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Member InstitutionMember Institution Florida State University

Florida State University

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Clausell Mathis
Paul Cottle

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According to the Florida Department of Education, high school physics has been in decline in recent years.  In 2005, 24% of the graduates of the state's public high schools had taken a physics course, but by 2009 that had decreased to 22%.  A new state law on high school graduation requirements approved this spring may reverse this trend, and state officials have expressed concern about whether the supply of physics teachers will be adequate to meet the demand during the next several years.  Over the last twelve months, we have anticipated these changes by putting programs in place to respond to an increased demand for teachers of physics and physical science.  The work of the FSU Physics Department will leverage the presence on campus of FSU-Teach, the National Math and Science Initiative site, which provides marketing services to attract students to science teaching (including physics) and a general curriculum for preparation of math and science teachers.  The department's teacher education program will also leverage its program of inquiry-driven studio teaching in its introductory classes.  The studio physics program provide future physics teachers with a model environment in which to learn physics and then also provides a first chance to teach in an inquiry environment via learning assistantships.

We believe that impending jump in demand for physics teachers in Florida requires us to set a goal of graduating 20 new teachers per year.  The department presently graduates 15-20 bachelor's-level physicists per year, so it is clear that reaching a rate of 20 graduates per year in physics teaching alone poses a challenge.  In addressing this challenge, we are focusing on the goal of making high quality physics courses available at more high schools and making things better than they are now.  In particular, we are focusing on educating teachers who are well equipped to teach the algebra-based Advanced Placement Physics B course.  We want these students to have a very solid understanding of the physics content at this level, and we want them equipped to run laboratory exercises confidently.  In addition, in the present fiscal environment where school districts are trying to meet teaching needs with reduced resources, it makes sense to allow pre-service physics teachers to have a second area of concentration in a related field such as chemistry, mathematics or computer science.  

To address this, the FSU Physics Department has approved a new major, labeled Physical Science/FSU-Teach, that three semesters of introductory calculus-based physics (including a semester of modern physics), two semesters of calculus, a semester of modern physics laboratory, two semesters of introductory chemistry, and a one-semester learning assistantship.  In addition, students in this major must complete the 29 credit hour "FSU-Teach" second major composed of general science pedagogy courses and select a second area of concentration in chemistry, computer science, mathematics or upper division physics.  The combination of the Physical Science/FSU-Teach major and the FSU-Teach second major in pedagogy has the approval of the Florida Department of Education.  

Future physics teachers also have the option of completing a regular physics major along with the FSU-Teach second major.  This combination does not have the official approval of the Florida Department of Education because it requires more than 120 credit hours; however, students who complete this program will have no trouble obtaining certification.