Project Status: May 2006

Here is a brief synopsis of the actions and efforts of the PhysTEC project and PTEC since 9 March 2006. If you have questions please contact the Project Manager, Victoria Kwasiborski or the Principal Investigator, Ted Hodapp (

Overall Project Activities

PTEC Conference. On March 24, 2006, the annual conference of the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PTEC) commenced at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. A total of 90 conferees attended the conference, representing universities, two-year colleges, high schools, associations, and student populations. One-third of the conferees were from the greater community (outside of PTEC).

Over 400 feedback responses were submitted on all aspects of the conference. Across most groups, passing on ideas from workshops consistently rated higher than using ideas. The exception to this was among University Education Faculty, where the reverse generally held true. A special PET Workshop given by Fred Goldberg (San Diego State University) immediately following the conference was rated as the most useful workshop overall; Noah Finkelstein's PhET Simulations (University of Colorado at Boulder) was rated as the most useful workshop of the PTEC Conference.

The 2007 PTEC Conference will be March 3 and 4, 2007 in Boulder, Colorado and is being hosted by the project at the University of Colorado (Noah Finkelstein, PI). The theme for next year's conference will be "Recruitment."

PhysTEC Activities

PhysTEC at National Meetings

  • The PhysTEC project was well-represented at the NSTA National Conference in Anaheim, California in April. Marc Reif (University of Arkansas), Drew Isola (Western Michigan University) and Paul Hickman (PhysTEC Consultant) delivered two PhysTEC RTOP awareness workshops for the NSF Assessment Conference held on the first day of the national meeting. Marcia Fetters (Western Michigan University) and Paul Hickman presented data gathered about the PhysTEC TIRs; Jeff Sayers (Ball State University) presented separately about the TIR in a different session. Julia Olsen (University of Arizona) was involved with some of her astronomy and special education work; and Dale Freeland (Western Michigan University) and Drew Isola presented a session on Mentoring in the PhysTEC project.
  • The project worked with the APS Forum on Education to sponsor two invited sessions, one at each of the APS March and April Meetings held respectively in Baltimore and Dallas this year. The speakers included representatives from PTEC, and included Michael Marder (Texas, Austin), Paula Heron (Washington), Gay Stewart (Arkansas), Warren Hein (AAPT), Valerie Otero (Colorado), David Grosnick (Ball State), and Ingrid Novodvorsky (Arizona). A number of topics were discussed including innovative programs, documenting the need, and impact of project activities on recruiting and retaining teachers.

PhysTEC Teacher Database. To assist in PhysTEC assessment efforts, the project has invited all PhysTEC teachers, and soon-to-be teachers who were influenced by the PhysTEC project to respond to a brief survey regarding teaching choices and teacher retention. All those who participate receive their choice of teaching resource materials, a one year membership to AAPT (including The Physics Teacher) or a one-year junior membership to APS. Data collected from this project will be used to inform the community of trends in PhysTEC teacher retention.

The project is also preparing a certificate (suitable for framing), signed by the presidents of each of the three societies in honor of their completion of a PhysTEC course of study. We hope to have these out to all of the teachers by mid-summer.

Project Website Updates.

  • PTEC-DL: PTEC-DL is the ComPADRE site that hosts the teacher preparation collection and also showcases the programs and initiatives of Coalition members. PTEC-DL is now in beta testing, with content addition is underway, and it will go live in the summer.
  • PhysTEC: The PhysTEC site soon will host online versions of the PPIs' 2004-2005 annual reports, written to a template that will facilitate comparison of results among PPIs. These reports have gone through a number of editing phases and review. Gay Stewart form the University of Arkansas has been assisting Ed Lee (APS) with this. We anticipate that future reports will be considerably easier to produce and edit as they will build on this foundation.
  • PTEC: Following up on the 2006 Annual Conference, the PowerPoint slides from the workshops and talks are already up in the Conferences section, soon to be followed by the PowerPoint slides or PDF files from the poster session. When PTEC-DL goes live, it will host the content of the PTEC site. The URL will then point to the new digital library portal site.

Site Visits

The PhysTEC Management Team visited Ball State University, California Polytechnic State University, the University of Arizona, and Western Michigan University over the past quarter.

Ball State University. Warren Hein, Ted Hodapp, and Mary Fehrs visited Ball State University in February 2006. The department at Ball State has been very successful in producing high school physics teachers; they produce more than any other school in the state. Neil Anthony, this year's TIR, is from the local community college and has been very active in many ways including establishing a teacher database within the Ball State PhysTEC project. A previous TIR, Mike Wolter, took an active leadership role in PhysTEC representing the TIRs on the Leadership Council for three years - stepping down just this spring. Mike also teaches at Ball State, a local community college and at his high school.

