The 5+ Club Supported SiteThe 5+ Club Supported Site Arizona State University: Early Teaching Experience


  • The newly implemented Learning Assistant (LA) program (in its second year) provides one of the key early teaching experiences for those interested in physics teaching.
    • Four physics undergraduates participated in the LA program in fall 2012 and thirteen participated in spring 2013 (Year One)
    • Fourteen physics undergraduates participated in fall 2013 and fourteen participated in spring 2014 (Year Two)
    • LAs were key members of the team that reformed two large lecture PHY 121 (Mechanics) courses in spring 2013 (see Course Reform) and two additional PHY 121 courses in fall 2013 and spring 2014.
    • In spring 2014, we expanded the LA program into four different physics courses (PHY 121, PHY 150, PHY 151, and PHS 110).
    • The expansion of the program offered previous LAs the opportunity to work in more than one classroom, giving them a new teaching experience.
  • Undergraduates from SPS and the LA program cooperated with PIRT (the ASU Physics Instructional Resource Team) at several local outreach opportunities.
    • Provided demos at the college Night of the Open Door and the physics department Red Carpet Day.
    • Participated as judges and coaches at several science fairs in K-12 schools throughout the '12-'13 school year.
  • Undergraduates enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Education (BAE) program in physics education must participate in two internships and a final semester of student teaching in local high schools.
  • Students enrolled in PHY 118 Explorations in Science Teaching (see Course Reform) had the opportunity to visit local K-12 schools throughout the semester to explore their interest in a future as a physical science teacher.


  • We find that many qualified students who are interested in the LA program can't participate because of scheduling conflicts, limiting the program's reach, making it even more essential that we provide alternate opportunities for those who are interested.
  • LAs were interested in implementing reform teaching techniques in their recitations and lab sections, but were often limited by time constraints, the large amount of topics covered, and the attitude of the cooperating professor.
  • Although the TIR was often successful in arranging supportive mentor teachers (versed in Physics Education Research) for interns and student teachers, the process of getting placements with local districts and the Teacher's College is rampant with red tape.
  • We will need to expand and foster relationships with local schools in order to provide placements for future teachers enrolled in PHY 118 and the new BS program, paying attention to logistical details such as flexible scheduling for busy undergraduates and public transportation availability.


  • PHY 118 Explorations in Science Teaching (see Course Reform) was approved in spring 2013 and was first offered in fall 2013, with 16 students enrolled.
  • In July 2013, the Physics Department hired a former leader of the Berkeley Compass program, approximately half of whose time has been dedicated to implementing a program similar to Compass at ASU called Sundial.
  • Sundial works to build and foster relationships among physics students at ASU. In August 2014, Sundial will offer incoming physics students the opportunity to spend a week on campus prior to the start of the semester to engage with other physics students and faculty.
  • We work with the May Lou Fulton Teachers College to provide placements for future physical science teachers in classrooms and districts which embrace PER and reform teaching.
  • PHY 480 Methods of Teaching Physics was offered in the spring 2014 semester and was taught by our TIR. This class contained a mix of undergraduate students as well as in-service teachers working towards their MNS degrees.
  • PHY 480 continues to be offered every summer, and is based upon Modeling Instruction. It is consistently led and populated by local HS physics teachers, and is a fundamental course in the undergraduate physics education programs as well as the Master of Natural Science (MNS) program targeted towards practicing K-12 physical science teachers.
  • A certificate option has been offered by the Teachers College, which allows students the opportunity to get their Secondary Education teaching certification in addition to their declared major. This certificate is also a good option for students enrolled in BS Biophysics or BA Physics programs.

Lessons Learned

  • Top students have been consistently positive about their early teaching experiences, and have expressed their appreciation of education as an academic pursuit even if they do not intend, yet, to pursue it as a career.
  • Close supervision and mentoring during these early teaching experiences is important. This prevents participants from getting frustrated by any difficulties they meet and offers help to reflect upon their experiences to improve their teaching practice.
  • Fostering interaction between and among LAs, interns, and student teachers helps them connect with and establish a peer group of like-minded individuals. This should be formalized and built into the program.


  • Learning Assistants aid in lecture, lab or recitation courses. The LAs attend the TA training before the start of the semester to prepare them for their duties, and are continuously mentored by the TIR throughout the semester.
  • TIR helped coordinate internship and student teaching placements of pre-service science teachers. Local contacts were used to successfully adjust two placements so that they occurred in a classroom implementing reform teaching.
  • TIR coordinated student visits to local physical science classrooms (K-12) for her PHY 118 course in fall 2013.
  • The LA pedagogy course Seminar on Teaching and Learning Physics was offered in fall 2012 and attended by 12 students seriously interested in pursuing teaching.
  • Spring 2013 LAs attended two sections PHY 121 of lecture twice a week, circulating and assisting during the challenging "group work" sessions. LAs also covered 14 sections of recitation (meeting 1 hour a week each) associated with these PHY 121 courses. Learning Assistants were responsible for much of the instruction and grading involved with the recitation sessions.
  • Fall 2013 LAs attended one section of PHY 121 lecture twice a week, circulating and assisting during the challenging "group work" sessions. LAs also covered 7 sections of recitation (meeting 1 hour a week each).
  • Spring 2014 LAs attended one section of lecture (PHY 121, PHY 150, PHY 151, or PHS 110) two or three times a week. LAs assigned to PHY 121 also covered 7 sections of recitation. All LAs offered "office hours" for their students in the Student Success Center.
  • All LAs and TAs assigned to these reformed PHY 121 courses attended a weekly planning meeting for recitation and lecture.