A thriving physics teacher education program necessarily brings many teacher candidates into the program. Among the important strategies for recruitment are:
- Changing student and faculty perceptions of the teaching profession (Get the Facts Out is the best resource for this)
- Taking advantage of local recruitment opportunities, active promotion of the program such as proactive advising and the presence of positive ambassadors for the teaching profession
- Early teaching experiences that give first- or second-year students a taste of the rewards and challenges of teaching
- Streamlined and accessible options for degree and licensure to help convince students to commit to a physics teaching career.
Strategies for Effective Recruitment
The first step we recommend in each of these areas is to complete the PTEPA Rubric. That will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses, as well as what types of strategies are relevant for your institution.
Get the Facts Out About the STEM Teaching Professions
We strongly recommend making a plan to start using the Get the Facts Out resources. Based on careful research, they are designed to take advantage of the surprising fact that about half of all physics majors have at least some interest in a teaching career but just don’t know much about it.
These resources include customizable brochures, posters, presentation slides and notes (both for students and for the faculty and advisors who interact with them), and strategies for positive messaging. They are proven to give most people a more accurate picture of what the STEM teaching profession is like.
Use the Get the Facts Out resources to share positive messages about the teaching profession. The facts about teaching, including the most effective ways to share them, have been studied by the Get the Facts Out researchers. Read them, and then have honest conversations and show students that teaching is a fulfilling career both financially and in job satisfaction.
Get faculty to encourage students who want to pursue a teaching career. Faculty attitudes have a strong influence on students. Encourage your colleagues to adopt and model the attitude that teaching is an intellectually challenging activity worthy of the same degree of respect as physics research. The faculty-facing presentation included with the Get the Facts Out resources is a great place to start (and it has been revised and tested for online use).
Host a departmental event for students interested in teaching. Create a safe space for students to talk about their interest in teaching, perhaps with the local SPS chapter or careers office. Provide free food. Try to get as many faculty as possible and at least one local high school teacher to attend. Use the student-facing presentation from Get the Facts Out.
Summary of Best Practices for Recruitment
Recruiting future physics teachers involves:
- Consistent positive and accurate promotion of the teaching profession
- Personal attention and good advising
- Well-taught introductory courses that pique student interest in physics
- A coherent path to teacher certification with a physics major, minor, or equivalent
- Exposure to actual teachers and teaching experiences
Other Activities for Recruitment
Personally invite students to consider teaching. Publicize your program in New Student Orientations, introductory physics courses (as well as other science and engineering courses), departmental open houses, and Society of Physics Students meetings. If you feel a particular student would make a good teacher, let them know! Recruit your top students.
Send invitations. Send cards to incoming science and math students and their parents.
Cast your net wide. In addition to physics majors, potential physics teachers include engineering majors, pre-meds, other STEM majors (they can get a physics minor), graduate students, local two-year college students, and science and technology professionals in the workforce who are looking for a career change.
Model engaging, interactive, and effective teaching methods. A great physics class can inspire students to continue learning physics and share in the excitement and rewards of teaching. Consider implementing a Learning Assistant program, which requires using best teaching practices and can strengthen your entire physics department while helping to recruit teacher candidates.
Provide future teachers with good advising. Make sure all academic advisors in your department and institution know about and promote your teacher preparation program and can direct their advisees to the right person for more information.
Expose students to real teachers. An enthusiastic, experienced, and committed teacher can be the best advertisement for a teaching career. Consider hiring a Teacher in Residence, setting up a Teacher Advisory Group, or inviting your graduates or local high school physics teachers to talk to your current undergraduates about teaching careers.
Expose students to the practice of teaching. Learning Assistant programs and other early teaching experiences give undergraduates the opportunity to try teaching in a highly supported context.
Engage students in recruitment. Students who are in your PTE program are the best ambassadors to recruit their classmates. Have your students give a Get the Facts Out presentation to their peers, or make their own videos, posters, or blog posts about physics concepts that incorporate messaging from the Get the Facts Out project.
Create an achievable physics degree plan that includes teacher certification. Collaborate with your education school to create a coherent program that includes physics-specific pedagogy training and excludes unnecessary or redundant coursework. The course of study should not overly extend a student’s time at the university without a balanced incentive.
Promote teaching certification as a useful addition. Emphasize that it does not commit students to a lifelong teaching career and that it shows they have communication skills that make them highly marketable in the workplace.
Form relationships with other departments and local two-year colleges. Encourage engineering and life science advisors to have their students take physics during freshman or sophomore years, when they still have time to switch majors and career plans. Set up articulation agreements to smooth the transition for students entering your program.
Offer scholarship support. Consider applying for NSF’s Noyce Teacher Scholarships or Scholarships in STEM programs or encouraging your students to apply for a Knowles Science Teaching Fellowship. In addition, AAPT and SPS offer scholarships for future teachers.
See more information on finding funding
Further Reading for Measuring and Improving Recruitment
- Recruiting and Educating Future Physics Teachers (Sandifer and Brewe, 2015)
- Perceptions of Teaching as a Profession (PTaP) Survey
- Survey of Climate for Instructional Improvement (SCII), discussed beginning on page 441 of Transforming Institutions (Weaver et al., 2016)