Quick Tips for Getting Started with Physics Teacher Preparation

If you want to boost your department's efforts to prepare physics teachers, here is a list of steps you can take to begin having an impact right away.

1. Become a PhysTEC Member Institution
If your institution is not a member of the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC), join today. You will immediately become part of a large network of physics teacher preparation experts.

2. Advertise your department's education track
If your department has an education track for future physics teachers but it is not advertised, chances are most students do not know it exists. Hand out fliers, put up posters, announce it in your introductory physics courses and at department open houses, and make it prominent on your department's website.

3. Host an informal departmental event for students interested in teaching
Create a safe a space for students to talk about their interest in teaching, and provide free food. Try to get as many faculty as possible and at least one local high school teacher to attend.

4. Ensure all undergraduate advisors are knowledgeable about teacher education
At minimum, give all advisors a flier with information about your teacher preparation program, and tell them to direct interested students to you. If possible, have all advisors ask their students directly whether they are interested in teaching, and be prepared to suggest courses.

5. Announce in all introductory classes whom students interested in teaching should contact
The contact person should be knowledgeable and supportive of helping students find their path through the maze of courses and advising needed to become a teacher. Bringing a high school teacher to the course and having a discussion afterward is even better.

6. Find out how many physics teachers graduate from your program each year, and track this number.
Do you know how many physics teachers graduate from your program every year? Chances are it is a very small number. Tracking this number can inform your efforts and help provide motivation for improving your institution's performance.

If you have never tracked this number, you will likely have to contact your school of education. Consider this an opportunity to make a new alliance.

7. Show the "Teach Physics" video
The "Teach Physics" video is a 3.5-minute video designed to inspire students to consider physics teaching. Show it in your introductory physics class or a department open house.

8. Attend the next PhysTEC Conference
The annual PhysTEC Conference is the nation's largest meeting dedicated to physics teacher preparation, and features presentations by national leaders as well as plenty of networking opportunities. Representatives of PhysTEC Member Institutions get free registration.

9. Ask your students if they have considered teaching
If you have an undergraduate teaching assistant or learning assistant program, talk to these students whether they have considered high school teaching. Even if you just see a student helping his or her peers with a physics problem, consider asking that student whether he or she has considered teaching. Sometimes a simple suggestion from a respected mentor is enough to inspire a student to consider a teaching career.

10. Invite a high school physics teacher to give a talk in the physics department
By inviting a teacher to speak at your department colloquium, you are sending a strong signal to students that teaching is a respected and valued career. In addition, you provide your colleagues an opportunity to learn about the high school physics classroom.

11. Invite a recent physics teacher alumnus from your department to meet with current students
Your students may be more receptive to career guidance from someone who seems more like a peer.

12. Go to lunch with the education faculty member in charge of the secondary science education program
Show your education colleagues that you respect their work and ask what you can do to help. Learn more about the certification program and look for opportunities to work together more closely.

13. Tell your students what you love about teaching and how it is important to you
If your students know that you value teaching and not just research, they will be more likely to consider teaching as a respectable career.

14. Survey your students to ask who has ever considered high school teaching
Give a survey in your introductory course, and follow up with students who indicate an interest in teaching.

15. Know your local high school teachers, and make sure they know you
This way your students have access to classrooms where physics is taught they way you think it should be. Also, teachers can provide a reality check for your education program and make suggestions for improvement.

16. Learn about Learning Assistants
The Learning Assistant program founded at the University of Colorado, and emulated around the country, is a powerful way to recruit teachers while improving your undergraduate program for all students. Learn more at the program's website.

Taking the Next Step

If you have done all of the above, you are in a good position to implement the full PhysTEC program.