Supported Site University of Minnesota: Goals & Outcomes

Goal

The goal of the PhysTEC project at the University of Minnesota is to increase the number and improve the quality of physics and physical science teachers produced in the School of Physics and Astronomy and the College of Education and Human Development. This unique program at UMn has completed its first four years spanning 2007 - 2011. Undergraduate Learning Assistants (LAs) are used to transform introductory physics courses and provide students with an early teaching experience. The PhysTEC grant and University matches fund a Teacher-in-Residence, LAs and provides resources for reform of introductory physics courses.

Selected Outcomes

  • Over the course of the first three years we have hired approximately 120 Learning Assistants (LAs). LAs responded positively to their experience teaching in the introductory course. Many of the LAs credit their experience as LAs for getting them interested in teaching as a career. Several switched to a Physics major from other (biology-related) majors.
  • This year two former LAs will finish the licensure program and apply for their licenses. Two former LAs will begin the UM licensure program in Summer 2011.
  • One former LA is beginning a licensure program in math in his home state.
  • Two LAs moved on to become undergraduate teaching assistants in the introductory classes, performing the same role as graduate teaching assistants in the academic year 2010-11. Six former LAs will go through the training in August, 2011 to be teaching assistants for AY 2011-12.
  • LAs and instructors in the program perceive the Teachers-in-Residence as a valuable part of the program, as they have current expertise about the classroom.
  • Preliminary analysis of FCI and CLASS results show clear, positive differences between the sections with LAs and those without LAs. These results will be used to look for funding for continued use of the LAs in the large lecture classes.
  • Strong connections have been forged between the new DirecTrack to Teaching program in the College of Education and Human Development and the PhysTEC program. This facilitates entry of future physics teachers into the licensure program, allowing them to use their LA hours as part of the 100 hours of educational experiences required for admission to the program.
  • The Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy supports the continued use of the TIR to teach one section of the Physics for Elementary Education. This will allow us to maintain a level of 'PhysTEC' activites even without additional funding.