Supported SiteSupported Site North Carolina State University: Early Teaching Experience

Successes

  • The Learning Assistants work with the PY 205 (Physics for Scientists and Engineers) recitation sections. PY 205 is the first semester of a two-semester calculus-based physics course that is required for all engineering, chemistry and physics students on campus. The PY 205 enrollment is about 500 students in the fall semester and 1000 in the spring semester. Each LA assists a graduate Teaching Assistant in leading groups of these future engineers in working through extended, open-ended problem exercises. The problem sessions meet in groups of 30 students for one hour per week.
  • Each of the LAs was observed in action by two of the project co-PIs. The LAs' performances in the classroom were quite satisfactory. In several cases an LA took complete charge of the recitation section when the TA could not attend.

Challenges

  • The number of teaching jobs for the LAs depends on course needs and the numbers of graduate students employed as TAs. As we admit more LAs we must develop new jobs for the LAs. Next year some LAs will assist with other introductory level Physics courses.

Sustainability

  • No specific efforts at this time.

Lessons Learned

  • We learned that the LAs in the program were conscientious, enthusiastic and hard-working teachers. They showed that they were capable of leading problem solving sessions by themselves.

Activities

  • The LAs also participated in a one-hour per week, one-credit-hour course (PY 299). The course covered issues in science learning and introduced the students to teaching methods used in high school physics. The course is taught by faculty from the Departments of Physics and the Department of STEM Education. The first part of the course targeted the specific skills needed for a Learning Assistant in the PY 205 recitation sections. The following sessions focused on topics such as questioning skills, Bloom's taxonomy, cooperative learning, interactive Physics demonstration and student misconceptions. Some sessions were presented by current or former high school physics teachers or by staff from The Science House, a K-12 learning-outreach program of the College of Sciences.