2009 Physics Teacher Education Coalition Conference Presentations

Opening Remarks

Punctuated equilibrium in higher education   -   Talk

Keynote speaker: Don Langenberg, University of Maryland

9:00 AM - 10:00 AM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009

The fossil record indicates that biological evolution sometimes occurs in fits and starts, with periods of relatively little change separated by shorter periods of rapid change.  They call this "punctuated equilibrium."  The historical record suggests that colleges and universities evolve in the same manner, and current events indicate that we are in the midst of an academic punctuation mark.  This presentation will explore the implications of this for our institutions, for STEM education, and for physics education in particular.  In accordance with Darwin, we can expect that "Only the fittest will survive," and speculation about what the surviving fittest might look like is in order.


What Predicts Success in Learning Physics?   -   Talk

Keynote speaker: Philip M. Sadler, Harvard University

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009

The physics teaching community is rife with contradictory opinions about how best to teach physics, but personal experience is a poor substitute for rigorous investigation. After collecting data from 11,000 science students and their instructors, we can offer a more universal picture of the middle school to college learning progression in physics. Using epidemiological methods to mine the backgrounds of students taking introductory physics courses, we find predictors of performance and persistence while controlling for demographic differences. I will report on our findings on the value of middle school physical science preparation, lab experiences, technology use, classroom demonstrations, coverage, block scheduling, Advanced Placement, Physics First, project work, and mathematics facility.

The National Science Foundation and teacher education   -   Talk

Keynote speaker: Linda Slakey, National Science Foundation

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009

The National Science Foundation has funded teacher education activities for much of its history.  Several trends mark recent approaches to this; partnerships among STEM disciplinary faculty, education faculty, and schools; provision of scholarships for intending and in-service teachers; and an increasing insistence on understanding what works and documenting the effectiveness of particular teacher preparation activities all the way out to increased learning by students.  The presentation will begin with a reflection on this history, and then summarize the current, very fluid, funding picture.  Finally, we will explore a critical new direction; are we adequately preparing teachers to make full use of the tools of cyberlearning?


Partnerships for Transformation

Playing well with others   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Laurie McNeil, University of North Carolina; Jill Fitzgerald, University of North Carolina; Steve Matson, University of North Carolina

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Harrisburg

Excellence in science teacher education is most effectively achieved by means of partnerships between science departments and the School of Education.  However, these partnerships are not always easy to form or maintain, because the partners typically do not have identical goals, cultures, or constraints.  We will explore these challenges in this session, giving examples of how we have overcome them at UNC-CH and engaging in discussion among the participants about barriers on your own campuses and how they can be made lower.

Associated Presentation Documents

Shaping the PTEC agenda   -   Workshop

Monica Plisch, American Physical Society

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Harrisburg

What are the most pressing needs of the physics teacher education community?  What can PTEC as an organization do to address these needs?  What existing opportunities should PTEC pursue?  Now that PTEC has over 130 members, how can we work together to improve and promote physics teacher education at the national level?  Come join a discussion to shape the PTEC agenda, identify priorities and give feedback on new ideas.  We will begin with a short review of PTEC activities and goals, and then think together about future directions for PTEC.

Building relationships with schools and two-year colleges   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Stamatis Vokos, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo; Kathee Terry, Bellevue School District; Gay Stewart, West Virginia University

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Harrisburg

The professional preparation of physics teachers, even when it is conducted as a close collaboration between physics departments and schools of education, is often focused on courses and experiences at the university.  Teachers, however, live and function in school systems, whose contexts may be profoundly different than those instantiated in university settings.  Relationships with schools, school systems, and two-year colleges are crucial in the development of strong teacher education programs.  But whose responsibility is it to create such partnerships?  How can such relationships be sustained and strengthened?  There might be a temptation among physicists to relegate the nurture of substantive connections with individual schools and school systems to schools of education.  However, who really benefits from such strong partnerships?  What specific University-level opportunities and rewards are there for physics departments?   What funding options are there to promote such collaborative work?  How do physics departments start such connections?  What challenges and potential pitfalls are there for physics faculty?  This workshop will explore these issues through the use of a case study, the strong multi-year collaboration between Seattle Pacific University and Bellevue School District, and examples of collaborations between the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and local school systems and two year colleges.

