red Supported Site Virginia Tech: Early Teaching Experience


  • We successfully developed and implemented the Enhanced Physics Outreach course. Students have responded enthusiastically to the experience of working with high school teachers on physics outreach lesson plans.
  • We successfully integrated two PhysTEC students into the EDCI/ME 4455 Engineering Leadership and Management course (Robotics Program) which provided these two students with much experience working with high school students on the design and competition of a robot. The PhysTEC students were very enthusiastic about their experience in this program. Their parents were also pleased to see how much the PhysTEC students got out of this program.
  • We established a new course, PHYS 2404 Physics Outreach, an outgrowth of the long standing independent study course in our outreach program.
  • We initiated the Physics Learning Assistant (LA) program in the second year of the program, with 11 LAs in the Fall 2012 semester and 4 continuing LAs in Spring 2013.


  • Convincing parents that teaching can be a rewarding and successful career for their children is a challenge in recruitment.
  • Obtaining enough experiences for what we expect to be an increasing number of PhysTEC students is a challenge.
  • It is challenging to get physics faculty to provide stimulating participatory experiences for LAs.
  • Getting physics faculty in upper-division courses to consider using LAs is a challenge.
  • It is a challenge to provide substantial LA experiences in lab courses.
  • Students are overburdened with many courses already, so participating in Enhanced Outreach and PHYS 2404 Physics Outreach can be difficult.


  • Institutionalizing courses that focus on early teaching experiences can sustain this effort. We plan to establish Enhanced Outreach as course in the catalog, just like PHYS 2404.

Lessons Learned

  • Meaningful early teaching experiences incorporating large creative components (e.g., Robotics program) are very good.
  • Early teaching experiences that provide an outcome that parents of PhysTEC students can experience (e.g., a regional competition in the Robotics Program), help to gain parental support for the student in their goal of becoming a teacher.
  • Outreach can be very important in recruiting PhysTEC students.


  • In the Robotics Program course, PhysTEC undergraduates mentor and interact with local HS students in preparation for regional and national competitions.
  • Physics majors on enhanced outreach visits to local schools interact with teachers and students, teaching physics through demonstrations and other means.
  • First year physics majors within the Seminar for Physics Majors course partake in "Teacher-student" activities, where students model teaching activities in working on solving problems.
  • We discuss teaching as a way to actually learn the physics, within the Seminar for Physics Majors course, emphasizing teaching as a part of doing physics.
  • We discuss the Learning Assistant Program within the Seminar for Physics Majors course as a means for motivating students toward thinking about teaching.