Institutional Commitment

Selected Institutional Commitment Resources

David E. Meltzer, Monica Plisch, and Stamatis Vokos, "The Role of Physics Departments in High School Teacher Education", APS News, V22 (8)

R. Henderson, "Physics Teacher Preparation Contributes More Than Additional Graduates" presented at the Building a Thriving Undergraduate Physics Program Workshop, College Park, MD, 2012.

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Institutional commitment means internal financial support to sustain program elements, and intellectual and cultural support for those who choose to go into teaching. Physics teacher education programs need support from physics and education faculty, chairs, and deans, as well as upper-level university administration.

Strategies for Developing Institutional Commitment

Understand who you need to ask for support and how to to get it. Knowing who to ask and what they need to hear is the first step to reaching your goals for institutional commitment. Read these tips from John and Gay Stewart on how to get started. These slides are shared with express permission from the authors.

Physics departments must accept teacher preparation as part of their mission. Most physics departments in the US see their mission as conducting physics research and educating students, with outreach and other service activities as significantly lower priorities. Make the case that unless physics departments become more involved in teacher preparation, the majority of the country's high school students-who will soon become the country's undergraduates-will continue to be taught by unqualified teachers.

Physics departments should reward teacher preparation activities. Most physics departments do not consider teacher preparation activities in promotion and tenure decisions. This limits the time and effort that physics faculty-particularly untenured ones-can devote to these activities.

Physics faculty should encourage students who choose teaching careers. Faculty attitudes have a strong influence on students. Encourage your colleagues to adopt and model the attitude that teaching is an intellectually challenging activity worthy of the same degree of respect as physics research.

Consider hiring a physics education research faculty member. Physics education research (PER) has become a respected field of physics research and PER faculty have found homes in many of the countries' most prestigious physics departments. PER results should inform teacher preparation efforts.

Education schools should welcome physics department involvement in teacher preparation. Unless they have a physics specialist on their faculty, most education schools are not equipped to provide future physics teachers with the in-depth pedagogical content knowledge they will need. This is best done in collaboration with physics faculty or a Teacher-in-Residence.

University presidents, provosts, deans, and department chairs must provide funding for teacher preparation efforts. Providing qualified teachers is a way for universities to serve their communities and demonstrate public engagement, which is often included in universities' mission statements.

Data is key to making the case. Physicists and deans are rarely impressed by anecdotes-they want to see data that prove the efficacy of new programs and reforms.

Make use of professional society support. APS, AAPT, and the American Institute of Physics, as well as most other professional physics societies, have expressed strong support for physics teacher education efforts. If your department has not signed onto the Joint Statement on the Education of Future Teachers, that is a good first step in starting the discussion.

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