Monthly physics teacher meetings:
Since September, our Department has been hosting a monthly event for local-area physics teachers. We usually have some time at the beginning for demo-sharing on a specific topic area, then we provide dinner and some time to chat, and we usually end the evening by engaging the teachers in some sort of physics/physics teaching activity. So far we’ve had 5 meetings, and we’ve had lots of good feedback from teachers. About 6-20 teachers have been attending. Hoping to continue to nurture this and thread this into some grant proposals.
Learning Assistant Program Pilot:
Last semester, two faculty in our department attended the LA workshop at UC Boulder. This semester we are piloting some curriculum changes and use of learning assistants. Right now, we are only implementing in two section of our intro physics course and most of our LAs are already physics majors in our physics teaching concentration; but the plan is to implement more widely and to recruit students to be LAs for next academic year We’ve applied for some money that will hopefully help out with that. I’m not teaching in these section, but I have responsibilities for running the prep session with the instructor and the LAs for instruction each week. I have a undergraduate student who is also helping to collect data regarding this pilot implementation.
Two New Preps:
This semester, I’m teaching three courses, but two of those courses are ones I hadn’t taught before at MTSU. The first one is the second semester of the algebra-based physics course, which covers optics, modern physics, and electricity and magnetism. It’s been nice to have a different course to teach, but it’s meant more prep than usual.
I’m also teaching a new course for the first time. We had previously had a one semester seminar course called “Physics Licensure”, which was intended originally to be a self-study-kind of course for future physics teachers to make sure they were prepared for the Physics Praxis. We’ve made that a year long seminar now, in which we focus more on developing conceptual understanding / qualitative reasoning with 1st-year physics topics (and less on praxis prep per se). Students also have responsibilities for working on AP physics problems. This semester is the first time the second-semester of Physics Licensure is being offered. Right now the two courses are still kind of playing the role of “band-aid”, making up for deficiencies in our first-year courses. We are working to improve our intro courses (see above), so the nature of these courses may shift.
On top of this, I’m working on a grant that doesn’t overlap with any of the efforts described above and trying to finish a paper that’s been in the works for years that also doesn’t concern these efforts. The next time I write a grant, It’ll need to be more synergistic with my service and teaching efforts.
Where does the funding come for for the dinners with the physics teachers? That sounds like a great idea!
Right now, the cost is split between our final year of PhysTEC funds and department funds. I’m pretty sure our department will continue to cover the costs afterwards, but I’ll be applying for grants related to our pre-service/in-service teacher programs, so maybe we’ll find additional external funding.