Recruiting Teachers

10,000 Undergraduate Physics Majors: Role and importance of preparing more high school physics teachers   -   Panel

Moderator: Theodore Hodapp, American Physical Society
Panel members: Michael Marder, University of Texas at Austin; Gay Stewart, West Virginia University; Gary Gladding, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

8:30 AM - 10:00 AM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Pittsburgh

The American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers have committed to doubling the number of undergraduate physics majors to 10,000.  The underlying issues we are addressing include increasing the number of qualified high school physics teachers, and increasing the participation of women and minorities in physics.  This panel will address the role of educating more physics teachers in meeting such an audacious goal, and why recruiting more students into teaching not only furthers all of these efforts, but also strengthens the workforce and the physics community.  We will discuss what works, the philosophy behind the effort, and how you can use these strategies on you campus.  We expect a lively discussion – bring your thoughts and questions.

The MIT-Harvard Teaching Opportunities in Physical Science (TOPS) Program   -   Workshop

Daniel Kleppner, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Pittsburgh

TOPS--the acronym for Teaching Opportunities in Physical Sciences--is a six-week summer program for sophomore and junior physics majors who are considering careers in pre college physics teaching. The goal of TOPS is to give these students an opportunity to prepare and teach material at the middle school and high school levels under the supervision of experienced teachers. Middle school students are taught in a one-week program at the Boston Museum of Science. High school students are taught in a two-week program at MIT. In addition, TOPS provides contact with ongoing physics research in the Center for Ultracold Atoms, much of which illustrates basic concepts of energy, temperature and light that are central to the material being taught. TOPS, which is now in its seventh year, involves two groups of four students, each working with a skilled high school teacher. The goal is to help inspire teaching careers for some of tomorrow's outstanding teachers in the belief that over the years even a small number of outstanding teachers can have a big influence.  The Center for Ultracold Atoms is supported by the National Science Foundation.

Recruiting top math and science graduates for the classroom – Teach For America’s model   -   Workshop

Lauren Secatore, Teach for America

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Pittsburgh

Recognizing the urgent need for excellent math and science education in this country, Teach For America has launched a concerted campaign to bring increasing numbers of outstanding math and science teachers to our country's lowest-income communities. Through this initiative, we aim to more than double the number of math and science teachers entering our corps from 800 to 2,000 by 2010 while increasing their short-term and long-term impact. This workshop will provide background on Teach For America's mission, impact, and operations as they relate to the needs in math and science classrooms in low-income communities.  Participants will engage in discussions around motivations and barriers of undergraduate physics students and ways to influence STEM majors to enter secondary math/science classrooms (in lieu of or prior to another career path).

Early Teaching Experiences

Running weekly planning sessions for Learning Assistants: A workshop for physics faculty   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Valerie K. Otero, University of Colorado at Boulder; Steven J. Pollock, University of Colorado

8:30 AM - 10:00 AM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Erie

This workshop is designed for physics faculty who are currently running, or intend to run, weekly preparation sessions with Learning Assistants (LAs). These weekly sessions supplement the pedagogy course for LAs. In weekly sessions, physics faculty, LAs, and sometimes graduate teaching assistants plan for the upcoming week of classes, reflect on the previous week, and analyze assessment data from previous implementations of the course. We have found these sessions to be most effective when they are structured and closely aligned with the upcoming topics to be covered in the class. We have modeled our approach to closely follow that of the University of Washington's Tutorial training sessions.  In the workshop, participants will engage in a sample of the activities we do in our planning sessions and will begin to plan their own sessions for the upcoming or current semester. Participants will discuss advantages and disadvantages to different approaches for running the weekly planning sessions in their own contexts.

Bringing the research model of teaching to the classroom   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Pratibha Varma-Nelson, Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis; Shaun Murphree, Allegheny College

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Erie

The Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model of teaching actively engages students in the learning process by having them solve carefully structured problems in small groups under the direction of a trained peer leader. Peer-led workshops are an effective way to engage large numbers of students with course material and each other. Improved performance and retention, development of communication and team skills, higher motivation and course satisfaction, and increased interest in pursuing further study in science are among the benefits of the PLTL approach. This workshop will introduce the theoretical and practical elements of the PLTL model as well as some of its applications.

