red Supported Site Chicago State University: Course Reform

** Although the course reforms listed below are not a direct result of PhyTEC funding, each of the science pre-service teachers engage in these courses and are therefore exposed to innovative, research-based curriculum materials. The reforms therefore have a profound effect on the PhysTEC Project. The only new course that has been developed as a direct result of PhysTEC funding is the TII Course (Phys 3500). In addition, we believe that PhysTEC played a major role in the President committing over 1.5 million dollars to the renovation of two physics classrooms.


  • CSU has had four NSF-CCLI grants since 2004. These programs focus on innovations in the introductory Physics Courses and the overall Program. (DUE #'s 0632563, 0618128, 410068, 0941034). Each introductory physics course, Physics I/II (algebra) and Physics I/II/III (calculus), utilizes many of the following teaching tools: research-based laboratories, clicker question sequences, interactive PowerPoint Lectures, PhET Simulations, Tasks Inspired by PER. These materials all come from PER programs both outside CSU and internally.
  • CSU has completed the renovation of two new physics classrooms, creating a state-of-the-art learning environment that promotes active engagement and provides the ability to engage in science education research.
  • Sabella had an opportunity to visit California State University - Long Beach and Florida International University to observe different types of Course Reform.


  • Although all Physics Faculty are supportive of the innovative teaching approaches employed in the CSU courses, implementing these innovations takes time from busy schedules. Efforts continue to be made to make the transition as easy as possible for instructors.
  • There is concern about whether innovations will continue if key people leave the university.
  • Some faculty need additional professional development on the pedagogical model we are promoting. There is an honest effort on the part of the faculty and little resistance but inquiry skills need to continuously be practiced, reflected on and refined.


  • The department seems committed to curriculum reform efforts in physics. There is no resistance to implementing these techniques in the classroom.
  • The Department and University have given credit regarding retention, promotion and tenure to faculty who have published papers and received grants that focus on Science Education Research.
  • The development of the new physics classroom is a major commitment on the part of the university to promote innovative teaching and foster a learning environment that aligns extremely well with the physics programs innovative curricula material. Many dignitaries have visited these classrooms and they are now a regular part of campus tours. The President is very invested in these rooms.
  • The Physics Program and University approved adding the TII Course (Phys 3500) course to the secondary education curriculum.
  • An article on the new classroom was featured in the APS Forum on Education newsletter

Lessons Learned

  • For faculty to adopt course reforms, the implementation of the materials must be easy and seamless. This often means that there must be a specific individual to whom they can go to solve problems quickly.
  • Maintaining working computers, ensuring that probes are all functional, etc. takes time from the few faculty who have experience with these tools. It is important that the pool of individuals that can troubleshoot and maintain this equipment grows with the reforms. A new lab technician who teaches a number of our courses and has experience with these materials was hired and has been ensuring that these materials are functional.
  • A structure for additional professional development for CSU faculty should be put in place but because of large teaching loads and busy schedules it is difficult to see how this can be put in place. Although workshops on the subject is useful there needs to be a local, ongoing effort on developing inquiry skills.

Physics 3500

  • The Teaching Immersion Institute course did not exist before PhysTEC funding. The Course emphasizes a semester long action research project centered around a specific physics concept. The course is co-taught by two Chicago area teachers. The course has received some national recognition due to the article in the Physics Teacher Magazine and the feature on the PhysTEC website. A workshop on the course was implemented at the 2013 PhysTEC Conference. The course is now a requirement in the secondary education option.
  • A version of the Physics 3500 class has been replicated at Seattle Pacific University with success.