Supported Site Seattle Pacific University: Early Teaching Experience

Successes

  • All students in our LA pedagogy course visited a K-12 science classroom and carefully observed the learning environment.
  • The majority of the students in the Science Methods courses were able to teach at least one science lesson during their Methods quarter.
  • In addition to ongoing modification to our LA program, we have instituted a series of weekly readings and reflections for our LA’s. The LA’s respond to these prompts online and the prompts are written to provide LA’s with opportunities to actively reflect on their teaching experiences.
  • For the first time in 2008 we had students in the introductory physics courses fill out an online nomination form for an AAPT outstanding LA award. Eleanor Close wrote personal e-mails to our five outstanding LA’s with quotes from students praising the effectiveness of each nominee.
  • Hunter Close has taken the lead in fully integrating a rigorous pedagogy course within our Learning Assistant program. Activities in the pedagogy course revolve around a central interview project in which LAs are challenged to conduct a typical “physics interview” with another student who has not taken physics. The interview project spans three quarters; as the quarter progress, LAs will gradually gain more control of the content of the interview.

Challenges

  • In classroom observation, we did not want teachers to feel that the LAs were critically analyzing and judging their teaching.
  • Some cooperating teachers do not model science instruction that is consistent with inquiry.
  • Most SPU students have had little exposure to issues of racial achievement gaps and do not recognize the degree of privilege they have experienced.

Sustainability Physics Department Buy-In

  • All physics faculty teach courses which are served by LA’s.
  • Tenure track faculty share an understanding that the LA program is essential both for the impact of LA’s on the students they serve and for learning which stems from the LA experience.

Lesson Learned

  • It is critical that students focus their observations on the learning environment in a classroom rather than attempting to evaluate the instruction.
  • If there is an expectation that the preservice teachers will present a science lesson during their methods work, most are able to do it.

Activity Summary

  • The Department offered PHY 3010 "Contemporary Issues in Physical Science Education." The course is adapted from the nationally recognized CU-Boulder LA course. An additional strand is infused: understanding of science education inequity. The Director of the SPU John Perkins Center for Racial Reconciliation and a Resource Teacher from WA State MESA engaged the students on the local and national efforts to decrease the achievement gap in science. In addition to readings and seminar discussions, students were required to visit a precollege classroom and present their observations to our class.
  • Students in the LA pedagogy course were required to do a scheduled observation of a K-12 physics or physical science class. The student used a portion of the RTOP which focuses on the classroom learning environment rather than the explicit actions of the teacher.
  • The majority of the students in the Science Methods courses were able to teach at least one science lesson during their methods course. Several of them were asked by their mentor teachers to teach the entire science unit. The methods students used science notebooks as a part of their teaching and were required to analyze student work in science notebooks in terms of formative assessment.