red Supported Site University of Missouri-Columbia: Early Teaching Experience

Successes

  • Nine undergraduates were hired for our new high school learning assistant program ( http://topteacher.missouri.edu/about/learning-assistants/). They assisted in local ninth grade physics classes which use the University of Missouri's A TIME for Physics First curriculum ( http://physicsfirstmo.org/).
  • The Learning Assistants (LA's) formed the core group of an expanding community of MU students interested in physics teaching.
  • The four LA's who are physics education students all agreed that the LA experience was superior to the field experiences they had previously completed for their secondary education degrees.
  • The LA's reflected positively on the experience of working with ninth grade students:
    • "After the LA program…I would totally teach a freshman class. They have quite a bit of energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity, which makes teaching them a blast." -Physics education major
    • "Best part of being an LA was connecting with students….Inspiring students was one of the best feelings in the world." -Physics and math dual major

Challenges

  • Coordinating the program involves communication with a multitude of people (MU students, Columbia Public Schools teachers and administrators, MU College of Education administrators and faculty, and PhysTEC faculty and TIR).
  • Choosing content for weekly preparation meetings with LA's is challenging, since LA's are placed with different host teachers, who were at varying points in the curriculum.

Sustainability

  • MU has committed cost-matching funds to sustain the LA program, our most effective recruiting tool, for at least 3 years post-funding.

Lessons Learned

  • We have found that the timing of the visits to upper-level courses needs to be approximately 3 weeks before the deadline for the LA applications, or students will lose motivation to apply.
  • Application deadlines need to be set for ~3 weeks before the end of the semester, to be ready to place students by the beginning of the next semester.
  • Placing posters in engineering and physics buildings has been effective at recruiting LA's.

Activities

  • The LA program began in September 2012, with all 9 LA's placed in 9th grade physics courses, ~5 hours/week (same period/group of 9 th graders each day).
  • The 9th grade physics curriculum at Columbia Public Schools was adopted from the MU "A TIME for Physics First" project (http://physicsfirstmo.org/), currently sponsored by an NSF MSP grant. The LA's were enthusiastic about learning how to teach the modeling and inquiry based curriculum, in comparison to a more traditional approach. Missouri teachers currently enrolled in the professional development courses for "A TIME for Physics First" are supportive of the training of future teachers who will be well-prepared to fill a Physics First teaching vacancy.