The 5+ Club Member InstitutionThe 5+ Club Member Institution Illinois State University

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Kenneth Wester

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Physics Teacher Preparation Program

The Physics Teacher Education program at Illinois State University prepares students to teach physics (all levels) and any first year high school science course. This program provides a thorough study of representative fields of physics, plus training in chemistry, biology, earth science and mathematics. This program of study integrates a physics content major of 40 semester hours (s.h.), other natural science courses of 15 s.h., with a professional education sequence of 22 s.h., and the University's general education requirement of 45 s.h.

The program includes 15 s.h. of physics methods courses taught within the physics department.  A total of one hundred clock hours of pre-student-teaching clinical experiences are associated with required professional studies and physics methods courses. Physics teacher education majors must complete 8 s. h. and 11 weeks of full-time student teaching.

This program of study integrates a strong physics content major of 40 semester hours (s. h.) and 14 s.h. of chemistry, earth & space science, and biology with a professional education sequence of 22 s. h., and the University's general education requirement of 45 s. h. Physics Education courses begin with the autumn of the sophomore year, and continue unabated through the senior year. The program has one full-time PTE coordinator and a 0.25 FTE education specialist. The required content major courses can be found on the Physics Teacher Education program web site.

The Physics Teacher Education program at Illinois State University is constantly working to improve the quality of its offerings. Since 1994 the program has grown from about 5 PTE majors and two required Physics teaching methods courses to more than 40 PTE majors and six required Physics teaching methods courses – making the ISU program among the largest and most innovative in the United States.

Recruitment and Retention

The ISU Physics Teaching Program coordinator is the driving force behind the Pipeline Project sponsored by the Illinois Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (ISAAPT). The Pipeline Project is becoming a national model for recruitment of high school physics teacher candidates, having produced a brochure for high school physics students (Become a High School Physics Teacher: Think about it! and science teachers Recruiting the Next Generation of Middle and High School Science Teachers.) Both publications can be found at the following website.

Retention of teacher candidates is an ongoing effort which has been rewarding. As a result of being able to recruit and retain, we typically graduate 7-10 newly certified high school physics teachers each year. We attribute this success to excellence in advising, a wide array of courses spanning three academic years, and multiple and varied clinical experiences. 

Research opportunities for undergraduates (REUs)

The American Physical Society (APS) has awarded Illinois State's physics professors Rainer Grobe and Professor Q. Charles Su the 2006 APS Undergraduate Research Prize. The award cites "their outstanding effort at creating a successful and renowned optical theory program at Illinois State University, and for their exemplary involvement of undergraduates in this research." Many PTE majors are actively involved in cutting-edge scientific research.

Scholarships for preservice physics and physical science teachers

The ISU Physics Department provides support to physics teacher education majors who are willing to teach in Chicago Public Schools. Support is provided with the assistance of a Robert Noyce grant that pays dividends for junior- and senior-level students. The Department also has a number of competitive grants ($500 to $1,000) available only to incoming freshman. The PTE program also directs student attention to a number of non-university scholarship opportunities.