Phys21: Preparing students for diverse careers (#AAPTSM17)

by Stephanie Chasteen on July 26, 2017

I just gave an invited talk at AAPT about my work for the Phys21 Report:  Preparing Students for 21st Century Careers.  I was commissioned by the JTUPP committee to create case studies of how institutions achieved success for diverse students.  This was my favorite project last year, it was completely inspiring to talk about what these departments did.  If anyone ever wants to hire me to develop case studies, please drop me a line!

My slides for the talk are below.   Some particularly cool strategies that I saw people use:

  1. Assessment committee.  At U. W. La Crosse, they found that their students weren’t being given opportunities to practice all the desired skills, like communication, and they didn’t have opportunities to assess them.  They created an assessment committee which determines which courses provide best assessment of those goals.  Faculty are allowed to choose how to assess the goal, and then all the results are presented in a daylong retreat focused on formative discussion.  This led to a curricular change where students give a talk in an upper level course, have it assessed on a rubric, and then give a talk in a capstone course.
  2. One-credit career seminar.  A 1-credit seminar, often in Fall and Spring, introduces students to career options, write resumes, invites professional physicists and faculty to present and discuss their careers and/or research. This may be required or optional, but is often popular as a drop-in among upperclassmen.  Such a seminar is super important for establishing strong student cohorts, keeping them in the degree and realizing the variety of career options, and connecting with faculty.
  3. Majors-focused intro course.  Using active learning in the intro course was powerful for many reasons, including establishing a strong student cohort and creating persistence in the major, as well as student learning.  Some places also made a majors-focused course, which helped physics students to not get lost in the large intro courses filled with other majors, and allowed the department to offer more mentoring and support to those students, and tailor the content to majors.  For example, St. Mary’s created a career curriculum which is embedded in the 3rd semester of this course, and students write an application to internships as part of that career curriculum.  This has also resulted in a huge surge of students getting internships!

See my slides for some more transportable strategies.


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