Supported Site University of Wisconsin - La Crosse: Early Teaching Experience

Successes

  • In 2012-2013, four students served as Learning Assistants in introductory physics courses and in 2013-2014 there were nine Learning Assistants.
  • Physics faculty teaching reformed courses were very willing to mentor Learning Assistants.
  • The science methods course was reformed to include an embedded classroom experience in local high schools. Most teacher candidates spend 100-150 hours in a local science classroom as part of this field experience.
  • Discipline-based education faculty in science and math worked with the School of Education's Office of Field Experience to place teacher candidates with appropriate cooperating teachers for this field experience.
  • The Physics Department has several opportunities for physics majors and physics education majors to become involved in outreach events to K-12 schools (laser light shows and physics fairs / demonstration shows). In April 2014 we coordinated a three-day physics fair for 385 local sixth graders that involved approximately 80 volunteers (half of them physics majors).

Challenges

  • Recruiting Learning Assistants on short notice (August 2012) proved difficult; some interested students did not leave time in their class schedule to attend introductory physics courses while others opted to receive course credit rather than payment. In Spring 2014 some Learning Assistants cancelled at the last minute and replacements had to be arranged on short notice.
  • Completing the necessary paperwork to pay Learning Assistants proved more difficult than anticipated.
  • There was no common time when all Learning Assistants could meet for a pedagogy course.

Sustainability

  • The science methods course will continue to have an embedded clinical field experience as part of the course.
  • Discussions are underway to determine additional early experiences for teacher candidates earlier in the secondary teacher education program.

Lessons Learned

  • We discovered we needed to recruit Learning Assistants a semester in advance, so that undergraduate students would leave time slots open in their schedule for their Learning Assistant responsibilities. The Learning Assistants also need to be contacted and reminded of their commitment a few weeks before the start of the semester, in case their plans have changed and replacements need to be arranged.
  • Due to increased enrollment at UW-L, competition for courses is high and students are unwilling or unable to change their class schedule after registration.
  • Faculty who teach large lecture classes were generally hesitant about having Learning Assistant(s) in their classes. This option will need to be explored further.

Activities

  • Students were recruited to serve as Learning Assistants in introductory physics courses.
  • The science methods course was reformed to include an embedded classroom experience in local high schools.
  • Science and math education faculty worked with the School of Education Office of Field Experience to identify appropriate placements for teacher candidates.
  • The Physics Department coordinated several outreach events with local K-12 schools and involved undergraduate student volunteers in those events.