red Supported Site University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Goals & Outcomes


The goal of the PhysTEC project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is to establish a program in which science majors prepare to become high school science teachers as they pursue their undergraduate degrees, and to recruit students to come to UNC to prepare to become teachers. As the flagship institution in the UNC System, we hope to play a leadership role in enhancing teacher preparation programs throughout North Carolina. The UNC-BEST (UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching) program is a full partnership between the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education, and initially involved the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Biology. The PhysTEC grant provided support for the physics portion of UNC-BEST. In 2009/10 we expanded the program to include Geological Sciences, Mathematics, and Chemistry. We graduated our first physics teacher in May 2009, and continue to add to the number of UNC baccalaureate graduates who become high-quality physics teachers. The PhysTEC project provided a Teacher-in-Residence for the project, supported meetings of our Teacher Advisory Group, and provided resources for reform of introductory physics courses and other activities within the program.

Selected Outcomes

  • Past years
    • We graduated our first physics teacher in May 2009. The UNC-BEST graduating class was featured in a news release from the College of Arts & Sciences and in the Commencement program, giving wide publicity to UNC-BEST. Another student who took the pedagogy course in 2008 but did not join UNC-BEST also graduated that year and is now teaching in a private school in Southern Pines, NC.
    • We obtained funding from the US Dept. of Education's Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow program to expand UNC-BEST to include mathematics and geology, and to establish an induction program.
    • We incorporated the Geological Sciences, Mathematics, and Chemistry Departments into UNC-BEST and enrolled their students in the program beginning in Fall 2009.
    • We have instituted a required, for-credit TA seminar for the graduate teaching assistants, and added undergraduate Learning Assistants to it in the fall of 2009. All undergraduate students involved in some form of teaching within the deparment are part of our umbrella Undergraduate Teaching Assistants (UTAs) program. The students working with the recitation sections are called Learning Assistants. All other undergraduates involved in teaching are called Undergraduate Teaching Assistants.
    • We have put a course in physical science for elementary education majors "on the books" and will develop it over the next year for a possible first offering in AY2010/11. The course will use the Physics in Everyday Thinking model as its starting point. The elementary Eduacation Program has made this course required of all up-coming majors instead of Biology 101.
  • Current year
    • We have successfully taught the physics pedagogy course for the third time, enrolling six students of whom one was in the process of applying to the UNC-BEST program and one who was considering doing so. Two of the students were already enrolled in the program.
    • We graduated two physics teachers in May 2011. Both are currently seeking employment in North Carolina public schools. Due to uncertainty about the budget proposals currently under consideration by the state legislature (all of which mandate deep cuts in funds provided to schools), few school districts are hiring new teachers at this time. For AY2011/12, both graduates have internships with the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

We implemented the SCALE-UP system of interactive engagement pedagogy in three sections of our calculus-based introductory physics sequence. We have obtained partial funding to renovate a second classroom to increase the number of sections we offer in this format.