PhysTEC Project Status: July 2014

This report contains the latest news and updates on the PhysTEC project.

Upcoming Events

Online Modeling Instruction in Physics Course

PhysTEC is offering a Modeling Instruction in Physics course for pre-service and inservice teachers of PhysTEC member institutions. The course runs from August 27 - December 10, on Wednesdays, 7-10 pm ET, 6-9 pm CT, 5-8 pm MT, and 4-7 pm PT. Class registration is closed, but potential students can add their names to a waiting list at

AAPT Summer Meeting, July 26-30

AAPT's 2014 Summer Meeting will be held in Minneapolis, MN from July 26-30. The project will host a half-day focus group on July 27 for faculty from PUIs (Primarily Undergraduate Institutions).

The Committee on Teacher Preparation will sponsor the following sessions:

  • Teacher Training and Enhancement; Monday July 28, 8:30-9:40 am, Tate Lab 131
  • Translating Teachers' Research Experience into Classroom Practice; Monday July 28, 4:00-5:40 pm, STSS 412
  • Sustainability of Physics Teacher Prep Programs; Tuesday July 29, 8:00-10:00 am, STSS 114
  • Teachers in Residence, Tuesday, July 29, 1:00-2:40 pm, STSS 412
  • Mentoring in the Physics Community; Wednesday July 30, 8:30-9:40 am, STSS 220
  • Teacher Communities: Supporting Beginning Teachers of Physics; Wednesday July 30, 9:50-10:30 am, STSS 220

Save the Date for CU Boulder LA Workshop

The sixth national Learning Assistant Workshop will be held at the University of Colorado, Boulder on November 2-4, 2014. The Learning Assistant program is a highly supported peer teaching experience that has been shown to improve students' learning and attitudes toward science in undergraduate lecture classes and recruit talented science and math students into teaching careers. More information can be found at:

Save the Date for the 2015 PhysTEC Conference and "Building a Thriving Undergraduate Physics Program" Workshop

The 2015 PhysTEC Conference will be held on February 5-7 in Seattle, WA. The theme for the conference is "Building Thriving Programs". The conference will feature a half-day pre-conference Learning Assistant Workshop on February 5th.

In addition, a post-conference workshop on '"Building a Thriving Undergraduate Physics Program" (February 6-8) will assist departments in developing strategies for increasing enrollment of physics majors. More information on both meetings can be found at:

Project Updates

Regional LA Workshops

In response to high demand for Learning Assistant (LA) Workshops, the University of Colorado Boulder organized five regional LA workshops in the spring of 2014, all of which were very well attended and filled to capacity. Partners included PhysTEC, the National Science Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Workshops were run at Boston University; University of Maryland, College Park; Florida International University; Texas State University, San Marcos and Chicago State University. The workshops supported faculty interested in starting, growing and sustaining LA programs in the STEM disciplines. More information is here:

2014 PhysTEC Conference

The 2014 PhysTEC Conference was held May 19-20 in Austin, TX in conjunction with the UTeach Annual Meeting. The conference theme was "Building Leadership", and workshops were offered on topics including pedagogical training for physics teachers, learning assistants, and developing sustainable physics teacher education programs. Over 100 participants, from almost 70 institutions and organizations, attended. PhysTEC and UTeach held a joint plenary, featuring speaker Arthur Levine of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and two shared workshop sessions. The conference schedule and presentations are available at

PhysTEC Sustainability Study Released

In 2012-2013, PhysTEC supported an independent study on the sustainability of its sites after project funding ends. The study, conducted by evaluator Rachel Scherr, sought to measure the extent to which programs have been sustained and to identify what features should be prioritized for building sustainable physics teacher education programs. Most of the studied sites have sustained increases in production of physics teachers as well as funding for physics teacher education. About half of the programs are thriving, in that they have sustained large increases in physics teacher production and funding for physics teacher education. All studied sites that sustained increases in physics teacher production have two features in common: a champion of physics teacher education and institutional motivation and commitment. A copy of the report will be sent to all physics chairs and can be downloaded here on Tuesday, July 29:

PhysTEC and GIREP Partnership Announced

Marisa Michelini, president of GIREP, attended the 2014 PhysTEC conference in Austin and proposed an agreement between the PhysTEC project and GIREP to promote information exchange in the area of physics teacher preparation. The full text of the agreement is as follows:

The American Physical Society (APS) and the Groupe International de Recherche sur l'Enseignement de la Physique (GIREP) agree to join efforts in promoting common goals in physics teacher education within and across national boundaries. In particular, GIREP agrees to publicize affiliate membership in the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) project, and APS through the PhysTEC project agrees to encourage GIREP participation in the annual PhysTEC Conference. In addition, the organizational partners will exchange information through websites and newsletters and will share with one another informational posters publicizing relevant conferences and other organizational initiatives.

