red Supported Site Chicago State University: Early Teaching Experience


  • The Teacher Immersion Institute allows prospective high school teachers to have an early, focused experience in the high school classroom. Each PhysTEC fellow engaged in a semester-long action research project on various physics topics and implemented their lessons in Southside Chicago Schools. Three students completed the course in spring 2011, and four students completed the course in the 2012 semester. In 2013 we had a combined group of PhysTEC Fellows and Noyce Scholars in the course. Five students completed the Teaching Immersion Course in 2013. In 2014 we had six students, four of whom were PhysTEC Fellows.
  • In 2011 and 2012 PhysTEC Fellows were involved as Learning Assistants in the Physics and Everyday Thinking (PET) Course and the Physics I course during the Spring 2012 semester. In 2013 one PhysTEC Fellow was an LA in the algebra-based physics course. In 2014, four students were involved as LAs. Three students were in the introductory physics course and one student was in the PET course.
  • Teachers participating in the TII continue to be co-instructors in the course and are interested in participating in the future. Both teachers have become quite invested in the program, have been co-authors on the Physics Teacher Paper, and have given a talk at the Chicago Section of the AAPT meeting. They also presented a poster and co-led a workshop at the March 2013 PhysTEC Meeting. One teacher gave an invited AAPT talk on the course at the Winter 2014 AAPT Meeting.
  • PhysTEC Fellows recognized the challenges of the teaching career, and were excited about the course and the activities in the course. In 2013, three Noyce Scholars participated in the TII Course. This was useful as we had prospective teachers and students who had committed to the teaching profession co-enroll in the course. In 2014 we had three students who had committed to pursuing licensure with a focus on Physics Education. One of those students was a Noyce Scholar.
  • Changes made to the TII, which included a mock lesson and an early observation of the HS class, were well received by the students and seemed to help our students with their comfort level. Additional modeling of inquiry-based lessons also played a role in improving the course.
  • Students in the TII course had a number of positive comments about the course and explicitly described the differences between the TII and other COE classes. One student stated the following during one of our last classes:
    "Well, I'll just say to you the same thing I said at the beginning of the semester. None of the College of Ed. classes did anything like this. Like ok I'm taking Principles and Practice of Secondary Ed. now...well with methods you know we were asked to develop ... a ten day unit ... but we weren't shown how to develop a lesson from start to finish step by step. We just had to come up with our idea, develop a lesson plan, but we weren't really getting to the meat of what you're actually gonna be doing. ... I know we took like one semester to do one lesson, but we didn't do that once at all in any of those classes. They just give us a template and say - follow the template.... I think that the College of Ed. may need [to] come over here and take a, you know, page out of your guys books on how to - ... I mean, yeah, I can follow the template and say Ok these are the learning standards, but in terms of objectives, before - I was just focused on matching standard or goal 11, 12, and 13 to what I was doing. But then when I saw one of Ms. Passehl's handouts, you don't have to encompass everything within the goal - you can just pick one little small piece and if that's your objective for that day - it might be not a very hard concept. But, you could break it up into bits - you don't have to swallow so much and I think ... I wasn't really getting that clarification over there ... I learned to develop my objectives and it doesn't have to be cookie cutter straight from those standards. You kinda come up with your own objective based on what you want the students to learn and walk away with. So, I think that was really valuable for me."
  • Students in the 2014 TII course developed and presented a poster at the 2014 PhysTEC Conference on their reflections of the immersion course.


  • Our PhysTEC Fellows struggled to develop curriculum for the HS classroom. They may need more guidance in this activity. Changes made in 2013 and 2014 that included more modeling of lessons aided in the activity development.
  • Finding time in the schedule for meetings and Learning Assistantship assignments is a struggle with CSU students due to so many outside commitments.
  • Students involved in the TII high school teaching experience were nervous about the experience. This continues to be a very challenging experience.
  • The Learning Assistant experience for our PhysTEC Fellows was largely dependent on the instructor, so while some Fellows had very positive experiences, others struggled. We need to formalize more of the LA components and make sure mentors understand the objectives of the LA assignment.


  • CSU faculty in the Chemistry and Physics Department have a tradition of providing support to Teaching and Learning Assistants. This support has come from the Department as well as external grants. We expect that this effort will continue to be valued and supported. In 2014 part of the University monetary commitment was used to fund the CSU Physics LAs.
  • The experience working with the two Chicago area teachers was an effective way to excite students and help them recognize the challenge of developing and implementing a HS physics activity. The course is relatively inexpensive and we believe that we can pursue support to continue to hire the teachers as consultants to be involved in this effort.
  • Through the CSU Noyce Program, each semester we invite a class of elementary/middle school students to visit CSU and engage in a lesson designed by CSU Noyce Scholars. Pre-service Teachers are very excited about this activity and we plan to continue to offer this effort as part of our outreach efforts even when outside funding is not available.
  • CSU hosted one of the Regional LA Workshops in 2014 and a number of CSU faculty and students in STEM, our Associate Dean, staff from the CSU Learning Assistant Center, and the Provost attended portions of the meeting. We anticipate that this workshop will foster expansion of the CSU LA Program beyond Physics.

Lessons Learned

  • In the Spring 2013 semester we met every week for the TII rather than every other week. This was a significant improvement to the course and allowed us to provide more frequent feedback to the students.
  • Each spring we invite a group of middle school students as part of the Noyce Scholar Program. We would like to invite our PhysTEC Fellows to observe and help with this effort to give them additional exposure to early teaching.
  • More of an effort needs to be made to work with faculty members in the courses which use Learning Assistants so that the faculty have a deep understanding of the pedagogical models used in the courses and model best practices for our PhysTEC Fellows.


  • The course was run for the fourth time in Spring 2014. Two in-service high school teachers, Jennifer Passehl (Gary Comer College Prep) and Kara Wiesenberger (Chicago HS for the Arts), taught the course and worked with our prospective high school physics teachers. Both teachers teach on the Southside of Chicago in the communities from which our students typically come.
  • Sixteen PhysTEC Fellows completed the TII course during the three years of the project.
  • PhysTEC Fellows were hired as Learning Assistants in the Physics and Everyday Thinking PET courses and the Physics I course.