Member InstitutionMember Institution University of Northern Iowa

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University of Northern Iowa

University of Northern Iowa Website

Institution Contacts

Dr. Lawrence (Larry) Escalada
Jeffrey Morgan
Paul Shand

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The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) is a state-supported university located in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo metro area in Northeast Iowa with approximately 13,000 students.  UNI has an emphasis on undergraduate education and excellence in teaching with a strong liberal arts curriculum. 

The UNI Physics Department offers undergraduate programs in Physics including Physics Teaching and contributes to the MA Science Education program for science teachers.  The department includes 10 faculty with 2 faculty whose research focus is in physics and science education.  The Physics building underwent a $5 million renovation that was completed in July 2007 and includes studio physics classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art instructional technologies and a Center for Education in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.  

The 2 Physics faculty with physics and science education research emphasis are also members of the the UNI Science Education faculty who are responsible for delivering undergraduate BA and graduate MA Science Education programs.  Science Education faculty is an interdepartmental entity within the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences (CHAS).  The Science Education faculty include those from various CHAS science departments and from the College of Education in the Departments of Curriculum and Instruction and Teaching.  All Science Education faculty are members of UNI Teacher Education.    

The mission of the UNI Physics Department includes the preparation of future high school physics teachers, professional development of existing secondary science teachers, and outreach to the early childhood through grade twelve community.  UNI has been recognized as being one of the few exemplary programs in the Unites States in providing professional preparation of physics teachers by the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics.     

The UNI Physics Department is home to the highly successful Physics Resources and Instructional Strategies for Motivating Students (PRISMS) program – a high school physics curriculum and professional development program that utilizes a learning cycle pedagogy.  The PRISMS curriculum and learning cycle pedagogy have been used extensively in teacher preparation and professional development.  

The UNI Physics Department in collaboration with Science Education Faculty and master high physics teachers have been taking the lead in the State of Iowa to address the shortage of highly qualified high school physics teachers through programs like the Iowa Physics Teacher Instruction and Resources (IPTIR) program that ended in May 2012.  The IPTIR program was a 3 year professional development program funded by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa and Title II A (of the No Child Left Behind Act) in collaboration with Physics and Science Education faculty, master teachers, and Area Education Agencies to prepare more high-quality high school physics teachers for Iowa schools and to improve the performance of their students.  The IPTIR program targeted a cohort of 24 existing high school physics teachers all over the state of Iowa many of whom are completing the requirements necessary for a high school physics teaching endorsement.  PRISMS and Modeling Instruction are used extensively in these programs.  Participants have access to classroom physics resources during the implementation component of the program available on loan funded by a Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust grant.  These programs are modeled after similar programs provided since 2002.  

A Physics Teaching Resources course that serves as an introduction to physics education research based high school curricula like PRISMS and Modeling Instruction will now be required for all secondary science teaching majors who are working on obtaining a high school physics teaching endorsement.  

The UNI Physics Department provides various Outreach opportunities including the State of Iowa and UNI/Area Education Agency (AEA) 267 Regional Competitions for high school physics students held at UNI each spring.  Over 250 students from 20 different schools participate in each competition.  A UNI Science Education Update Conference for secondary science teachers is offered each spring in collaboration with Science Education and all science departments.