Supported SiteSupported Site University of Wisconsin - La Crosse: Course Reform


  • The science methods course, Teaching and Learning Science in the Secondary School, was reformed to be a more meaningful experience for teacher candidates.
  • Instructors for the introductory calculus-based physics course sequence continue to make modifications to improve the recently-implemented studio format.


  • Documenting the effectiveness of course reform is challenging. Pre-post test scores do not always convey the experience of students, and students may not respond to additional survey questions without some incentive to do so.
  • Including an early field experience in the methods course creates a substantially heavier time commitment on the part of the instructor(s) to make visits to local schools and observe students teach. In addition, Wisconsin's adoption of the performance assessment system edTPA teacher performance assessment has resulted in mandated piloting of this intensive portfolio process during the methods course, creating additional demands on both the students and instructors.


  • The Teaching and Learning Science course will continue to be co-taught by at least two discipline-based education faculty. A three-year plan for this teaching rotation was established during meetings with the director of the School of Education, but is contingent upon having sufficient numbers of students in the program.
  • Physics faculty at UW-La Crosse are committed to teaching and are generally willing to try new research-based instructional strategies in their classes. Discussions are ongoing for how to make additional modifications to the new studio-based introductory calculus-based physics course.

Lessons Learned

  • For adequate response rates, course surveys need to be embedded into the course itself with some incentive for students to complete the survey (e.g. extra credit).

BIO/CHM/PHY 469: Teaching and Learning Science in the Secondary School

  • This course was completely overhauled in Fall 2012. The format now includes an embedded clinical field experience (recommended 80-100 hours in a high school classroom) and many of the assignments are designed to align with students' field experiences. The course syllabus was a collaboration among "teaching and learning" course instructors in science education, math education, history education, and English education.

PHY203: Fundamentals of Physics I and PHY204: Fundamentals of Physics II

  • These calculus-based introductory physics courses were reformed to be studio-based in the year prior to PhysTEC funding (integrated lab/lecture). Additional reforms have included the incorporation of technology tools and Research-Based Instructional Strategies (such as using PhysLETs). In Fall 2013 the course was revised to include a one-hour problem solving discussion session each week. In Fall 2014 these courses will utilize a new textbook and include online homework and resources from Mastering Physics.