Supported Site University of Minnesota: Recruitment

Successes

  • We had 89 students apply to fill the 30 Learning assistant positions for the spring of 2011 and fall of 2011. Many of the applicants commented that they applied because of the positive experience they had working with LAs in their first physics course. The LA program is our main teacher recruitment program.
  • Faculty members in the School of Physics and Astronomy (SPA) are knowledgeable about the program and have referred several students interested in teaching to apply for the LA positions.
  • The TIR has had several meetings with a group of undergraduates who are considering a career teaching physics.
  • Juniors and seniors working towards physics degrees were contacted and encouraged to look at teaching.
  • Six of the LAs from the fourth year will be working as undergrad TAs in SPA next year, including going through the required week-long TA orientation.
  • The TIR worked closely with four undergraduates who have commited to a teaching career as well as three who are strongly considering a teaching career.
  • The PI worked with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and the Head of the Undergraduate Education Committee to update and improve the description of the Physics for Education emphasis. This now is up on the SPA website and the University catalog.

Challenges

  • Continuing to increase the number of physics majors with a teaching emphasis remains the number one challenge after our fourth year in the PhysTEC program.
  • It is one of our goals to increase the diversity of future physics teachers. This will not be possible without significant financial support including funding for LAs and scholarships.
  • Continuity of recruitment and having a "contact person" (TIR) is critical to this effort and needs to be maintained.
  • Funding for continued support for LAs needs to be obtained.
  • Developing and getting approval for a revised 'Physics for Teaching' curriculum is a challenge.

Sustainability/Institutional Buy-In

  • The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) is considered an integral part of the SPA program for students with teaching emphasis majors and of initial teacher preparation efforts on our campus.
  • College of Science and Engineering (CSE) and CEHD matching funds supported the LAs this year. The CSE Dean and Associate Dean for Students are both interested in the potential for LAs to improve retention of CSE lower division students.  

 

Lessons Learned

  • Recruitment of students into a major of physics with a teaching emphasis is a process that will require several years. It is our intention to track former LAs and record their career choices.
  • The connection with the DirecTrack program at the U of M has been critical. It allows our Learning Assistants to commit to education during or immediately after their LA experience.
  • Juniors and senior physics majors are good sources for recruitment.
  • The printed and online materials that define the courses necessary to prepare a student for the UMN licensure program need to be updated. Current requirements and course numbers need to be clear to those that are considering a career teaching physics.

Activity Summary

  • The PI met with the new Director of Undergraduate Studies and the new Chair of the Undergraduate Education Committee to update and improve information available on the School of Physics and Astronomy website. The TIR and the PI also met with representatives of the science/math licensure program to insure that these changes were appropriate.
  • In the first three semesters utilizing LAs (Spring 2008-Spring 2009), we hired and placed 40 LAs into introductory physics courses. In the third year we placed 35 LAs in two semesters (Fall, 2009 and Spring, 2010). In the fourth year we placed 30 LAs in two semesters (Fall, 2010 and Spring 2011).
  • One returning LA was a TA for the Physics for Elementary Education course.
  • Beginning in Fall, 2009, the LAs were placed in Physics 1301 (calculus-based) and 1302 (calculus-based) instead of Physics 1101 (algebra-based).
  • Twelve LAs (one returning from Spring 11 semester) have been hired to work with Physics 1301 course in Fall 2011.
  • The Learning Assistant program and PhysTEC were featured in our fall Physics Open House.
  • Periodic Informal discussions with the group of students that have indicated an interest in teaching physics are held.