PhysTEC Project Status: April 2015

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

Upcoming Events

Summer AAPT Meeting, July 25-29

The 2015 Summer AAPT meeting will be held on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park on July 25-29. The following sessions will be held by by the Committee on Teacher Preparation:

  • Teach Graphical Solutions for Forces and Kinematics
  • Facilitating Student Self-reflection & Personalized Instructor Feedback
  • Periscope: Looking into Learning in Best-practices University Physics Classrooms
  • Next Generation Physics and Everyday Thinking
  • Preparing to Teach Physics to the Next Generation
  • Mentoring and Induction of Entering Physics Teachers
  • First Year Physics Teachers: Insights & Experiences, Adapting the Teacher In Residence (TIR) role to Local Contexts, and Effective Practices in Physics Teacher Preparation.

Learn More and Register »

2016 PhysTEC Conference in Baltimore, MD, March 11-13

The 2016 PhysTEC Conference will be in Baltimore, Maryland on March 11-13 at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court. The conference will be the held in conjunction with the APS March Meeting, which will run March 14-18. The PhysTEC conference will feature workshops, panel discussions, and presentations by national leaders, as well as excellent networking opportunities.

More Information »

Science Education Updates

UTeach Sites Announced

On December 1, 2014, UTeach announced five new sites: George Washington University; Louisiana Tech University; the University of Massachusetts Boston; the University of Nevada, Reno; and West Virginia University. West Virginia University is also a new PhysTEC funded site. These sites will each receive $1.45 million over a five-year grant period to support the replication of the UTeach program. The grants are made possible by a $22.5 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI).

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NSF Noyce Request for Proposals

NSF is accepting proposals to fund new Noyce projects. The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program encourages STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 STEM teachers. Noyce funds can be used for scholarships, stipends, and professional development for preservice STEM teachers. This solicitation adds a research track, which provides funding for preparation, recruitment, and retention of K-12 STEM Teachers. Also added is a Master Teacher Track, which provides professional development and salary supplements to exemplary, experienced masters level teachers. Full proposals are due August 4, 2015.

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Project Updates

New PhysTEC Outcome Graphs

The project has published updated outcomes graphs that demonstrate:

  • Most PhysTEC legacy sites continue to increase the numbers of teachers they graduate after funding has ended.
  • Recently and currently funded sites have substantial increases in future teachers.
  • Nearly 90% of PhysTEC graduates go on to teach in a K-12 school. Of those that are teaching, 80% teach at least one physics class.
  • PhysTEC graduates have a stronger content knowledge than the US physics teacher workforce.
  • There were nearly 80 graduates in 2013-2014 from the 30 institutions PhysTEC has supported to establish model programs in physics teacher education. This total is more than 10% of the new, well-prepared physics teachers hired each year.
  • PhysTEC teachers are more racially and ethnically diverse than the overall US physics teacher workforce. 12% of PhysTEC graduates are underrepresented minorities, compared to 5% of the US physics teacher workforce.
  • The project now has follow-up information on 85% of the PhysTEC graduates educated since 2001. Overall, PhysTEC teacher retention rates are greater than retention rates for early career US public school teachers.

More Information »

New Comprehensive Funded Sites

The Physics Teacher Education Coalition will fund four new sites at five universities to develop their physics teacher education programs into national models. The new projects are Rowan University, Texas State University, West Virginia University, and a joint University of Northern Colorado/ Colorado School of Mines project. The winning sites were selected during a two-stage review process that began with a pool of 17 applicants. Awardees demonstrated a capacity for large increases in the number of physics teachers graduating from their programs, as well as strong departmental and institutional support for teacher preparation efforts. Funding for the new sites will begin in fall 2015.

Read More »

New Recruiting Grant Sites

PhysTEC recently selected nine sites to receive recruiting grants to explore new approaches for increasing the number of new high school physics teachers. Awards were up to $10,000 per year for three years, for a maximum total of $30,000. The sites awarded include Boise State University; Bowdoin College; East Tennessee State University; Indiana University South Bend; Northwestern Oklahoma State University (a multi-institution site involving four Oklahoma universities); Salisbury University; Sonoma State University; University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; and University of Wyoming. The request for proposals process began in May 2014 and sites submitted full proposals in June. After a panel review, sites were selected for funding beginning in September 2014.

