Supported Site Arizona State University: Induction & Mentoring

Successes

  • We obtained a database of potential Phoenix area mentor teachers in both physics and chemistry through cooperation with the local Modeling Instruction network and the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher's College.
  • We obtained and updated a list of both undergraduate and graduate students who are in a physics or chemistry teacher preparation program.
  • In year one, five pre-service teachers were contacted and mentored by TIR throughout the year during their internships and/or student teaching experiences. In year two, 2 pre-service teachers were mentored by TIR throughout the year.
  • LAs were mentored at least once per week by the TIR throughout the fall and spring semesters.
  • LA Pedagogy Course (PHY 494/598), offered in fall 2012, became an opportunity to recruit and provide guidance for 12 students, 9 of whom became LAs in the semester following the course, and 4 of whom now have firm plans to pursue teacher certification.
  • Two previous LAs applied and were accepted into the TEAMS program in spring 2014. The TEAMS program is a collaboration between ASU and Mesa Unified School District that allows students to obtain a Master's degree in conjunction with their Arizona State Teaching Certification. TIR will continue contact with them as they pursue certification.

Challenges

  • Although it was easy to mentor interns and student teachers when they were available on campus, it was difficult to arrange visits to them in their K-12 classrooms.
  • As pre-service teachers enter their first year of teaching, it is difficult to arrange times to visit their classrooms as they are still getting used to their new position.
  • LAs, interns, and student teachers were not always free to implement the reform teaching practices they learned about in the pedagogy course, due to both curricular and time constraints, which was sometimes a source of frustration.

Sustainability

  • The physics department has committed to sustaining the TIR position at ASU, providing a mechanism for continued mentoring of student teachers.
  • The Master of Natural Science (MNS) program in the physics department, as well as the associated Modeling Workshops that run consistently each summer, provide an already-institutionalized tool for identifying future teachers and potential mentors.
  • The approval and success of PHY 118 Explorations in Science Teaching (see Course Reform) has set a precedent for identifying mentees and connecting them with local master teachers.

Lessons Learned

  • Quality mentoring is critical to support future teachers as they prepare for a demanding but rewarding career. These mentor/mentee interactions correlate directly in how many individuals choose to pursue an LA position and/or teaching.
  • Mentoring should not necessarily be considered a one-on-one activity. A great deal can be gained by referring mentees to additional faculty members, graduate teaching assistants, and providing opportunities for mentees to meet with each other.
  • Mentoring does not necessarily require a formally scheduled meeting. Mentors should take advantage of chance meetings and maintain a high visibility in student services or tutoring centers; informal conversations are often more informative than scheduled meetings.
  • The TIR has proved to provide a helpful voice of experience to future teachers, and has helped students prepare for jobs as future physics educators.

Activities

  • In fall 2012, TIR and LAs attended the training of the new physics graduate TAs prior to the fall semester to get an idea of their duties and how to integrate PhysTEC LAs with the existing TA program.
  • PHY 494/598 Seminar in Teaching and Learning Physics, originally intended solely as an LA pedagogy class, was made available for both undergraduate and graduate credit in order to meet the needs of a wider variety of students. The course was offered in session B of fall 2012.
  • Relationships with the ASU Physics and Modeling Instruction group and the Teacher's College were established to compile a database of local mentor teachers, as well as a list of both undergraduate and graduate students in a physics or chemistry teacher preparation program.
  • Students in the LA pedagogy course attended the SCALE UP (Student Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs) colloquium and wrote a reflection about the ideas presented.
  • Pre-service teachers in other science content areas (specifically chemistry) heard about the PhysTEC team via word of mouth, and came to TIR to arrange more valuable interning experiences for them during their teacher preparation program.
  • In year one, TIR used local contacts to successfully adjust two pre-service teacher placements so that they occurred in a classroom implementing reform teaching.
  • Representatives from the Berkeley Compass program provided a colloquium at ASU. These representatives met and exchanged contact information with LAs and one graduate TA. One of these representatives was subsequently hired to start a program similar to Compass in the ASU physics department.
  • The year one PhysTEC site visit prompted additional communication with pre-service teachers out in the field doing K-12 internships or student teaching. These individuals were especially inquisitive about teaching positions in the local districts, and were put in contact with local schools by the TIR.
  • A new PhD and former GAANN fellow mentored throughout the school year by the TIR chose to pursue a position as a high school teacher, and was subsequently hired by a local public charter for the 2013-2014 school year.
  • As the two TEAMS students begin their paths towards certification in fall 2014, TIR will continue to mentor them and provide guidance when needed.