Early Field Experiences for Recruiting Future Teachers   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Michael Marder, University of Texas at Austin; Jason Ermer, University of Texas at Austin

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Erie

We will discuss the role of the two one-hour field-based courses Step I and Step II for recruiting students into secondary science and mathematics teaching at UT Austin. We will discuss organization of the courses and logistics. Then we will describe the effects of the field experiences, and characteristic student accomplishments when teaching their first lessons. We will discuss the reasons to focus on a relatively small number of carefully organized and supported field experiences in comparison  to a large number of relatively unstructured hours in the schools.

Introductory Course Reform

Transforming an Introductory Class with Modeling Discourse Management   -   Workshop

Laird H. Kramer, Florida International University

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Pittsburgh

Participants in this interactive workshop will learn how Modeling Discourse Management can be used as a vehicle for reform in introductory physics courses. Modeling Instruction courses operate as a collaborative learning environment, where student activities are focused on the process of building, validating, and deploying models. The process of modeling replicates the central activity of practicing scientists and, therefore, strongly integrates an explicit Nature of Science theme throughout the curriculum. Modeling Discourse Management is a technique for directing student-student discourse within a Modeling Instruction class. Students, in small groups, work on activities designed to encourage model building. Students share their ideas via portable whiteboards, coming together for student-driven discussions. The instructor’s role is to moderate discussion and orchestrate appropriate activities for knowledge development. Participants will engage in Modeling Discourse Management activities as well as learn how modeling has transformed the undergraduate physics experience at Florida International University.

How to Increase Student Intellectual Engagement and Understanding During the Lecture Portion of Your Class   -   Workshop

Edward E. Prather, University of Arizona, Center for Astronomy Education (CAE)

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Pittsburgh

In this participation-based workshop, we will work collaboratively through instructional strategies proven to move students from an intellectually passive to active role in the LECTURE portion of the classroom.  Members of the Center for Astronomy Education (CAE) at the University of Arizona have been conducting rigorous classroom evaluation of research-validated curriculum designed to actively engage students learning during the traditional lecture portion of the classroom.  Participants will be given first-hand experience with several different instructional strategies (appropriate for their classrooms) that represent a wide range of instructional investment.  Active audience participation will be required--no, really, it will be fun, really!!

Parallel parking an aircraft carrier   -   Workshop

Gary Gladding, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Pittsburgh

About ten years ago the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois embarked on a program to systematically reform all of the introductory courses in the calculus-based and algebra-based sequences (see: http://research.physics.uiuc.edu/PER/Course_Revisions.html). In this workshop, I will first give an overview of our experience with this process.  I will discuss the combination of strategies that we chose (a coherent set of activities featuring interactive engagement methods) as well as the important considerations that were necessary to effect organizational change (faculty buy-in and sustainability).  I will then open up the workshop for participation in a discussion of real world issues concerning effecting introductory course reform at your home institutions.  My hope is that the wisdom of the collective may generate new ideas and solutions to problems that have had no visible forum for discussion.

Resources for Transformation

National Science Foundation CAREER grants   -   Workshop

Eugenia Etkina, Rutgers University

8:30 AM - 10:00 AM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Harrisburg

In this interactive workshop participants will learn how to use the recommendations of science education and physics education research to write the educational outreach components for their NSF grants. The workshop will focus on formulating clear goals, ways to achieve them and assessments methods. Participants will learn about different approaches to structuring the educational components of their NSF grants, see examples of possible projects, and plan the educational outreach component for their proposal. Ways to use the NSF funding to improve their own teaching will be discussed. The participants will also learn how science faculty can collaborate with faculty from the schools of education to make the educational component of their projects beneficial for the preparation of physics teachers. The workshop is intended for physics research faculty who need an education component in their proposals and for science educators who would like to partner with them.

Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Deborah Allen, National Science Foundation; Linnea Fletcher, National Science Foundation

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Harrisburg

The National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program seeks to encourage talented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics majors and STEM professionals to become preK-12 mathematics and science teachers. This workshop is designed to foster an understanding of the features of the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program in order to assist interested participants in developing their ideas for projects and proposal preparation. Following an overview of the major elements of the program, including the new NSF Teaching Fellowships and Master Teaching Fellowships track, a sample funded proposal will be used to launch discussion of the features of an effective proposal. The session will conclude with a brief look at additional funding opportunities offered by the NSF in support of teacher education.