Read More »

2015 Annual PhysTEC Conference

The 2015 PhysTEC Conference was held in Seattle, WA on February 5-7. The theme was "Building Thriving Programs" and over 100 participants took part in plenaries, workshops, and networking events. Workshops topics included pedagogical training for physics teachers, funding opportunities for teacher preparation, and leveraging institutional support. 95% of the attendees came from universities, and many are actively involved in preservice or inservice physics teacher education. Attendees reported that the most valuable aspect of the conference was the opportunity to network and learn about what others do.

Conference Presentations »

Building a Thriving Undergraduate Physics Program Workshop

The Building a Thriving Undergraduate Physics Program Workshop was held jointly with the 2015 PhysTEC conference on February 6-8. Over 120 attendees developed strategies for increasing enrollment of physics majors at their institutions, aided by experienced facilitators. Faculty leaders from departments that have recently seen large increases in their majors presented case studies of their institutions. Plenary speakers included Ron Henderson of Middle Tennessee State University, Ted Hodapp of the American Physical Society, and Toni Sauncy of Texas Lutheran University.

Conference Presentations »

The 5+ Club Awardees

PhysTEC recently announced the initial inductees into "The 5+ Club", a group of institutions that has graduated 5 or more highly-qualified physics teachers in a given year. The most common number of physics teachers graduating from an institution is zero, and graduating 5 or more is a significant achievement. PhysTEC is proud to recognize these institutions for their outstanding contributions to the education of future physics teachers. Awardees were presented with a certificate at the annual PhysTEC conference and publicized through an announcement in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Full List of Awardees »

PhysTEC Contacts Update

In fall of 2014 the project streamlined the process to update PhysTEC member contacts, making it easier for institutions to maintain active membership. Active member institutions must have at least one active contact. They have access to the full range of PhysTEC member benefits, including reduced registration fees at events and eligibility to apply for funding and awards. The updated PhysTEC contacts are listed on their corresponding institution webpages on If you are affiliated with an institution that is a PhysTEC member site, we encourage you to check the list of contacts at your institution. Contacts receive emails with PhysTEC news and information (typically a few times per month), and occasional hard copies of books, reports, newsletters, and other PhysTEC publications.

Online Pedagogy Class

PhysTEC, in partnership with the American Modeling Teachers Association, offered its first distance-learning course in fall 2014. Of the 17 students who started the course, 10 completed the course (attended 80% or more of classes) and 2 partially completed (attended 50% or more). Participants included pre-service physics teachers at PhysTEC sites, recent graduates from PhysTEC programs, and a few Teachers in Residence (TIRs). The instructors, Michael Crofton and Rex Rice, are two of the most experienced and highly rated physics Modeling Workshop leaders in the country. The course met synchronously for 3 hours once per week, and the time was spent primarily in discussion and white boarding. Students were assigned laboratory activities as homework exercises and then brought data sets with them to class. Most students on campuses arranged to go into the physics lab and use equipment there. Some equipment was mailed to the participants. Blackboard Collaborate was the delivery platform for the course. The mid-course survey revealed overall satisfaction with the course (a score of 8.44 out of a possible 10 points). Most participants indicated they were quite likely to use Modeling curriculum resources in their teaching over the coming academic year (9.44/10). All respondents indicated they would take a second course if it were offered. There were also some areas for improvement, including finding a better delivery platform for the online course.