University of Central Florida

Ted Hodapp and Renee Michelle Goertzen made a site visit to the University of Central Florida (UCF) on February 25. In its first year of funding, UCF has six teachers in the pipeline.The department has transformed many of its courses, teaching about 2000 introductory students each semester using studio and "mini studio" formats. The department is in the process of completing preparations for a BA/ High school teaching track; students can officially enroll in this track in Fall 2015.

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

On April 2, the PhysTEC team of Monica Plisch, Renee Michelle Goertzen, and Karen King, from the University of Missouri, visited the University of Alabama. The project has grown and there are currently six future teachers. The future teachers spoke highly of their LA experience and early teaching experiences in high school classrooms. The TIR, Penni Wallace, focuses on advising, recruiting, and coordinating early teaching experiences in high schools for future teachers.

University of Cincinnati

On March 27, Ted Hodapp, Renee Michelle Goertzen, and Brian Thoms, from Georgia State University, visited the University of Cincinnati. In its first year of funding, the project has expanded the pathways to physics certification, established an LA program, and developed a methods course for early childhood education. The pathways to licensure for future teachers at UC include a new BA program that allows certification in four years, a five-year accelerated engineering program with licensure, and a BS in education with a physics major or minor.

Virginia Tech

Monica Plisch and Renee Michelle Goertzen visited Virginia Tech on March 19. Virginia Tech is in its third year of project funding and is prepared to sustain project successes thanks to strong support in both the physics and education departments. The original TIR, Alma Robinson, has been hired as a full time instructor. Currently there are nine future teachers in the pipeline. Early teaching experiences at VT include developing lesson plans with high school teachers, mentoring in a high school robotics program, and an LA program.

James Madison University

On March 20, Monica Plisch, Renee Michelle Goertzen, and John Simonetti, from Virginia Tech, visited James Madison University. The project has made excellent progress in its first year, including expanding the use of LAs in introductory physics courses and the recruitment of two students into the program through presentations made by the TIR, John Mahler. The project has negotiated lab teaching positions for two preservice physics teachers annually, which provides support as they complete their Masters of Arts in Teaching.

PhysTEC Coalition Study

The project has engaged a consultant, Rachel Scherr, to conduct interviews with faculty at a subset of the 300+ coalition member institutions. Institutions are selected randomly and an interview is requested with the primary contact. The goals of the Coalition Study are to learn more about the activities of member institutions, successes and challenges in building physics teacher education programs, and what additional steps PhysTEC can take to support these efforts. After the listening tour is completed later this summer, Scherr will produce a report which will be made available on

PhysTEC Teacher Retention Rate

For the second year in a row, the project conducted a survey of graduates of PhysTEC supported sites to learn who went into teaching and for how long. Of the 336 total PhysTEC graduates, the survey was sent to the 281 graduates for whom we had a working email address. Of these, 182 responded, giving a 65% response rate; this is 22% improved from the 2012-2013 graduates survey response rate. The project still plans to make additional attempts to increase the response rate.

The three-year teacher retention rate calculated from the survey data of PhysTEC teachers is 82%; the national average reported by the U.S. Department of Education for the academic year 2007-2008 for full and part time teacher is 74%.

Leadership Transitions

Former co-PI, Monica Plisch, has stepped into the project director role. Plisch has been a member of the project management team since 2007, and her new role as PI reflects her increasing leadership of the project. Ted Hodapp, project director since 2004, will continue as a co-PI and will remain actively involved in the project. Hodapp launched and is project director of the APS Bridge Program, which has a goal to increase the number of physics doctorate degrees awarded to underrepresented minorities. In addition, Renee Michelle Goertzen is now a co-PI on the PhysTEC project. Goertzen has been a member of the project management team since joining APS in 2013. For a complete listing of all past project personnel, please visit

Editor Changes

The Project would like to thank John Stewart, the University of Arkansas, for his eight years of service to the PhysTEC project as Editor of the Digital Library and of the Teacher Preparation Section for the APS Forum on Education Newsletter. Alma Robinson, Virginia Tech, will be in the new Editor of the Teacher Preparation Section for the Forum on Education Newsletter.

New Member Institutions

The PhysTEC Coalition now has over 300 Member Institutions. The newest members are:

  • American University
  • Carthage College
  • Colorado School of Mines
  • California State University, Fullerton
  • Delaware State University
  • Dillard University
  • East Tennessee University
  • Edgewood College
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Montclair State University
  • Morehead State University
  • Temple University
  • University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • William Paterson University

Learn about these and other coalition members at