The University Role in Teacher Preparation: Perspectives of a Chair, a Dean, and a Provost   -   Workshop

Moderator: Howard Gobstein, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Panel members: Phil DiStefano, University of Colorado at Boulder; Wolfgang Bauer, Michigan State University; N. John Cooper, University of Pittsburgh

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Harrisburg

A successful science teacher preparation effort requires commitment across the university.  Over 100 universities in NASULGC, A Public University Association, have committed to the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI) to significantly increase the number, quality and diversity of the teachers they produce.  This national initiative is designed to galvanize university leadership to work with their faculties in addressing this critical national need.  Come to this informal discussion session to learn about SMTI and be prepared to engage seriously with a physics chair, a science dean and a provost (and former dean of education).

Teaching Methods

Learning Physical Science (LEPS): an active engagement course suitable for large enrollments   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Fred Goldberg, San Diego State University; Stephen J. Robinson, Tennessee Technological University

8:30 AM - 10:00 AM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Lancaster

Learning Physical Science [1] is a one-semester physical science course focusing on fundamental content themes of physical science (conservation of energy, Newton's laws and the small particle theory) in an integrated way.  The course was adapted from the small enrollment guided-inquiry course Physical Science and Everyday Thinking (PSET) [2].  During LEPS "lectures" students observe demonstrations of phenomena (either performed by the instructor or shown with movies), make sense of the phenomena through guided questions, and make extensive use of personal response systems (aka clickers).   Web based homework assignments focus on extending the ideas learned during class.  To promote a focus on the nature of science and the nature of learning students view videos of both college students and elementary school students discussing science and participate in online discussions.  There is also an optional laboratory component consisting of guided inquiries of interesting phenomena.  During this workshop we will discuss the structure of the course, observe and discuss video from the first pilot implementation (during Fall 2008), and compare LEPS with PSET (large vs small enrollment versions of a similar course).  

[1] LEPS is supported by NSF grant 0717791
[2] PSET is published by It's About Time, Herff Jones Education Division

Pedagogical content knowledge needed to teach physics   -   Workshop

Eugenia Etkina, Rutgers University

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Lancaster

In this workshop the participants will learn about the concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and how this concept relates to the preparation of physics teachers. PCK is what distinguishes a content expert from an expert teacher of that content. Some aspects of physics PCK include knowledge of student ideas in different areas of physics, knowledge of effective instructional methods that help students master fundamental physics ideas and ways of reasoning, and knowledge of assessment of student learning.  The participants will also learn how to design a course/a sequence of courses for future physics teachers where they start building their physics PCK.

Strategies to Support Novice Physics Teachers   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Paul Hickman, Science Education Consultant; Dan MacIsaac, Buffalo State College; Lezlie S. DeWater, Seattle Pacific University

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009 Lancaster

Too many science and mathematics teachers leave the profession within their first five years. While a certain amount of teacher attrition is inevitable, and even beneficial, our country's schools are often compared to leaky buckets for their inability to retain high-quality STEM teachers. Increased recruitment does little good if new teachers leave before they have the chance to gain experience and develop professionally.

This interactive workshop will provide some background on Induction and Mentoring and engage you in thinking about how you can increase the retention of the teachers you produce. We will look at the mentoring process, explore the many hats a mentor wears and examine the concerns that research shows many new teachers have articulated. We will also review some tools that have been used to support the mentoring process and novice teachers' professional growth.

Education Research

Facilitating Change in Undergraduate STEM: The Need to Problematize and Improve Our Approaches to Change   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Charles R. Henderson, Western Michigan University; Noah D. Finkelstein, University of Colorado-Boulder

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Lancaster

During the last several decades, educational researchers have focused significant attention on the improvement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.  These researchers have identified many shortcomings of "traditional" lecture-based instruction and have developed and demonstrated the efficacy of alternative models of instruction.  Yet, many STEM faculty continue to teach traditionally.  To better understand this situation we have conducted an interdisciplinary literature review related to change strategies employed in the improvement of undergraduate STEM instruction.  Results suggest that there are at least three important groups working towards such change and that approaches to change differ significantly by group.  In this session, we will present an overview of the literature review.  Participants will engage in discussions about how to combine the strengths of these different approaches towards promoting change as well as how to work towards an interdisciplinary agenda that can lead to improved communication and practice related to promoting change in undergraduate STEM instruction.

