Salisbury University PhysTEC Recruiting Grant Project

Gail S. Welsh, Department of Physics, Salisbury University
Starlin D. Weaver, Department of Education Specialties, Salisbury University
Matthew A. Bailey, Department of Physics, Salisbury University

Salisbury posters

Salisbury University’s Recruiting Display

Salisbury University (SU) is a regional comprehensive Maryland public university with an enrollment of approximately 9000 total students. The Physics Department offers a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in physics, which may be completed through one of five tracks: Secondary Education, General Physics, Engineering Physics, Microelectronics, and Dual Degree Transfer Physics & Engineering. The tracks are flexible and allow a student to change from one track to another with ease during the first two years. The secondary education track was established in 2002, and we had our first graduate of the program in 2007. In total, we have approximately 100 physics majors, and the majority of the students entering SU as physics majors express an interest in engineering. Historically, we haven’t done any specific recruiting for the secondary education track.

The secondary education track is a collaborative program between the Departments of Physics and Education Specialties. In addition to the typical physics core courses, the physics secondary education track includes courses in related sciences, laboratory safety, education foundations, technology in education, inclusive instruction, classroom management, a two-semester sequence of science and reading methods in middle and high schools, and the teaching internship at one of our Professional Development Schools (PDS) and the associated seminar. Students are also required to pass both the Praxis II Physics Content exam as well as the Principles of Learning and Teaching exam for Grades 7-12 for program completion and graduation. Students in the secondary education track are assigned to an advisor in physics and an advisor in education. Through the School of Education, SU offers a second route to teacher certification in physics: the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. Students with an earned degree (in physics or equivalent physics course work) can enroll in the MAT program. Students in both the undergraduate and graduate program are given substantial mentoring by their advisors while at SU to assure their retention in the program. They also develop significant skills in pedagogy, assessment, and classroom management. These skills are critical for their continuation and success in the profession.

Our recruitment plan consists of three inter-linked parts:  marketing, early teaching experiences, and a part-time teacher in residence (PT-TIR).

Our marketing efforts are both internal and external. Internally we are raising the awareness among students and faculty. For example, we hosted a seminar, “Teaching Physics and Chemistry as a STEM Career,” in our Physics/Chemistry Seminar series. This was a panel discussion with a veteran high school physics teacher; a retired high school physics and physical science teacher, who is also our PT-TIR; a second year chemistry, physics, and environmental science teacher; and a physics MAT student intern. The seminar, which was attended by 15 students and 15 physics and chemistry faculty, provoked interesting discussions about teaching careers. We are also developing advising tools for our faculty advisors to use in help guiding students who are considering changing tracks from engineering or general physics to secondary education.

For external recruiting, we have produced a tri-fold display board highlighting physics teaching and are in the process of designing promotional materials, such as brochures, to be used at various recruiting events. We will distribute these materials to incoming physics majors and students in the STEM living and learning community, to local high school college/guidance counselors and science teachers, and to SU admissions, career services, and advising services coordinators. We also recruited at the two-week summer Freshman Orientation, Admission Open Houses, and the Undeclared Majors Fair. Finally, we are developing an online presence with a Physics Teaching website as well as Facebook and Twitter pages.

Early Teaching Experiences
SU has a strong Supplemental Instruction (SI) program. SI is a learning enhancement program designed to organize and improve ways in which students prepare for class outside of class (University of Missouri-Kansas City International Center for Supplemental Instruction (2014), Overview of Supplemental Instruction). SI provides weekly, peer-facilitated sessions led by SI leaders. In addition to attending all class sessions, SI leaders develop and facilitate study sessions with a focus on connecting “how-to-learn” with “what-to-learn”. Trained in effective group learning pedagogies, such as collaborative and active learning, students who serve as SI leaders gain the skills needed to plan and facilitate effective instruction to a group of peers. Over the course of one semester, each SI leader is paid a semester stipend and has the opportunity to gain over 125 hours of experience facilitating student learning. Anecdotal evidence suggests that students have gotten the “teaching bug” through leading SI sessions. We feel that SI is a good option for smaller schools where Learning Assistant programs in the physics department are not feasible. Our introductory sequence of physics courses is taught in an activity-based blended lecture-lab format. In fall 2014 we introduced Supplemental Instruction to the first year physics majors’ courses. We also offer SI with some of our General Physics sections.

In addition to our SI program, we provide an early teaching experience for two physics majors each semester who may be considering teaching as a career. Our Teaching Exploration Program (TEP) offers placements in the local schools to provide potential physics teachers with early teaching experiences with pre-college students. In the spring, we placed three students in SU’s local PDSs.

We hired a part-time Teacher in Residence: Brenda Cox, a retired physics teacher who has worked with the Education department as a Mentor and Internship Supervisor. Brenda met the students in the TEP at the schools, provided orientation, and introduced them to the teachers with whom they were placed.

After one year of the grant activities, we have seen some interest from our students in teaching, but it remains to be seen whether the interest turns into a career choice. We look forward to continuing our activities over the next two years.

Gail S. Welsh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at Salisbury University. She is the Physics PI for the PhysTEC Recruiting Grant.

Starlin D. Weaver is a Professor in the Department of Education Specialties at Salisbury University. She is the Science Education PI for the PhysTEC Recruiting Grant.

Matthew A. Bailey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at Salisbury University. He serves as the Society of Physics Students Advisor and is part of the department’s recruiting effort.

Disclaimer – The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.