On graduation, teacher candidates (TCs) are typically underprepared to teach science, particularly physical science, whereas physics graduates frequently lack training in teaching or effective communication. In response, we created two models for interdisciplinary peer learning where TCs were paired with either graduate or undergraduate physics students. In both models, physics students teach TCs content knowledge relevant to a given area of either classical or quantum physics, which TCs then use to design and implement a short lesson for K-5 students. Overall, both models were successful, with the two sets of students reporting benefits in each case. Affordances for TCs included increased confidence to teach physical science and an appreciation for collaboration with experts. Physics students described increased awareness of the complexities of communicating science to general audiences and stronger community with their classmates. Students from both groups cited insufficient project time as a constraint, whereas physics students found it challenging to align their project and coursework. In moving away from traditional lecture, these interdisciplinary collaborations also benefitted us as instructors, giving us new perspectives on teaching. In light of our findings we propose improvements to these proof-of-concept models to enable their future scale-up and replication in other disciplines.
This document was originally published in the Journal of College Science Teaching by the National Science Teachers Association. Copyright restrictions may apply.
Wenner, Julianne A. and Simmonds, Paul J.. (2017). "Two Departments, Two Models of Interdisciplinary Peer Learning". Journal of College Science Teaching, 47(1), 18-23.