Cornell University Project Report 2009
Teacher In Residence
PhysTEC has advertised the Teacher in Residence (TIR) as a key component of their program. Our initial experience has made us believers: a good high school physics teacher can be a tremendous asset not only to the PhysTEC project, but also to many other aspects of undergraduate physics and education programs. Cornell's TIR, Marty Alderman, has been engaged in an extremely broad range of activities.
- The TIR brings a perspective, energy and approach that are very different from those of our lecturers and professorial faculty, and that are very beneficial to the teaching and the mentoring in our undergraduate physics program.
- The TIR has been instrumental in making all physics faculty, lecturers and graduate students aware of the need for more high school physics teachers, and for faculty and grad student assistance in recruiting them.
- The TIR has been a consistent and strong voice for course reform focusing on student-centered instruction, and has introduced several useful methods to our instructional staff.
- PhysTEC expects its institutions to engage in an extremely broad range of activities, but only provides personnel support for the TIR. Like all Cornell physics faculty, the PI is engaged in a full range of research, teaching and administrative activities, leaving insufficient time for all of these activities and interaction with the TIR. Too many program activities were left to the TIR, diluting his efforts and limiting his impact. This problem was exacerbated by an administrative delay in hiring our PhysTEC Program Coordinator (paid for by Cornell's institutional match.)
- We are exploring the possibility of some combination of a part-time Physics lecturer position, a part time outreach position in one of Cornell's NSF-funded centers, and private funding to obtain sustainable support for the TIR, but these efforts have been greatly complicated by the university's financial difficulties.
- PhysTEC senior faculty should carefully plan and coordinate activities with the TIR and with other support staff to maximize overall impact of the TIR's activities.
- TIR participation in undergraduate Education courses (TED 404 and 405) can create some tensions with Education faculty. The instructors had well established and developed programs, and there was little or no pre-class collaboration to integrate the TIR into their programs. In order for the integration of a TIR into a course to occur smoothly and without tensions, the nature of the TIR’s involvement must be clearly defined (co-teaching, assisting, observing, or mentoring individual students) in advance and communicated to the students. A ‘Statement of Expectations’ would allow the lead instructor and TIR to clearly agree on the TIR’s role.
- Managed and implemented most aspects of Cornell's Learning Assistant Program, including UTA interviewing and scheduling, and taught the associated weekly seminar course "Teaching and Learning Physics".
- Wrote a proposal to Cornell's Big Red Incubator program, and worked with two Cornell MBA students in developing a physics marketing campaign directed at teenagers.
- Provided suggestions and a professional educator’s perspective at the 2-day Physics Graduate TA training sessions, and at instructional team meetings in introductory physics courses throughout the year.
- Provided ‘Teacher Tricks’ emails to TAs, UTAs, and PhysTEC course faculty.
- Provided some new physics concept demonstrations with recommendations on their learner-centered use.
- Advertised high school teaching careers at the student facilitator training sessions for the Cornell Engineering School’s Academic Excellence Workshops.
- Helped to resurrect our Society of Physics Students. Although it remains weak, there is a new “SPS Room”, there are regular monthly programs, and they had a year-end picnic. Our SPS has promise to grow into a significant source of support for physics majors.
- Participated in Cornell Teacher Education (CTE) planning meetings.
- Assisted the instructors and was an additional resource to students in Learning and Teaching I & II (EDUC 4040 & 4050).
- Reviewed lesson plans of CTE students, participated in all of the pre- student teaching meetings and the student teaching seminar, and supervised one of the student teachers during this fall semester.
- Served as Cornell University supervisor of one physics/math student teacher during the fall ’08 semester.
- Assisted 5 Masters of Arts in Teaching candidates with projects in Physics/Physical Science.
- Advertised the Cornell Teacher Education (CTE) information / recruiting sessions in most physics courses, through in-lecture announcements and pre-lecture PowerPoint presentations. Nearly all students enrolled in undergraduate physics courses and all physics graduate students received emails advertising the sessions.
- Several presentations to Cornell undergraduate and graduate students and also the Physics Department Faculty about the PhysTEC program and careers in physics teaching.
- Presentation on teaching careers at the junior/senior meeting "Physics Degree … What Next?, which had previously focused on graduate study, research careers and seeking employment.
- At the instructional team meetings (attended by faculty, graduate student TAs, and undergraduate UTAs) for the introductory physics courses, the PI and/or TIR discussed
- Marketing the “Teaching and Learning Physics” seminar.
- Marketing the physics major and the physics major with outside concentration.
- Student-centered instructional techniques for use in recitation sections.
- The critical need for high school physics teachers.
- Ways instructional team members can help recruit and retain a broad and diverse group of students in physics (those destined to go to physics graduate school, as well as the much broader group who enjoy physics and could wonderfully apply a physics major’s skill set to the many other fields where it is so highly valued.)
- Specific classroom and course administration strategies to improve student perceptions of physics.
The TIR is actively involved with the Cornell Institute for Physics Teachers (CIPT), the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS), and the Central NY Physics Alliance (one site for Teacher Advisory Group discussions). He gave 2 lab workshops at the annual STANYS conference, and (with Jim Overhiser, our TIR for 2009-2010) a series of workshops for physics teachers in Doha, Qatar, in association with the CIPT and Cornell's Medical School there. At each of these workshops, the TIR discusses how physics teachers can motivate their students to consider a physics major or minor and a career in physics teaching.