Andrea Beach, Western Michigan University
Noah Finkelstein, University of Colorado, Boulder

What every physics teacher should know about cognitive research   -   Workshop

Chandralekha Singh, University of Pittsburgh

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Lancaster

In the past few decades, cognitive reseach has made significant progress in understanding how people learn. The understanding of cognition that has emerged from this research can be particularly useful for physics instruction. We will discuss and explore, in a language accessible to everybody, how the main findings of cognitive research can be applied to physics teaching and assessment.

Evaluation Instruments in UTeach   -   Workshop

Michael Marder, University of Texas at Austin

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Lancaster

I will discuss three documents employed in the UTeach program at UT Austin to monitor the progress of students. The first is a document guiding preparation of the student portfolio. The second is the Teacher Development Rubric, which is used to evaluate classroom performance in field experiences. The third is the UTeach Observation Protocol (UTOP), based both on the RTOP and Inside the Classroom instruments of Horizon Research, which we have been employing to observe the classroom practices of inservice teachers. I will provide some preliminary results concerning data gathered with the UTOP.

Professional Development

Physics Teacher Resource Agents   -   Workshop

Gay Stewart, West Virginia University

10:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Erie

Many physics departments do some sort of professional development for area teachers, often summer workshops or summer courses. A program that is of high quality, already developed and perfect for teachers is already available, AAPT's PTRA. State MSP funding requires careful evaluation, and the PTRA program is already set up to do this sort of evaluation, both of teacher and student learning gains, as well as teacher confidence and use of technology. The professional growth of teachers involved in the program is amazing, and it is much easier to host PTRA workshops than try to develop something at your own institution from scratch. Assistance was even made available from AAPT/PTRA in preparing a proposal for the state. Some of our experiences in hosting PTRA workshops and pursuing state funding will be shared.

In-service certification programs   -   Panel

Moderator: Dan MacIsaac, Buffalo State College
Panel members: Lok Lew Yan Voon, Wright State University; Cliff Chancey, University of Northern Iowa

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Erie

Panelists will describe and discuss characteristics of various programs leading to the physics certification of in-service (working) teachers. Among the topics discussed will be the type of students enrolled in these programs, and lessons learned.

Physics by Inquiry and in-service teachers   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Lillian C. McDermott, University of Washington; Peter S. Shaffer, University of Washington

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM on Friday, Mar 13, 2009 Erie

For more than 35 years the Physics Education Group has been engaged in the preparation and professional development of K-12 teachers of physics and physical science.  Our teacher education program includes special courses in physics for preservice teachers during the academic year and intensive (five or six-week) institutes for inservice teachers during the summer.  The courses and institutes provide an environment in which teachers learn (or relearn) physics in a way that is consistent with how they are expected to teach.  In addition, all participants in the program are encouraged to attend weekly, late-afternoon, academic-year continuation courses in which we help them apply in their classrooms what they have learned in our program.  We also assist the teachers in assessing the learning of their students.  The continuation courses have helped build a professional community, in which elementary, middle, and high school teachers encourage and help one another.  Our program also provides part of the environment in which we have been developing two sets of research-based and research-validated instructional materials.  Physics by Inquiry (Wiley, 1996) is a set of laboratory-centered and inquiry-oriented modules that help teachers develop the subject-matter background and reasoning skills needed to teach science by inquiry.  Because of the time constraint for the workshop, we will illustrate how we teach by questioning (rather than by telling) in the context of Tutorials in Introductory Physics (Prentice Hall, 2002), which is intended to supplement standard instruction in introductory calculus- and algebra-based courses.  A video, filmed during one of our NSF Summer Institutes, illustrates the kinds of questions that we ask in order to assess understanding.