California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly). Mary Fehrs, Jack Hehn and Ted Hodapp visited Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for a site visit of the PhysTEC project in late April. Cal Poly is in the third of three years of funding, and has made significant gains in many areas. The program is running well, and has succeeded in institutionalizing many of the changes made under funding by PhysTEC. Some of the critical pieces that are now in place include the following (not all of which are due to PhysTEC funding):

  • The TIRs at Cal Poly have fit into the program in excellent ways that will help inform the project and others considering hiring master teachers. Both TIRs have funding for next year provided by the administration. Having the administration understand and appreciate that the TIRs bring both a skill set and considerable experience is critical to understanding how to "sell" funding of TIRs elsewhere.

In addition, the opportunity afforded by PhysTEC for Nancy and David has allowed them to step into a world where they can make the next logical step in enhancing teaching by helping to educate teachers. Establishing TIRs as leaders at the local, regional or national level provides not only an advancement for the TIR, but also for the appreciation by the organization (in this case Cal Poly) of the critical role teachers play in educating other teachers.

  • There is clear buy-in by the university administration for efforts to educate future teachers including:
  • President established (3 years ago) the University Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education. Goals: recruitment, in-service professional development, study of best practices, and motivating K-12 students into thinking about STEM careers.
  • Dean's support for TIRs plus the fact that he mentions education of teachers and teaching as a potential career on a regular basis according to both Chance and Bonnie.
  • Cal Poly will also add an elementary-education TIR this year.
  • PER is active at Cal Poly. Chance has recently published an article in AJP, and his colleague, Matt Moelter (a co-author with Chance on the AJP paper) is heading to Dublin to do a sabbatical in PER.
  • Reform of physical science course for elementary education students is in place and solid. TIRs are taking some of these sections; and there have been some modifications to the original PIPS curriculum.

University of Arizona. Mary Fehrs, Jack Hehn and Ted Hodapp visited the University of Arizona to assess the progress of the development of the College of Science Teacher Prep Program over the course of five years-PPI Lead Ingrid Novodvorsky has been appointed the Director of the program. The impact of PhysTEC over five years has been substantial. The program of science teacher preparation seems quite good; there is a strong desire for increased recruitment efforts in physics so that physics majors/minor can take advantage of the program offered

The quality of interactions with the students (future teachers) was also a highlight of the visit. The students expressed feelings of deep appreciation for the program, the match between their aspirations for their future and the values received from and supported by their learning environment, and the interactions with the COS TPP faculty and staff. The students are highly engaged in the activities both coursework and clinical, and they expressed gratitude for the intellectual challenges presented.

We recently learned that this year's TIR, Julia Olsen, has been hired to become the Project Coordinator in the newly formed mentoring program for early-career science teachers. Congratulations to Julia and to Arizona for being able to bring Julia a little closer to their program!

Western Michigan University. Mary Fehrs, Warren Hein, Theodore Hodapp, and Victoria Kwasiborski visited the Western Michigan project in February and observed a number of aspects of the WMU program that are both innovative and successful:

  • Joint appointments for project members Marcia Fetters and Charles Henderson in education and their field; in addition to the tenure of Bob Poel as Director on the Center for Science Education and long time member of the Physics department .
  • The role of the current TIR. Drew Isola team-teaches the science methods courses, developed a TA training program, and is mentoring local teachers
  • The model of inducting college faculty. Western Michigan's approach parallels the approach we observed at Colorado; essentially converting faculty one at a time to active teaching by having them observe a class that they will be teaching for the semester before they teach it. This directly inducts a new faculty into active learning as a teaching style so they don't have to unlearn a lecture approach.
  • The mentoring community. At Western Michigan there is an the community nature of good mentoring so that when students became teachers (and while they were becoming teachers) there was support for them. The project views mentoring as a ten-year time commitment: five years preservice and then the first five years in-service. During this time the teacher must discover a community that they can belong to with other teachers at different places in their own development as teaching professionals.

In addition, Drew Isola, WMU's TIR this past year has accepted the office of TIR representative to the PhysTEC Leadership Council. The Leadership Council interacts with and help shape policy that the project is implementing. It is composed of the leaders of each site plus an education representative (Marcia Fetters) and one TIR. Thanks to Drew for offering to help in this way.

Upcoming Project Meetings

  • Advisory Committee. On June 15 and 16, the PhysTEC Advisory Committee will meet in College Park to review project accomplishments and offer guidance as PhysTEC enters its last year of funded activity. Also attending the meeting are project members from Cal Poly (Chance Hoellwarth), University of Arkansas (Gay Stewart) and Western Michigan University (Marcia Fetters and Drew Isola).
  • PhysTEC Leadership Council Meeting & TIR Workshop. Prior to the start of the AAPT Summer Meeting in Syracuse, the PhysTEC Leadership Council will convene for its biannual project meeting. Preceding the AAPT meeting on July 21 and 22 will also be the new TIR Workshop.

PTEC Activities

Coalition List Transition . In April the members of the PTEC Coalition listserv were successfully transitioned to CTP-L, the listserv for AAPT's Teacher Preparation Committee. List members now number about 350. This has already initiated a few new collaborations and increased the activity on the list.

