Supported Site Cornell University: Collaboration

Collaboration among the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University Administrators, and Local Public School Systems

Successes

  • Prior to our efforts, the last collaboration between the Physics and Education Departments was in the early 1990's, and involved co-advising a graduate student studying reform of Physics 2207.
  • Although our program is based and administered in the Physics Department, there have been extensive interactions of the TIR and PI with Cornell Teacher Education faculty and staff, especially in recruiting activities directed at students enrolled in Physics courses.
  • Our TIRs have participated in Education Department classes, attended CTE planning meetings, and observed CTE students in their student placements in local schools.
  • Like most Education programs, the CTE has an extensive network of local and regional teachers who serve as mentors and hosts for field experience.
  • The CTE and PhysTEC have joined forces in several recruiting efforts including three on-campus career fairs.

Challenges

  • In Fall 2010 Cornell announced that it was closing its Education Department, but initially made no announcement about the future of the Cornell Teacher Education and MAT programs. A long term plan is still being developed, and there is an interim commitment from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to fund the CTE program and MAT programs for another three years. As of fall 2011, retirements and departures have led to a number of staff changes in the CTE program, but the program seems likely to emerge significantly stronger than it was before the Education Department closure. Uncertainty over the long-term futures of the programs seem likely to negatively impact student enrollment, especially in the MAT program. 
  • Because of staff shortages and the retirement of Physics Professor Don Holcomb, Cornell does not currently offer any courses in Physics Education Research or Physics specific pedagogy.  

Sustainability

  • Cornell needs to make a broader commitment to STEM teacher preparation, that includes not only CALS but also the College of Arts and Sciences and possibly also Engineering. STEM teacher preparation is critical to the university's mission, and should be supported by all of the stakeholders.

Lessons Learned

  • At a research university like Cornell, collaboration between the Education Department (or the Cornell Teacher Education Program) and the Physics Department (and Math and Chemistry and the life sciences) is essential in effectively marketing teaching careers to undergraduates. The disciplines have much greater access to the pool of potential teachers. Participation of the disciplines helps to legitimize high school teaching careers in the eyes of undergraduates.