red Supported Site Arizona State University: Early Teaching Experience


  • The newly implemented Learning Assistant (LA) program provides one of the key early teaching experiences for those interested in physics teaching.
    • Four physics undergraduates participated in the LA program in fall 2012 and thirteen participated in spring 2013.
    • LAs were key members of the team that reformed two large lecture PHY 121 (Mechanics) courses in spring 2013 (see Course Reform).
  • Undergraduates from SPS and the LA program cooperated with PIRT (the ASU Physics Instructional Resource Team) at several local outreach opportunities.
    • Provided demos at the college Night of the Open Door and the physics department Red Carpet Day.
    • Participated as judges and coaches at several science fairs in K-12 schools throughout the school year.
  • Undergraduates enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Education (BAE) program in physics education must participate in two internships and a final semester of student teaching in local high schools.
  • Starting in fall 2013, students enrolled in PHY 118 Explorations in Science Teaching (see Course Reform) will visit local K-12 schools four times throughout the semester to explore their interest in a future as a physical science teacher.


  • The biggest challenges in initiating the LA program came from the logistical details involved. Undergraduate STEM majors have very busy schedules, and many conflicts arose in coordinating these with their need to attend lecture and recitation sections.
  • LAs were interested in implementing reform teaching techniques in their recitations and lab sections, but were often limited by time constraints, the large amount of topics covered, and the attitude of the cooperating professor.
  • Although the TIR was often successful in arranging supportive mentor teachers (versed in Physics Education Research) for interns and student teachers, the process of getting placements with local districts and the Teacher's College is rampant with red tape.
  • We will need to expand and foster relationships with local schools in order to provide placements for future teachers enrolled in PHY 118 and the new BS program, paying attention to logistical details such as flexible scheduling for busy undergraduates and public transportation availability.


  • PHY 118 Explorations in Science Teaching (see Course Reform) has been approved by the Physics Department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and will be offered starting in fall 2013.
  • The Physics Department has officially hired a former leader of the Berkeley Compass program, approximately half of whose time will be dedicated to implementing a program similar to Compass at ASU.
  • We work with the May Lou Fulton Teachers College to provide placements for future physical science teachers in classrooms and districts which embrace PER and reform teaching.
  • PHY 480 Methods of Teaching Physics continues to be offered every summer, and is based upon Modeling Instruction. It is consistently led and populated by local HS physics teachers, and is a fundamental course in the undergraduate physics education programs as well as the Master of Natural Science (MNS) program targeted towards practicing K-12 physical science teachers.

Lessons Learned

  • Top students have been consistently positive about their early teaching experiences, and have expressed their appreciation of education as an academic pursuit even if they do not intend, yet, to pursue it as a career.
  • Close supervision and mentoring during these early teaching experiences is important. This prevents participants from getting frustrated by any difficulties they meet and gives help to reflect upon their experiences to improve their teaching practice.
  • Fostering interaction between and among LAs, interns, and student teachers helps them connect with and establish a peer group of like-minded individuals. This should be formalized and built into the program.


  • Four undergraduates Learning Assistants aided in lab or recitation courses during fall 2012. These LAs attended the TA training before the start of the semester to prepare them for their duties, and were mentored by the TIR throughout the semester.
  • TIR helped coordinate internship and student teaching placements of pre-service science teachers. Local contacts were used to successfully adjust two placements so that they occurred in a classroom implementing reform teaching.
  • The LA pedagogy course Seminar on Teaching and Learning Physics was offered in fall 2013 and attended by 12 students seriously interested in pursuing teaching.
  • Thirteen undergraduate student workers were Learning Assistants in lecture and recitation courses during spring 2013.
  • Spring 2013 LAs attended two sections PHY 121 of lecture twice a week, circulating and assisting during the challenging "group work" sessions. LAs also covered 14 sections of recitation (meeting 1 hour a week each) associated with these PHY 121 courses. Learning Assistants were responsible for much of the instruction and grading involved with the recitation sessions.
  • All LAs and TAs assigned to these reformed PHY 121 courses attended a weekly planning meeting for recitation and lecture.