The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse (UW-L) is a public, comprehensive university located in western Wisconsin with a Fall 2011 enrollment of 9,119 undergraduate students and 955 graduate students. La Crosse is situated in a scenic region between the Mississippi River and towering bluffs, on the border with Minnesota. UW-L is consistently ranked among the top campuses in the nation. It has been recognized on a list of 12 universities noted for high student graduation rates by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
The physics department at UW-L is well known for offering quality education, placing its
graduates in successful career paths, and attracting national recognition for its successful revitalization efforts. The department currently has 9 full-time and two part-time faculty and boasts more than 150 majors, making it one of the largest undergraduate physics programs in the state of Wisconsin.
The physics department has received national recognition as one of the most successful
undergraduate programs by the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics (NTFUP) and has been consistently ranked among the top ten Bachelor’s-only departments by the American Institute of Physics. In 2004, the department received the UW System Regents Teaching Excellence Award for demonstrating exceptional commitment to and effectiveness in teaching.
In the past, the secondary teacher education program at UW-L was housed entirely within the Department of Educational Studies. In fall 2011, the School of Education introduced a new Secondary Teacher Education Preparation (STEP) program under which teacher candidates receive a bachelor’s degree from their content department with licensure in Early Adolescence – Adolescence. The rationale for reforming the program is to provide teacher candidates in Science, Math, English, and History with discipline-specific advising, methods courses, and field experiences. The physics department fully supports this change and has hired a faculty member Jennifer Docktor to direct the new physics education major. The physics teacher education program at UW-L will serve as a model for other UW System campuses and for public primarily undergraduate institutions nationwide.
UW-L proposes to increase the number and quality of physics teachers graduating from the university by implementing the following program changes:
UW-L plans to build a support network for current and future physics teachers through planned events and a web-based community. The project PIs will identify and contact local physics teachers, visit their classrooms to learn about their teaching, and coordinate events that bring together in-service and pre-service teachers. These events would take place in the science methods course, Secondary Teacher Education Preparation (STEP) workshops, and through physics seminars for physics majors. UW-L also plans to identify and implement best practices from other PhysTEC institutions, such as forming an e-mail listserv consisting of a small group of local teachers and teacher candidates (which has been successful at Rutgers).
The university also aims to recruit local physics teachers to serve as a Teacher Advisory Group. These teachers will provide mentoring both as invited speakers during events for teacher candidates and as participants in an e-mail listserv.