Digital Library Update. Dan MacIsaac, our new Content Editor for the PTEC Digital Library effort (, is currently recruiting graduate students at Buffalo State College to improve the library's "holdings". We are also hiring a summer intern, Ann Deml, a pre-service teacher at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. Ann will begin in June and work on both the PTEC and ComPADRE informal collection ( The PTEC portal should go live in mid May, although we will do some debugging of new tools we are introducing first before we transition the URL to the digital library. All of the current content on the PTEC site will be featured in the digital library, along with new tools and content. We are planning on a geographic map tool to allow easy location by teachers of RET (Research Experience for Teachers) sites as well as Coalition member institutions and other things relevant to pre-service teachers.

PTEC Brochure. An updated edition of the PTEC brochure became available in March. Please contact Victoria Kwasiborski ( if you would like copies of the new brochure.

Forum on Education (FEd) Newsletter. Beginning with the Fall 2006 issue, John Stewart (University of Arkansas) will replace Chance Hoellwarth as Editor of the Teacher Preparation section of the FEd newsletter. To date, the newsletter has featured articles on Teacher Preparation programs at Ball State University, Illinois State University, Rutgers University, University of Arizona, University of Colorado at Boulder and University of Texas at Austin (UTeach). A special thanks to Chance as he heads off on Sabbatical for his help in establishing this venue for discussing the importance of teacher preparation.

New Coalition Members. The Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PTEC) welcomes Jacksonville State University, Kansas State University, Kennesaw State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nevada at Reno, University of North Carolina at Asheville and the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Current PTEC membership is 41; the complete list of members can be viewed at

  • Jacksonville State University ranks in the top 40 teacher preparation institutions in the production of teacher educators. The University as early as 1982 was committed to preparing teachers to use classroom computers. JSU has been a copy site for the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) and the Alabama Educational Computing Research and Development Network.
  • The Kansas State University Physics Department has a long history of influencing the way in which pre-service science teachers are taught. Collaborative relations exist between Physics and the College of Education; recent collaborations by Physics faculty include distance learning opportunities for new teachers, as well as involvement in QuarkNET, a project jointly funded by NSF and the Department of Energy.
  • Kennesaw State University has always been active in improving the pre-service training of K-12 physics/science teachers, and works closely with the College of Education in developing courses and programs specifically to prepare teachers in biology, chemistry and mathematics. Exploration of developing a similar program for physics is underway. Kennesaw State also has a tradition of promoting and encouraging teacher innovation and the scholarship of teaching. The university's most prestigious college award is for "teaching excellence."
  • The University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy engages in physics education and teacher training through a number of different programs. We have developed a special undergraduate major emphasis, "Physics with a Teaching Emphasis" for students who are interested in teaching secondary school physics, which offers a versatile broad-based education. It is particularly useful to students who are planning on teaching in Minnesota, as it has been optimized to fit well with the new state licensure procedures. We also conduct an extensive teaching assistant orientation and support program in cooperation with our College of Education and the Teaching and Learning Center to prepare our graduate students to teach undergraduates and to prepare for becoming faculty in the future.
  • "Science Partners" at the University of Nevada at Reno pairs upper division science students with elementary school teachers for one semester. They present all of the science content to their class for the term, working to help the teacher and to help develop the teacher's understanding as well as the students. Some of these students have found that they are "naturals" in the classroom and have considered teaching as a career path. Through the same organizers of the "Science Partners" project, the medical school, the college of education, the biology department, chemistry department and the physics department (funded by Eisenhower grant), a collaborative effort has developed to design a physics course for teachers using more hands on educational techniques and dispelling common misconceptions.
  • A first step in improving pre-service teacher education in physics and physical science at the University of North Carolina at Asheville has been to strengthen the connections on campus between the Department of Physics and the Department of Education. The Coordinator of the Science Licensure Program for the Department of Education is a Physics department lecturer, and in this capacity advises pre-service science teachers (both post-baccalaureates and undergraduates), teaches the science methods course and supervises student teachers in secondary science.

Another major development connecting the physics department with the area of teacher education is the appointment of a physics professor to the position of Interim Director of PARSEC (Pisgah Astronomical Research and Science Education Center.) PARSEC is an inter-institutional center of the University of North Carolina that promotes and coordinates usage of the facilities at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI). One of PARSEC's objectives is to " Develop and facilitate K-16 programs that include research by students and faculty, age-appropriate educational programs, science and technology outreach targeting women and minorities, workshops and seminars." Workshops include professional development opportunities for teachers. See

  • Students completing the Physics Major for Teacher certification at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UWW) will be members of two departments: the Department of Physics and the School of Education, and are awarded a Bachelor of Science in Education degree. Future middle-school teachers earn the equivalent of a Physics minor; at the primary school level, students participate in the PET curriculum developed at San Diego State University. Thus, all students involved in physics education are intimately involved in collaboration between the Physics Department and the College of Education. Part of the vision for UWW future teachers is that they become reflective facilitators, capable of anticipating future needs and changes within the professional arena, and capable of assuming roles of leadership.