Evidence of Success
The PhysTEC project, beginning in Spring 2008, transformed the standard physics lab and has had considerable impacts on lab students understanding and attitudes as well as recruiting high quality Learning Assistants to gain experience with reformed teaching practices. Evidence of the success of the PhysTEC project is can be seen in student understanding in the reformed labs (see Figure 1), and in the attitudes toward learning physics (see Figure 2).
Figure 1. Conceptual Understanding Gains (Post – Pre) for students in Traditional and Reform Labs and No Lab.
Figure 2. Shifts in Students’ attitudes toward learning physics for Traditional and Reformed Labs and No Lab.
These learning and attitudinal measures are in part due to Learning Assistants working in the physics labs. Since the inception of the LA program, the recruitment of LAs has grown from 8 to 24 in Spring 2010 (see Figure 3), with LAs from many majors working in the LA program (see Figure 4). During this time 62 sections of 2048 lab have been impacted and over 12 sections of 2049 lab have been impacted, which means the PhysTEC project has effected 2145 lab students in three short years.
Figure 3. Number of Applications, New LAs, and Total LAs by semester.
Figure 4. Self reported majors of Learning Assistants (through Spring 2010).
The Learning Assistant program and use in introductory physics labs have been institutionalized in the FIU physics department and other departments including chemistry, math and earth science are now implementing Learning Assistant programs of their own. If you are interested in becoming an LA, more information can be found here.