansas Governor's School. He received a master's degree in physics from the University of Mississippi in 1983.
  • 2001-2002 (part time) and 2002-2003—Marc G. Reif: He taught physics at Fayetteville High School, was Museum Educator at Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, and also was a Middle level and Junior High Science Teacher. He received a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in 1989, with an emphasis in biology, from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

One of the primary goals of the PhysTEC project is to restructure university science classes so that all classes, and especially those classes taken by future teachers, are a good model of interactive inquiry-based learning. To be useful to future teachers, this good model must incorporate expertise of working teachers, who have a wealth of practical experience in the education of students of differing backgrounds and ages and in school systems with different resource levels.

Finding and Hiring a TIR:

  • Every TIR was different. One particularly successful method was for the TIR to remain on the school district's payroll as if he or she were still teaching in the district, and the replacement teacher to be considered a University employee. This was most successful when the substitute was one of our MA students in physics teaching.
  • There are many tasks for which a TIR can be extremely helpful. It is very beneficial to the project to find what task is most needed and match the potential TIR’s interests and comfort to the needed task.
  • Each TIR is chosen considering his or her desire to become a mentor to other teachers in the area, and across the state.
  • Most of our TIRs were high school physics teachers, but one TIR was a practicing elementary school teacher, which added substantially to the project. Her effectiveness in engaging the future elementary teachers inspired the education faculty preparing them to greatly increase their interaction with the physics faculty.

Typical TIR activities with time/week for each (10-12 hours per week)

Induction/Mentoring

  • Weekly meetings between PPI and TIR to discuss progress and projects
  • Attending TA meetings for entry-level calculus-based course
  • Mentoring current university students who aim to become high school teachers
  • Discussions with new PhysTEC teachers in the schools (voice or email)
  • Helping review future PhysTEC teacher lesson plans

Outreach Activities-these were not regularly scheduled so the amount of time in each task varied from week to week. (5-10 per hours/week)

  • Work with area teachers in the schools
  • Answering questions and facilitating communications with new physical science teachers in the state and the TAG.
  • Work with outreach activities on the UArk campus/planning future recruiting activities
  • Newsletter to get information to teachers around the state about the programs

Sustainability-building activities (5 hours per week):

  • Laying groundwork for forming the Northwest Arkansas Physics Teachers Association.
  • Laying groundwork for forming a local Student Chapter of NSTA

Other MOU-related Activities (5-10 hours per week)

  • Helping to make materials given to future teachers more useful for high school classrooms/resources.
  • Preparing for and presenting to student groups interested in teaching.
  • Surveys/journaling/etc.

Activities not weekly (average about 10 hours a month):

  • Observing current teachers from PhysTEC program and using RTOP to score them (20 hours training RTOP, 10 hours observing, 10 hours prep and follow-up time)
  • TIR orientation at AAPT (~25 hours over 3 days)
  • Beginning of the semester meetings between PPI and TIR to get started (5 hours fall, 3 hours spring, 15 hours summer)