*The research, curriculum development, and teacher education programs of the Physics Education Group have been supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

Closing Session

The role of professional societies in physics teacher education   -   Panel

Panel members: Judy Franz, American Physical Society; Warren Hein, AAPT; Fred Dylla, American Institute of Physics
Moderator: Theodore Hodapp, American Physical Society

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM on Saturday, Mar 14, 2009

High school physics teachers are a critical link in helping to educate a scientifically literate society and in providing inspiration for the next generation of students to study further in the discipline.  In 1999, the American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics came together in the recognition that this problem was one of the most significant facing the physics community, and resolved to work together to help solve the problem.  This conference is one of the outcomes of that effort, and our panel today will address both how the professional societies have been working together on this issue as well as where we see our role in the future.  We hope to have a lively discussion, so please come with your questions and thoughts.

Post-Conference Workshops

Instructional strategies proven to increase students' learning in the lecture classroom   -   Workshop

Edward E. Prather, University of Arizona, Center for Astronomy Education (CAE)

8:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Sunday, Mar 15, 2009
Westin Convention Center

When we think about how we were socialized into the world of teaching and learning as university science students, it is not surprising that we tend to practice traditional lecture methods with our students once we start teaching our own courses.  Acknowledging that traditional lecture-based instruction is insufficient at promoting significant conceptual gains for our students in introductory science courses is only the first step.  But what can we do in the traditional lecture setting that really works? We typically receive little to no training or professional development on instructional strategies that are explicitly designed to challenge students' initial ideas and reasoning difficulties and intellectually engage their thinking at a level deeper than what is fostered during traditional lecture.  

The overarching goal of this workshop is to help participants become better able to implement interactive learning strategies into the lecture portion of their classrooms.  From questioning in the classroom and interactive demonstrations, to small group collaborative activities, interactive-teaching will be modeled by both workshop leaders and participants.  Materials will be provided to participants to take home and try in their classes.  Active audience participation will be required--no, really, it will be fun, really!!

Members of the Center for Astronomy Education (CAE) at the University of Arizona have been developing and conducting research on the effectiveness of learner-centered instructional strategies and materials that put students in an active role in the traditional lecture classroom.  The results of this work have been incorporated into a series of "Teaching Excellence Workshops" that members of CAE have been conducting around the nation as part of the NASA Spitzer Education and Public Outreach Program, JPL Exoplanet Exploration Public Engagement Program and the NSF CCLI Phase III Collaboration of Astronomy Teaching Scholars (CATS) Program.  The goal of these workshops is to improve participant's implementation and pedagogical content knowledge of research-validated interactive learning strategies.

Transforming your undergraduate physics course using Learning Assistants   -   Workshop

Co-presenters: Valerie K. Otero, University of Colorado at Boulder; Noah D. Finkelstein, University of Colorado-Boulder

8:30 AM - 12:00 PM on Sunday, Mar 15, 2009
Westin Convention Center

Research shows that students have a much better chance of learning physics in physics courses that interactively engage students [1]. Relatively straightforward transformations to physics courses can have large impacts on students' learning [2]. In addition, U.S. universities are failing to recruit and adequately prepare future high school physics teachers [3] and our nation's youth are not getting adequate preparation in high school physics [4].  The Learning Assistant (LA) model addresses these problems by using undergraduate LAs to assist in the transformation of undergraduate courses and at the same time, they make up the pool from which new high school physics teachers are recruited. The LA model has demonstrated effectiveness in improving undergraduate education and in recruiting more physics majors to teaching careers [5]. In this workshop participants will be introduced to the basic components of the LA program and will learn how to use it to make practical changes in their own large-enrollment physics courses. Participants will engage with materials that are used both to train LAs and to transform our undergraduate courses.

1. R. Hake, Interactive Engagement vs. Traditional Methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses,  Am. J. Phys. 66, 64- 74 (1998)
2. S.J. Pollock & Noah D. Finkelstein, Sustaining Educational Reforms in Introductory Physics, PhysRev: ST Phys Ed. Rsrch, (in press, 2008).
3. M. Neuschatz & M. McFarling, Broadening the base: High school physics education at the turn of a new century, findings from the 2001 nationwide survey of high school physics teachers (AIP Press, College Park, MD, 2003).
4. W. Grigg, M. Lauko, & D. Brockway, The Nation.s Report Card: Science 2005, NCES 2006-466. U.S.Department of Education,National Center for Education Statistics, (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 2006).
5. V. Otero, N. Finkelstein, S. Pollock, and R. McCray, Who is responsible for preparing science teachers? Science, 313 (5786), 445 (2006).