Supported Site University of Wisconsin - La Crosse: Collaboration

Successes

  • Discipline-based education faculty in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Math have successfully taken on new roles with the Secondary Teacher Education program and the School of Education to improve the experience of teacher candidates.
  • The Physics Department is very actively involved in outreach events and professional development workshops with local schools, and involves undergraduate students in these events. In April 2014 the Physics Department coordinated a three-day physics fair for 385 local sixth graders from three local middle schools which involved approximately 80 student volunteers (half of them physics majors).  

 

Challenges

  • The Physics Department receives more requests for outreach events than it can reasonably respond to (especially demonstration shows). 
  • Local schools recently instituted a new policy which requires all visitors to complete a Volunteer Criminal Background Check two weeks in advance of an outreach event.
  • There is a heavy time commitment on the part of content faculty involved in teacher education, especially to attend meetings and supervise student teachers (who can be placed anywhere within a 50-mile radius of La Crosse). The commitment has increased with Wisconsin's adoption of the edTPA teacher performance assessment as the portfolio process for student teachers beginning in 2015, since faculty must attend local and regional trainings.

Sustainability

  • Upper administration at UW-L have demonstrated a commitment to secondary teacher education. There have been several new faculty hires of education specialists within content departments (two began in 2012-2013 and five more arrived in Fall 2013).

Lessons Learned

  • Departmental faculty who are involved in School of Education activities need to carefully document their participation and time spent, so this can be reported accurately to administration (e.g. to department chair and Dean).
  • When coordinating outreach events such as physics fairs and demonstration shows, it is easier to hold them at a neutral / non-school location so that volunteers do not have to undergo the Criminal Background Check procedures required by the school district. The April 2014 physics fair was held in collaboration with Earth Day events at a local Eco-park environmental education center within walking distance of the UW-L campus.

Activities

  • Discipline-based education faculty attend School of Education meetings, attend additional training sessions, and supervise teacher candidates in the field.
  • Physics Department outreach events to local schools: laser light shows, planetarium shows, and occasional physics fair / demonstration shows.
  • The Physics Department conducts professional development for 30 local elementary and middle school teachers as part of a Math-Science-Partnerships (MSP) grant. Teachers are on campus three weekends during the academic year and two weeks each summer, which has spawned opportunities for collaboration. For example, three sixth grade teachers from the MSP project approached the Physics Department about coordinating a large physics fair and demonstration show at the local Eco-park environmental center in April 2014. There were three middle schools attending over three days, for a total of approximately 385 sixth graders engaging in hands-on physical science activities.