Teaching Physics Modules

PhysTEC partnered with Eugenia Etkina at Rutgers University to develop Teaching Physics Modules, which are designed to help pre-service physics teachers in their preparation to be effective in the classroom. The modules focus on several crucial aspects of classroom instruction with the purpose of improving student learning, motivation, and confidence. At the same time, they will show how to make Next Generation Science Standards' science practices and crosscutting concepts integral parts of learning physics. The modules are grouped around three themes: Multiple Representations; Planning Instructional Elements; and Experiments in Physics Instruction. Pre-service teachers will learn how to plan their instruction; what productive representations their students can use to assist them in bridging phenomena, words and mathematics; and how to make learning of physics resemble the practice of physics through an innovative use of experiments in the classroom. Instructors can incorporate modules into their pre-service physics teacher preparation program in many ways. Each theme, equivalent to a 1-credit course, can be used alone or in combination with the others. Instructors can include modules as part of an existing science methods course or offer them as a stand-alone elective courses or as an independent study course. The modules are freely available, along with presentation slides and a recording of a webinar.

Learn More »

FEd Newsletter Teacher Preparation Section

The APS Forum on Education Newsletter features a Teacher Preparation Section. The Spring 2015 Newsletter includes articles on increasing diversity in teacher preparation. Featured PhysTEC projects include Georgia State University and Chicago State University.

Read More »

Site Visits

North Carolina State University

On October 21, Bob Hilborn and Renee Michelle Goertzen visited North Carolina State University, which is its second year of funding as a targeted site. The centerpiece of the project is the development of a Learning Assistant program. The pedagogical training course for LAs is also taken by first-year graduate student teaching assistants, which has provided valuable pedagogical training at a variety of instructional levels. The LA program has allowed students not yet committed to teaching to experience the rewards of teaching.

James Madison University

Renee Michelle Goertzen and Beth Cunningham conducted a site visit at James Madison University on October 29. JMU is in its second year of PhysTEC funding as a comprehensive site. The PhysTEC project has catalyzed a variety of changes, including increased connections between the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Education. Following the model of the Virginia Tech PhysTEC Project, JMU leveraged the PhysTEC grant to receive two teaching assistant lines to fund fifth-year M.Ed. students. In addition, the calculus-based introductory courses are now all taught using flipped classrooms, leading to an increased use of inquiry-based curricula.

Arizona State University

On November 7, Ted Hodapp conducted a site visit to Arizona State University, which is in its final year of PhysTEC funding as a comprehensive site. The department has recently completed construction of a new SCALE-UP style classroom and a new physics BS + concentration in secondary education has enrolled new students. Their strong LA program has proved critical to students choosing to become high school teachers. In addition, the Teacher in Residence has been a key component in developing a positive climate towards physics teaching.

University of Missouri Columbia

On November 18, Monica Plisch, Brian Utter (James Madison University), and Patrick LeClair (University of Alabama Tuscaloosa) conducted a site visit at the University of Missouri, which is in its final year of funding. A highlight of the MU program is its high school LA program, which is becoming a national model for how to effectively use LAs in high school physics classrooms. Current preservice teachers have credited the program with solidifying their choice to become teachers. LAs are now assisting in introductory physics courses, and administrators are highly supportive of the PhysTEC project. This was the first site visit where two of the site visitors (Plisch and Utter) attended remotely.

Georgia State University

Monica Plisch and David Haase (North Carolina State University) conducted a site visit on February 18 to Georgia State University. GSU is in its second year of funding as a comprehensive site. GSU was a recipient of PhysTEC's "The 5+ Club" award for the academic year of 2013-14. Its new undergraduate certification pathway has been successful in attracting students to teaching and students report a strong sense of community among future physics teachers. In addition, the department has seen increased student learning gains following the reform of its introductory calculus-based courses.

University of Central Florida

Monica Plisch and Robert Culbertson (Arizona State University) visited the University of Central Florida on February 23. The UCF PhysTEC project is in its second year of funding. A feature of their physics teacher education program is their upper-division Modeling Instruction methods course. The strong LA program has placed LAs in both lower- and upper-level physics courses. The UCF administration strongly supports the PhysTEC project.

New Member Institutions

  • Michigan Technological University
  • University of Southern Maine
  • California State University, San Bernadino
  • University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
  • University of Puerto Rico at Humancao
  • Merrimack College
  • Lewis University
  • St. Mary's University