Supported Site Western Michigan University: Collaboration

Successes

  • Offering evening or weekend meetings/workshops for area teachers of physics builds community and helps local teachers feel connected to your program.
  • Offering to help with professional development in local school districts on teacher in-service days also establishes connections with school administrators along with teachers. It helps them see the university as a valuable resource for improving teaching.
  • As mentioned above, the TIRs involvement in teaching both physics classes and methods classes helps build bridges between the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education, and reinforces the concept that content and pedagogy are equally critical in the classroom.

Challenges

  • All of the above activities take considerable time to plan, publicize and implement.
  • There is no plan to train adjunct faculty in these techniques and some older faculty who occasionally teach these courses have not fully adopted them.

Sustainability/ Institutional Buy-In

  • The course improvements have been accepted by the physics faculty as yielding desirable outcomes, although not every faculty is willing to teach using them. All new faculty are being asked to teach the calculus-based introductory courses using interactive engagement techniques, and they are provided with the resources to do so. The present chairman is a strong supporter of interactive engagement in the classroom.
  • The TIR position is recognized by the interested faculty, the chair, and the administration as an important addition to our secondary education program. Lack of resources prevent us from making this position permanent at the present time, but we are hoping to secure the support of other science departments at WMU for temporary funding of either a general science TIR or a series of temporary TIR’s with rotating specialties.
  • Cooperation with the College of Education will be maintained by regular consultations between the Physics and Education faculty. College of Education faculty report their assessment of the pedagogical abilities of future physics teachers, they recommend a monetary award for outstanding first year teachers, and they update the Department of Physics on changes in standards relevant to our program. Should the TIR position receive funding, that individual will assist in teaching the methods courses for science teachers.

Lessons Learned

  • The TIR should meet regularly and often with any faculty they will be team teaching (or in the classroom) with to establish the limits and extent of their involvement.
  • Collaboration with local school districts can become very time-consuming and the TIR can easily be pulled into assisting districts with many tangential school improvement/teaching issues that do not address the goals of the PhysTEC Project.
  • For success both physics faculty and education faculty must meet together regularly.

Collaboration Activity Summary

  • Marcia Fetters of the Education College and the Mallison Center for Science Teaching has been an active member of the PhysTEC team throughout the project. Dr. Fetters has frequently participated in program and curricular initiatives and has helped keep the Department of Physics aware of changing state teaching standards and other issues affecting the early teaching experience.
  • The TIR worked to collaborate with local school systems two different ways: directly with teachers of physics and physical science, and with school administrators and curriculum directors to provide professional development assistance to science departments.
  • Through the use of the PhysTEC email list, that has been developed and continually updated, the TIR remains in contact with area teachers. Through these interactions the TIR has been able to make site visits and help run professional development workshops in area schools by being invited by these teachers.
  • To help district administrators meet the new state physics standards, Drew Isola helped a number of district administrators plan and implement professional development for district science teachers because Michigan is requiring Consequently, Isola became a valuable resource for many area districts, which increased the connections that the WMU PhysTEC Project was able to make with these districts.
  • A very important part of this project was the interaction of pre-service and in-service teachers with one another made possible by bi-monthly meetings organized by the TIR.
    • These meetings were organized around topics in physics education such as geometrical optics, Faraday’s law, etc. They often involved “make and take” activities in which the attendees constructed some piece of laboratory or demonstration equipment.
    • The meetings were very popular with the both in-service teachers and pre-service teaching majors; the average attendance was about twenty individuals, about equally divided between the two populations.
    • These meetings provided a forum in which issues such as new state standards and requirements could be discussed and the participation of practicing teachers in these discussions served as an introduction to the profession for the teaching majors. The personal and professional ties that were established at these meetings constituted the community of physics teachers we were trying to establish.