Supported SiteSupported Site Florida International University: Goals & Outcomes


The FIU PhysTEC project is building a focused teacher preparation program while improving physics instruction for all and developing inquiry teaching by faculty. The goals of the FIU PhysTEC Project are to:

· Increase the number of well-prepared physics teachers in South Florida, which has a large Hispanic population.

· Promote inquiry-based learning in physics courses at FIU.

· Expand the long-term collaboration between Physics, Education, and local school districts to include more faculty, teachers, and departments.

· Measure the impact of our PhysTEC project.

· Create a model for sustainable reform in science and math teacher education.

Our goal is to graduate three physics teachers per year within the first three years, increasing to five teachers per year within five years, which is certainly attainable given our experiences and the success of other PhysTEC sites. A longer-term goal is to increase the numbers of under-represented minorities in the sciences by providing excellent teacher role models. This modest investment in our project will initiate lasting teacher preparation and curricular reforms at FIU.

Selected Outcomes

  • As a result of the success of the physics LA program, Chemistry and Earth Science are designing LA programs to implement in Fall 2010. Mathematics is revising their LA program to include reformed curriculum and weekly training. LAs from each department will take the introductory education seminar course.
  • Chemistry, Earth Science, Mathematics, and Physics collaborated on an LA recruitment campaign and created a common LA application. The LA recruitment session had 100+ attendees (170% increase from Fall 09), and 100+ students have applied to be an LA in Fall 2010. The LA program has shown great success and is growing and spreading rapidly across math and science.
  • New Science and Mathematics Secondary Education Programs were created in 2008/09 and were made available to students in Fall 2009. All programs are integrated, sharing design and appropriate courses, and are based on the Learning Assistant (LA) model (including recruiting and early field experiences). Students will receive science/math bachelor’s degrees along with teacher credentials. Programs include Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences tracks within each discipline. State certification is expected to be complete in October 2010.
  • Get Educators in Mathematics and Science (GEMS), the FIU Noyce project, began operation in January 2009. Seven LAs (3 physics and 4 mathematics) were awarded Noyce Fellowships in Fall 09.
  • Each LA worked in a reformed lab or classroom setting for approximately 150 hours in the fall and spring semesters. LAs’ work was centered on the students and their learning rather than in observation and/or grading. All LAs described their experiences as very satisfying.
  • PhysTEC LAs and trained TAs run the reformed introductory physics I (mechanics) laboratory sequence. All sections of labs associated with traditional lectures operate with the reformed curricula (20 in the Fall, 14 in the Spring).
  • PhysTEC LAs and trained TAs ran the pilot sections (4 in the Fall, 8 in the Spring) of the reformed introductory physics II (E&M/light) laboratory sequence. All sections of the physics II lab will be reformed in Fall 2010.
  • We have collected and are analyzing data to better understand the impact of the Science Education Seminar on the pedagogical strategies implemented by the physics LAs in their LA sessions. We plan to present results at the AAPT Meeting / Physics Education Research Conference.
  • The science and mathematics secondary teacher preparation programs, including the LA programs, are becoming hallmarks of FIU’s efforts. This is evidenced by the multiple commitments (leadership collaborative, executive committee) to the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperatiave (SMTI) project, strong support throughout the administration, and a drive by the foundation directorate for additional funding.