Early Teaching Experiences at PhysTEC Sites
Ball State University
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Florida International University
Seattle Pacific University
University of Arizona
University of Arkansas
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Minnesota
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Western Michigan University
Most first-year college students do not have well-formed career plans, and those who think they do may change them many times before they graduate. A well-designed early teaching experience can give freshmen or sophomores a low-pressure taste of the rewards and challenges of teaching. They may be surprised at how much fun they have, and how much they learn.
In addition, researchers and educators recognize the benefits of an early field experience in a teacher’s preparation. A 2000 report from The National Research Council’s Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education recommends that teacher preparation programs “provide opportunities for prospective teachers to learn about and practice teaching in a variety of school contexts and with diverse groups of children…and to practice and apply what they are learning in supportive environments that offer continual feedback, modeling of quality teaching practices, and individual coaching from faculty, practitioners, mentors, and peers.” In addition, an American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061 publication points out that “most prospective teachers… rarely witness the extraordinary efforts teachers must undertake to educate themselves in their subject-matter; to develop effective strategies for cultivating attitudes, skills, and knowledge of science in students; and to assess the success of their teaching and their students’ learning. Field experiences that allow experienced teachers to share the full picture of teaching with novices make these "hidden acts" of teaching more visible to prospective teachers.”
PhysTEC views early teaching experiences as an important step along the teacher preparation continuum that begins with recruitment and continues into the first years of a teacher’s career. Project sites have offered a variety of early teaching experiences. Some have created programs that place preservice teachers into local public school classrooms early on, while others have created in-house early teaching experiences in the form of Learning Assistant programs, which allow students to teach their peers in undergraduate physics courses.