Two-year colleges (TYCs) play a significant role in the United States' higher education system, serving 36% of the students in higher education. Retraining in growth areas such as the medical field or alternative energy often requires content knowledge in physics. But the needs go beyond just content knowledge. Future employees are in need of skill sets such as scientific problem solving, synthesizing information and product design. While traditional instruction provides discipline-based content, it does not always allow students to develop these skills. Substantial efforts have been made to develop research-based instructional strategies in physics that enhance both content learning and development of scientific skill sets. However, the American Institute of Physics survey of TYC physics faculty members has shown that traditional lectures occurred in over 60% of the classes most of the time and 43% of the respondents at TYCs were not using a single innovative strategy listed on the survey.
The major goal of this project is to have a significant impact on STEM education at TYCs by providing sixty new TYC physics instructors with an eighteen-month intensive professional development experience that includes: (1) on-line interactions among project staff and participants, focused on seminal papers in physics education; (2) a 4-day immersion experience, in workshop format, where participants receive direct experience with several research-based instructional strategies; (3) post-conference online mentoring and on-site meetings with select mentees; and (4) a follow-up conference conducted in tandem with a national American Association of Physics Teachers meeting where participants present capstone projects.
The second project goal is to further the development of the next generation of leaders in the TYC physics community by recognizing as "alumni-in-residence" past program graduates who exhibited early leadership traits while in the program. These program alumni are sharing their recent transformations with current participants and providing insight into the philosophical approach the leadership team strategically employs in each aspect of the experience. They are also being mentored in physics community leadership and provided opportunities to lead sessions.