red Member Institution East Central University

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East Central University

Research and Professional Development
Recruitment and Outreach


Karen Williams
Professor of Physics
Tel: 580/559-5394

East Central University Website

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Physics Teacher Education Program

ECU is a premier comprehensive student-centered regional university in Oklahoma.  ECU, located in Ada, OK has about 4900 students.  

The ECU Physics Teacher Education Program requires 30 hrs of professional education courses, 30 hours of physics, 23 hours of other sciences, and 16 hours of mathematics as well as a minimum of 45 hours general education courses and two service learning courses.

The ECU physics teacher education program is based on the ECU Education Dept.'s Prime Model that idealizes the prescriptiveness with regard as to what should be taught, reflectiveness regarding what was taught, and integrativeness regarding the curriculum.  Prescriptive teachers think about the needs and backgrounds of their students, they are familiar with theories of learning and development, they are sensitive to diversity, are analytical in their analyses, and adapt their teaching methods as necessary.  Reflective teachers think critically about content, pedagogy, and the appropriateness of content; they are committed to students in their discipline, and continually assess their effectiveness in the classroom. Integrative teachers are aware of relationships between concepts in their content, they are aware of the importance of technology and how it aids in instruction.  

ECU Physics Education Majors are ready to become certified as 'highly qualified' in that they have the rigorous physics and science coursework backed by the Prime Model educational philosophy.  ECU has one of the most active Student Chapters of the National Science Teacher's Association.  Our students made outstanding presentations during ITV national meetings of NSTA.  Student NSTA members include both elementary and secondary teacher prospects which is an excellent opportunity for our physics secondary students to teach physics to hesitant elementary teachers. We also have a 13 time nationally recognized Society of Physics Students chapter that does outreach in the public schools and for the community.  Students have a well rounded experience with physics content and teaching before student teaching.

Description of Initiatives to Improve Preservice Education

The Physics Department has taken the role of modeling excellence in teaching physics.  Our Physics Education majors are required to take 30 hours of physics.  The physics faculty have adopted a 'teach physics the way it should be taught' philosophy.  Faculty members have been very active in American Association of Physics Teachers for decades, have received Eisenhower physics and physical science teaching grants, and bring forth excellence in physics education based upon physics education research to each physics course.  We teach content using Modeling, Learning Cycles,  Beyond Question, active research and design of experiments, cooperative learning and other methods.  During 2009-2010, Dr. Williams has completed the Learner Centered Teaching Methods Program provided by the Native Voices Grant.  In this way we model the way we want our physics teacher interns to teach hoping that our students follow our example.   ECU Physics Education has joined with PTEC (Physics Teacher Education Coalition).  PTEC's goal is to "improve the education of future physics & physical science teachers".  Dr. Karen Williams is a member of NSTA (National Science Teachers' Association). The advisor of the ECU NSTA Student Chapter is Dr. Rahmonna Thompson (Biology Dept).

Summer 2008 Activities
Dr. Karen Williams and Dr. Carl Rutledge were part of a grant with Byng Schools to improve the physical science understanding of the teachers in Pontotoc County.  For two weeks in July we taught physical science, earth science, and astronomy to 38 teachers in the county
from 4th-8th grade.  Improvement was found in content and PASS skill knowledge of the participants as a whole.  Three followup days remain throughout the Fall and next Spring.

2010 Activities:
In March 2010, Dr. Karen Williams taught a science ethics workshop to the Texas Section of the American Physical Society.  

In Oct. 2010 she and Dr. Rutledge will teach workshops in science ethics and astronomy to teachers at the Kansas City, MO Regional NSTA meeting.

2012 Research Activities

I am examining how many laboratories taught in the 2008 workshop (above) are being implemented, reasons for not implementing them, problems, etc.  

2013 Research Activities

Lacking students in teacher ed, this summer I have examined the numbers of women Society of Physics Students advisees in physics departments. My research has found that there are significantly fewer women being advisors. Why is this?  

At the 2008 OK-AR-KS Section of the American Assoc. of Physics Teachers Regional Meeting held at Rose State University TWO former ECU physics education graduates:  Tim Claxton and Sue Ellen McFarlane Frerichs received plaques for excellence in physics education. Two of the 3 were given the distinction of OK Outstanding Physics Teacher of the Year by AAPT.

In Nov. 2008, Dr. Karen Williams was presented with the Worth Seagondollar Award at the 2008 Sigma Pi Sigma Quadrennial Congress, at Fermilab.  She is the 4th recipient of this award given for her service as President of the Society of Physics Students and her work with Sigma Pi Sigma.

In April 2009, Dr. Karen Willliams was presented an ECU Teacher Excellence Award.  In April 2010, Dr. Carl T. Rutledge was presented an ECU Teacher Excellence Award.

In Feb. 2010, the American Association of Physics Teachers awarded Dr. Karen Williams with the Distinguished Service Citation.

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