Member InstitutionMember Institution University of Maine

Institution Contacts

John R. Thompson
MacKenzie Stetzer
Michael Wittmann
Mitchell Bruce
Susan McKay

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Program in Teacher Preparation

The University of Maine Department of Physics and Astronomy has a degree track in which students receive a B.A. in physics with a minor in secondary education.  (This track is in the process of being updated.)  

One strong aspect of our program is the presence of the Physics Education Research Laboratory (PERL), which is co-directed by two faculty members in the department and involves 6 faculty in Physics and Astronomy, Mathematics and Statistics, and the College of Education and Human Development.  Much of what is taking place in the department with respect to reform teaching and attention to teacher preparation and professional development is influenced by the PERL, and PERL faculty are involved in most of the teacher preparation and professional development initiatives.

The University of Maine also houses the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center), which is the home of our Master of Science in Teaching (MST) program.  The MST is a thesis program in which students conduct research on the learning and teaching of science and/or mathematics at the secondary or post-secondary level.  Candidates in this program with a physics concentration take a set of courses titled Integrated Approaches in Physics Education, which introduce students to research on learning and teaching of physics, and provide students with experience conducting discipline-based education research.  

The Department offers a course using Physics by Inquiry each semester, aimed at preservice elementary teachers, with some preservice secondary teachers also enrolled.

Faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy are an integral part of the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership (MainePSP), a partnership bringing together over 45 rural Maine schools, the University of Maine, three Maine non-profits with expertise in science education, and science and technology leaders at the Maine Department of Education to target the teaching and learning of physical sciences in grades 6-9 and the recruitment and preparation of science teachers at the University of Maine.  The MainePSP is coordinated by the RiSE Center.

Initiatives to improve physical science/physics teacher preparation

One long-term goal is to implement a Physics by Inquiry course targeted for preservice secondary teachers, either using Physics by Inquiry or another suitable curriculum.  

We have occasionally run a department seminar in Graduate Teaching and Learning for teaching assistants that includes exposure to research-based pedagogy and curricular materials.

The introductory calculus-based course contains some components of PER-based reform instruction, implementing Tutorials in Introductory Physics in recitations, and using clicker questions in lecture.

As part of the MainePSP, we have initiated a program of Maine Learning Assistants (MLAs), based on the CU-Boulder program.  MLAs are undergraduate peer facilitators, in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and marine science courses, at the introductory level and in the upper division.  In Physics, LAs have been incorporated into the introductory calculus-based course as well as the junior-level analog electronics laboratory course.  We have occasionally had peer facilitators in the introductory algebra-based and the Physics by Inquiry courses in the past, and are building on that experience.  A course is offered for MLAs that is based on the course at CU.  MacKenzie Stetzer is the MLA coordinator.

Teacher preparation and professional development in the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership

There are several facets of teacher preparation and professional development in the MainePSP, involving inservice 6-9 teachers as well as preservice teachers, both graduate students and undergraduates.  

2011-2012 involved "piloting" new curricular materials in middle school and "field testing" / "pre-piloting" materials for 9th grade (focused on earth science concepts).  2012-2013 involved piloting 9th grade materials in several classrooms in participating districts.  2014-2015 involves piloting major modifications to some of the materials used to teach Force and Motion; many of the modifications were instigated by the teachers' classroom experience with the materials and data on student learning.

Other MainePSP activities include:

  • Week-long Summer Academy for participating inservice teachers and graduate students to provide PD and content preparation for new learning materials
  • Monthly regional "collaboratives" (2 hours) to provide forum for discussion of curriculum, content, and student thinking
  • "Teaching Partner" program to place MST graduate students and undergraduates in classrooms to help participating teachers with curricular materials implementation
  • Teachers-in-Residence in summer to work with curricular materials in depth and prepare for piloting/implementation the following academic year
  • Summer Undergraduate Research Assistants to help document and analyze data from the schools
  • Professional development for graduate teaching assistants:  1-1/2 day orientation before the fall semester starts, and occasional workshops throughout the academic year (examples include: Issues related to grades and grading; Helping students learn in small groups; What can we learn from student feedback surveys?; Facilitating Collaborative Groupwork)