New Faculty Experience for TYC Physics Instructors
This project focuses on the professional development of new faculty teaching physics at a two-year college. Only forty percent of two-year colleges have more than one physics faculty member. There is no in-discipline mentoring available for new instructors for the majority of the two-year colleges. There are a number of highly effective active engagement strategies that have been developed over the years for introductory physics. These are not well known or adopted by new faculty.
The goal of the project are to improve undergraduate physics education at two-year colleges by transforming the approaches new two-year college physics instructors use on a daily basis in their classroom.
The project uses an 18-month experience to provide the necessary support for real transformation to take place. New instructors are introduced to Physics Education Research data that clearly shows active engagement strategies yield greater student learning. Through the use of online discussion boards, participants read and discuss a different seminal paper on Physics Education Research each week for 6 weeks leading up to an intensive 4-day workshop. Here participants are exposed to multiple research-based approaches to teaching introductory physics. Participants then choose two approaches to explore in-depth. After the workshop, participants spend the next 16 months developing and implementing lessons based on one or more of these researched-based approaches. The online discussion boards are utilized and participants are required to make minimum monthly submissions of the activities they have created and how their students received them. Both seasoned two-year college instructors serving as mentors as well as their community of new faculty respond and support each other through this process. A commencement conference in July of the following year is held in tandem with the summer conference for the American Association of Physics Teachers. During the commencement conference additional strategies are given, including those used for teaching Astronomy. In addition the new faculty receive mentoring on giving professional talks. A session at the summer AAPT conference is set aside for these new faculty to share the results of their experience.
A side focus of the project that has been very successful is to develop the next generation of leaders in the two-year college physics community. Through the work of the project, we have created some excellent leadership development opportunities and alumni of the New Faculty Experience have significantly participated and assumed leadership roles in our community.
True professional development is time consuming. Significant transformation of teaching takes months, if not years to accomplish. Most institutions donﾒt have any good role models for these new physics faculty to rely on and so providing a seasoned mentor from another Two-Year College fills that need. But the community of new faculty can itself provide a great deal of the support if the community has nurtured well in the beginning of the process.
It has been exceedingly marketing our program as there is no database of the new Two-Year College physics faculty. Many of these have not joined a professional society yet and so advertisements in journals nets few applicants. Sending letters to college presidents with information on our project to pass along to new faculty has had very limited success of reaching these new faculty. Word of mouth recommendations has been our strongest method of recruitment, but this does not reach a major target audience of single faculty departments.