Supported Site Florida International University: Induction & Mentoring

Induction and Mentoring

The FIU PhysTEC Project and the Center for High Energy Physics Research and Education Outreach (CHEPREO) are two integrated projects targeting improving the quality and quantity of future physicists and physics teachers. They share a common foundation of guided inquiry pedagogy. CHEPREO includes a significant in-service component that supports induction and mentoring activities of PhysTEC.

Successes

  • Members of FIU’s Teacher Advisory Group (TAG), FizMo, attend regular meetings and are willing to mentor new teachers.
  • Fizmo teachers report that they attend meetings not only to interact with their colleagues but also to explore new ideas in teaching physics.
  • Ongoing CHEPREO Physics Modeling Summer Workshops (Summer 2010 marks the 8th year) are available for new teachers to receive intensive training in model instruction techniques. This brings teachers to FIU, a group from which we may create mentoring/induction relationships.
  • Our entire physics education community interacts with the teachers during these three week workshops. The graduate students, a few undergraduates (typically LA’s), the Physics Education Research Group staff and professors all get to spend time and share experiences with the teachers. This interaction is a good way to mine for ideas and keep ourselves grounded in the world of the high school physics teacher.

Challenges

  • There are no students to mentor that have joined a teaching program. The 2009 graduate has joined the College of Education PhD program (with the FIU PERG). He is teaching one on-campus high school physics class and receives regular mentoring from the team.
  • Miami-Dade and Broward are huge school districts. It is difficult to ensure that one of our graduates will be placed anywhere near a Fizmo member.
  • We have made two attempts to coordinate possible teacher observation with our LA’s visiting a classroom. In both cases, the student’s schedule ultimately would not permit the visitation. The TAG teacher in each instance was supportive, eager, and ready to provide the experience for our undergraduate students.

Sustainability/Institutional Buy-In

  • We are committed to continuing support of the teachers prepared in our program. We continue to explore opportunities to work with two of our local districts to place our new teachers near Fizmo teachers. We are also working with district personnel to increase enrollment in physics course in local high schools so that physics teachers do not have to work in isolation. (See Collaboration)
  • Beginning physics teachers who remain in the South Florida area will be invited to join the South Florida Physics Modeling Group (Fizmo), a physics alliance started by the CHEPREO project at FIU. It has existed for about 8 years.

Lessons Learned

  • The cost and effort of mentoring early-career teachers is one that needs to be partially borne by the districts in which these teachers work, not solely by the university program that prepared them. Ongoing collaborations with Miami-Dade make it more likely that a joint effort can be created, possibly funded with MSP dollars.
  • Physics enrollment at the high school can be a function of the physics teachers in the school. Teachers that actively recruit and work with counselors to entice and enroll students in physics (regular, honors, AP) are generally successful in this endeavor.
  • The first group of Noyce Fellows will join schools in the Fall. The Noyce project has financial support for mentor teachers and arrangements are being made to provide mentor teachers for Noyce fellows. Only one physics Noyce fellow will be teaching in a school in Fall 2010.

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Induction and Mentoring Activities

  • The CHEPREO coordinator met with FizMo and solicited ideas about what is essential in a teacher prep program, as well as induction and mentoring efforts.
  • FizMo teachers completed questionnaires that included questions about what they would like to see in physics teacher induction and mentoring.
  • Fizmo teachers listen to graduate student research projects and are providing input to the research projects.