Supported Site University of Central Florida: Early Teaching Experience

Successes

  • Our Learning Assistant Program expanded in both the number of LAs and the courses using LAs. We continue to have eight LAs working in our 8 studio physics courses, with additional LAs working in the combined recitation/lecture "mini-studios" as well as upper-level courses such as Quantum Mechanics and Thermal and Statistical Physics.
  • Returning LAs developed and implemented lessons for a local high school physics class.
  • We re-opened the Physics Help Room to give LAs opportunities to work with students from a variety of courses.

Challenges

  • The schools we have had the most success interacting with are about an hour commute, making it difficult for students to visit during the semester.
  • There is not much incentive for students to enroll in the existing courses that require early field experience.
  • Some students who were interested in participating in the LA Program were encouraged not to by faculty with whom they were doing undergraduate research.

Sustainability

  • The University and the Physics Department has committed to support the Learning Assistant Program for three years beyond the PhysTEC funding period.
  • The returning LAs' interaction with the local high school was well received by the LAs, the teacher and the school's administration. We plan to continue and scale this opportunity.

Lessons Learned

  • The Director of the Learning Assistant Program needs to follow up with faculty using LAs to make sure the LA is getting a good experience. We plan to start requiring a written agreement of how the LA will be used and agreed upon procedures for reporting on the LAs' performance.
  • Different students became interested in the LA Program once it was expanded to upper-level courses, increasing our pool of potential teachers.
  • We need to make sure students will not suffer negative consequences for participating in the LA Program.

Activities

  • Twenty-five unique students participated as LAs in Year 1, with five participating in both semesters.
  • The five returning LAs worked in teams to develop and implement two lessons at a local high school.
  • Physics students presented demonstrations at the Physics Career Exploration Day.