red Supported Site University of Arkansas: Recruitment

Successes

  • We present the educational career path as a possible career choice to technical students at all levels, through presentations in class in the PhysTEC classes every semester. In 2007 we added a free pizza dinner event. Every year, at least a few students who hadn’t previously thought of teaching decide that it is what they want to do, because they like the interactive engagement in their physics classes.
    Student quote: “The thing I enjoyed most about college was University Physics II, working with my classmates and seeing them ‘get it’. If I can, I want to do that!”
  • In 2007, our teacher-in-residence gave a presentation to our Society of Physics Students about being a high school teacher. The presentation was well-attended, and we gained two new teacher prospects immediately, plus, other students are now seriously considering careers as teachers. See the TIR presentation on teaching. A similar event, with a presentation by an area teacher, will become an annual event, including a pizza dinner supplied by the department.
  • At UArk, the physics department strives to better prepare our graduate students to be faculty. Graduate students assisting in PhysTEC reformed courses have gone on to take faculty positions at institutions where working with future teachers is a priority. Two decided physics research was really not what they want to do and found teaching so rewarding they wanted to teach high school.

Challenges

  • The recruitment events sponsored by the College of Education and Health professions tend to be underattended by physical science majors. The physics majors who do attend already know they want to be teachers, and are just going to get details on the traditional licensure route.
  • Salary inequities and family pressures tend to steer some students away, even when they want to teach.
    Student quote: “I just got married. When my wife saw that I could make $20,000 more a year in a technical postion, she said I had to, at least until we paid for a house. Teaching is still my dream job. I will end up teaching, eventually.”

Sustainability/Institutional Buy-In

  • The UA agreed to allow the faculty of the PhysTEC project to author the UA Noyce proposal (fellowships for preservice students). Only one such proposal is allowed per campus.
  • The graduate dean and the physics department agreed to share the cost of two Master of Arts in Teaching positions. The normal teaching load of one physics graduate student will be divided between two MAT students, since the MAT is a much heavier course load than a traditional graduate degree. The physics department is giving up one physics graduate student position, and the graduate dean is supporting the full tuition of both MAT students, more than twice the tuition of one normal TA.
  • The department will continue to support the now-annual SPS meeting where a local teacher makes a presentation about a career in teaching.

Lessons Learned

  • The “teaching pitch” works better when the instructors of the introductory courses are perceived by the students to seriously care about students and teaching. Less involved faculty are less effective in recruiting teachers (even if the student learning outcomes for the course are good).

Activity Summary

  • We insure that faculty members who believe teaching is important and exciting are highly visible in introductory physics classes and labs to make teaching an attractive career and to help students feel comfortable approaching them to ask questions.  Put good people in the general introductory courses. Gay Stewart served as vice chair for four years, and is now serving as adviser to the vice chair, to make or influence the teaching assignments.
  • Faculty members in the intro physics courses need to speak about physics teaching as a profession and give students a contact for someone in the department about the requirements of the program. 
  • We keep up-to-date with recent graduates and undergrad students who are enrolled in the teacher prep program or who have expressed an interest in the program. This is a lot more time-consuming and difficult than it sounds! However, they become examples for future possible recruits, as well as a source of future majors. Our new teachers encourage their students to consider physics at Arkansas, particularly if the student is someone who may be recruited into teaching.
  • We include high-quality professional development activities for teachers in any funded programs, and, whenever possible, we mix pre-service teachers into the activities. This costs very little and you get a huge benefit from the teachers and future teachers interacting. RET supplements to grants bring teachers in to do research, but they often enjoy a workshop on teaching an area of physics, and again, it is very cheap to add the preservice teachers into the workshop.
  • We have TA positions in the summer, and if a teacher is interested, we let the teacher TA a course, which facilitates a nice interaction with preservice teachers, while providing the teacher with covered tuition for continued professional development.
  • One of our TIRs, upon returning to his classroom, formed a chapter of the Teachers of Tomorrow. This is a group that promotes the profession of teaching and is designed to encourage kids to consider teaching as a profession. About 20 students signed up at the club fair and the pizza party, and after that they met once a month during the academic year.