Texas State University
Texas State University
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The Department of Physics at Texas State University seeks a long-term relationship with PhysTEC as a comprehensive site in order to build Texas State’s status as an institution specializing in STEM education and teacher preparation and as a national model for physics teacher preparation. This project capitalizes on proven expertise in physics teacher preparation, a young and thriving Physics Learning Assistant Program, a budding relationship with the College of Education and local school districts, and a dedicated and strategic effort within the College of Science and Engineering to strengthen STEM education reform, education research, and teacher preparation. Texas State is one of the largest Hispanic Serving Institutions in the nation, is located in Central Texas amid a large Hispanic population, and prepares a larger number of teachers than any university with a physical campus. The institution has its historical roots in teacher preparation as a former normal school and has a mission of “…excellence in serving the educational needs of the diverse population of Texas…” Texas State is on the verge of a phase transition in STEM education.
Texas State can significantly increase the number of physics teacher graduates. There are currently 111 physics majors enrolled at Texas State. The Physics Learning Assistant Program currently employs about 30 LAs (including 15-20 new) per semester. The LA program includes a pedagogy course that has been raising awareness among Physics LAs of deep intellectual issues in STEM education and has so far impacted 63 LAs. Increasing enrollment in the Ingram School of Engineering has increased introductory physics enrollment by about 10% per year over the last three years. Reforms in introductory courses have increased interactivity, increased conceptual learning and retention, and built student community. These circumstances all improve the conditions under which prospective physics teachers can discover themselves and be discovered by faculty.
Texas State successfully implements many PhysTEC key components. As with other thriving comprehensive sites, Texas State boasts a team of champions in Hunter Close, Eleanor Close, and David Donnelly, all of whom are dedicated to physics education research and teacher preparation. A conceptual assessment regimen has been running for several years. The LA program functions as a national model through hosting the southwest regional LA workshop. Collaboration with the College of Education has leaped forward with several recently funded collaborative proposals, including an NSF IUSE project ($1.5M, STEM retention) and a NASA grant ($15M, educator professional development). The Texas State administration demonstrates a new level of sustained commitment to physics teacher education with the present proposal. Project activities add a teacher-in-residence, increase pedagogical content knowledge with new courses for prospective teachers, add high school field experiences for LAs, build a teacher network for community-driven induction and mentoring, and recruit from a large number of mathematics education and chemistry majors.
Texas State adds diversity to the PhysTEC national ensemble. So far, PhysTEC has not yet partnered for a comprehensive site in the state of Texas, the second most populous state. Texas State presents a distinctive combination of institutional features: a large teacher producer, an elementary education program with two required semesters of physics, an emerging research university with a College of Science and Engineering committed to retaining and enhancing its responsibility for improving STEM education, and a physics department already specializing in materials research looking to solidify a second specialty in physics education research and teacher preparation.