With an enrollment of more than 33,000 students from every county in Missouri, every state in the nation and 115 countries, as well as being the fasting growing of the Association of American Universities, and outperforming the nationwide retention rate in sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) has the power to dramatically increase the number of graduates ready to teach physics.
Recognized as a research-intensive university (Research I) according to the Carnegie classification, MU is an excellent recruiting ground for undergraduates who are keen to pursue the university’s authentic science research experiences and later discover a passion for teaching.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy’s new faculty appointments in biophysics, physics education, and astronomy (including the former NASA astronaut Dr. Linda Godwin, PI), reflect the department’s campaign to revitalize the undergraduate and graduate programs (BS, BA, MS, and PhD) by offering enticing fields of study. There are plenty of opportunities for undergraduate physics majors (~80 students total) to engage in research and other scholarly activities with 33 physics faculty and 51 graduate students. Physics education research is particularly well-represented, with externally funded projects aimed at the implementation and research of professional development for K-12 physical science teachers in Missouri.
A notable education initiative at MU is the Physics First Project, an NSF-sponsored project for in-service high school teachers. Through Physics First, 140 in-service physics teachers in Missouri have been transformed into teacher leaders. Participants work with MU faculty for a total of ten weeks over three summers, receiving training in comprehensive physics content, leadership skills, and research-based teaching methods including inquiry-based pedagogy and modeling.
The Physics department at MU aims to demonstrate how the national PhysTEC model might include the synergy of in-service teacher programs similar to Physics First as a key component. Three of the key personnel in Physics First are on the leadership team for PhysTEC, providing the project with access to a reservoir of high caliber physics teachers, seven partner school districts, and teacher mentors that might serve as Master Teachers or members of a Physics Teacher Advisory Group.
The PhysTEC project at MU has the overarching goals to:
The university proposes a host of efforts to establish a professional community of physics teachers that engages future teachers on campus and new teachers in nearby schools. Projects include a living-learning community for freshman students and mentoring from exemplary high school teachers.