PhysTEC-Northwest Conference Presentations


Welcome, Conference Agenda & Intellectual Threads

Lane Seeley, Seattle Pacific University

9:00 AM - 9:10 AM

Presentations and Panels

The Role of Colleges and Universities in the Preparation of Future Teachers

Monica Plisch, American Physical Society

9:10 AM - 9:40 AM

For the past seven years the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) project has been working to address the dramatic shortage of qualified teachers of physics and physical science in the United States. It has done this by experimenting with and refining models of teacher education programs, by disseminating information about innovative programs to the physics community, and by working directly with physics departments to engage them in a full spectrum of activities necessary to educate and encourage future teachers. PhysTEC sites, institutions with significant project support to develop model teacher education programs, have tripled the number of physics teachers produced annually. Sites have developed and refined models of recruiting, early teaching experiences, mentoring, and more. The project has developed a national coalition, PTEC, which provides information and advocacy for improving physics and physical science teacher education. PTEC now has over 110 institutional members, and conducts an annual national meeting and other conferences to support members to develop teacher education programs. PhysTEC is a project of the American Physical Society (APS), the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and the American Institute of Physics (AIP).

The UTeach Model

Michael Marder, University of Texas at Austin

9:40 AM - 10:40 AM

This presentation will describe efforts to extend the UTeach program from the University of Texas, Austin to other universities across the country. The needs for more, better trained, and more diverse high school science teachers are presented and the steps being taken to use the UTeach model in other schools are outlined.

The North Cascades and Olympics State Partnership

Corinne A. Manogue, Oregon State University

11:00 AM - 11:30 AM

As part of an NSF funded Math and Science Partnership grant, we have developed and implemented a yearlong series of science content courses for future elementary teachers based on Physics and Everyday Thinking (PET). The geology and biology courses continue the theme of energy and interactions developed through PET and the pedagogical model mimics PET. The courses are taught on five campuses, three community colleges that feed Western Washington University, and the Northwest Indian College. Student learning results for both inservice and preservice teachers are positive. We have documented positive changes in elementary classroom science instruction and student achievement as well as differences in preservice students in science teaching methods courses.

Evolution of a K-12 Teacher Preparation Program in Physics from 1970 to Today

Lillian C. McDermott, University of Washington

11:30 AM - 12:00 PM

The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington has been engaged in the preparation of K-12 teachers since the early 1970's.  For almost as many years, the group has been investigating student understanding of physics at the university level and beyond.  Findings from this research have guided the development, implementation, and assessment of Physics by Inquiry, a laboratory-based curriculum that has been especially designed to prepare K-12 teacher to teach physics and physical science effectively.   This work has taken place in special physics courses for preservice teachers, in annual national NSF Summer Institutes for Inservice Teachers, and in academic-year Continuation Courses that help teachers apply what they have learned at the university in their own classrooms.  The Institutes have gradually evolved into a national program and the Continuation Courses into a professional community in which local K-12 teachers mutually support one another.  The teacher education program and closely related projects have been supported by NSF through several divisions in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (e.g., DUE, ESIE, DRL-K12) and by Physics in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

This work has been supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

Partnerships for Preparing and Supporting Teachers of Physics

Moderator: Stamatis Vokos, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo
Panel members: Frank Kline, Seattle Pacific University; Kathee Terry, Bellevue School District; Elaine Woo, Seattle School District; Keith Clay, Green River Community College; Angie DiLoretto, Bellevue School District

1:00 PM - 1:50 PM

This will be a panel discussion.

Helping teachers assess student understanding: The role of physics education research

MacKenzie R. Stetzer, University of Maine

1:50 PM - 2:20 PM

MacKenzie R. Stetzer, University of Washington

The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington is developing a new inquiry-oriented curriculum for the preparation and professional development of high school teachers, Tutorials for Teachers of Physics.  While drawing extensively upon existing materials and ongoing research by the group,1,2 the curriculum includes tutorials specifically designed to help teachers learn to assess student understanding more effectively.  The refinement and testing of these tutorials are part of a larger effort to investigate and enhance the ability of physics instructors at all levels to assess student understanding.  Specific examples from these ongoing investigations and curriculum development efforts will be discussed.

This work has been supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

1.  Physics by Inquiry, L.C. McDermott and the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, Wiley (1996).

2.  Tutorials in Introductory Physics, L.C. McDermott, P.S. Shaffer, and the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, Prentice Hall (2002).

Learning Assistants at CU-Boulder

Noah D. Finkelstein, University of Colorado-Boulder

2:20 PM - 2:50 PM

The University of Colorado Learning Assistant model ( and uses the transformation of large-enrollment science courses as a mechanism for achieving four goals: (1) to recruit and prepare talented science majors for careers in teaching, (2) to improve the quality of math and science education for all undergraduates, (3) to engage math and science faculty in the recruitment and preparation of future teachers and to engage education faculty in the transformation of undergraduate courses, and (4) to transform the culture in university math and science departments to value research-based teaching as a legitimate endeavor for ourselves and for our students. We report on the successes and challenges of last five years of this program in the physics department.  Results include: (i) a roughly doubling of the national average learning gains in our transformed classes, (ii) improved recruitment (by more than a factor of 3) and preparation of the next generation of future physics teachers, (iii) a dramatic increase in the number of involved physics faculty (by a factor of four or more), and (iv) institutional commitment to these efforts.

Factors and Experiences that Influence Vocational Decisions

Moderator: Hunter G. Close, Texas State University – San Marcos

3:10 PM - 3:40 PM

This will be a panel discussion with current and recent physics students.


Workshop A

Strategies for Building a Successful Learning Assistant Program

Co-presenters: Noah D. Finkelstein, University of Colorado-Boulder; Lane Seeley, Seattle Pacific University

3:40 PM - 5:00 PM

Most physics departments use undergraduate or graduate TA's to enhance the learning experience for the students enrolled in the course. A successful LA program combines the goal of enhancing student learning with the goal of transforming the beliefs, attitudes and career choices of the LA's themselves. In the context of a critical shortage in K-12 physics and physical science teachers, an LA program should have an explicit goal of recruiting and preparing talented physics majors for careers in teaching.  In this workshop we will briefly describe the LA programs at CU Boulder and Seattle Pacific University. We will suggest some critical elements for a successful LA program. The majority of the workshop will be devoted to working collaboratively to identify and develop strategies for implementing, sustaining and improving LA programs in a variety of institutional contexts.

Workshop B

Introduction to a Diagnostic Learning Environment

Co-presenters: Stamatis Vokos, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo; Jim Minstrell, University of Washington & FACET Innovations, LLC

3:40 PM - 5:00 PM

Research suggests that formative assessment may be the most powerful instructional practice for promoting student learning in all disciplines. When well implemented, formative assessment provides teachers and students the information they need to make both learning and teaching more focused and effective. This session will explore the essential elements of what we term a "diagnostic learning environment"--one in which formative assessment is at the center of instructional decision-making and actions. Participants will also be introduced to the Diagnoser Project Tools to support an effective cycle of teaching and learning. Used formatively, this free online resource can help to "diagnose" and address problematic student thinking in science. The Diagnoser Project Tools initially focused on Motion, Forces, Waves, and Human Body Systems, but new content has recently been added, in the area of Properties of Matter, to target essential building blocks of learning in all areas of science.

Closing Remarks

Questions and Ideas for Action

Co-presenters: Monica Plisch, American Physical Society; Lane Seeley, Seattle Pacific University

5:00 PM - 5:30 PM