red Supported Site Western Michigan University: Goals & Outcomes

Goals

The Department’s goals within the PhysTEC project were to

  • Increase the quality of physics content knowledge among students completing the introductory courses.
  • Increase the number of secondary education physics majors and minors.
  • Prepare these future teachers to conduct their classes using active engagement strategies.

Development of a vibrant local community of physics educators was an important product of our work not contemplated at the time the project was initiated.

Western Michigan University is a large, predominantly undergraduate institution with a large college of education. Half of the 80-90 upper classmen physics majors are Secondary Education majors. The state of Michigan’s financial difficulties has made it difficult for our physics education majors to obtain teaching positions in the state.

Selected Project Outcomes

  • While WMU has consistently had high numbers of physics majors and minors. Over the course of the project the number of physics teachers produced per year has gradually increased to a high of 14 in 2006, including 4 females.
  • 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.
  • Improved student performance on nationally standardized tests of conceptual understanding in the introductory calculus-based courses by a factor of THREE compared to student gain in unreformed courses.
  • Developed a Learning Assistant program that has proven successful with instructors and upper-level secondary education students.
  • Built a community of physics teachers composed of preservice teachers, novice teachers, and experienced local teachers of physics. This community served as a support system for our graduates and other novice teachers as well as out-of-field teachers of physics.