Project Status: December 2006

Here is a brief synopsis of the actions and efforts of the PhysTEC project and PTEC since 6 September 2006. If you have questions please contact the Project Manager or the Principal Investigator, Ted Hodapp.

PTEC 2007

The theme of 2007 PTEC conference in Boulder , Colorado (March 3-4) is "Recruitment." This is interpreted in its broadest sense: how to interest students in physics and then in physics teaching, and then how to induct them into the profession. We have scheduled workshops on all aspects of recruiting including: how to appeal to special groups such as engineers and woman; how to encourage reform teaching at the college level; varieties of early teaching experiences; and mentoring newly minted teachers. We are delighted to announce the two plenary speakers for this year's conference: Carl Wieman (Nobel Laureate and advocate for physics department involvement in physics instruction reform and producing physics teachers) and Cherry Murray (incoming vice president of APS and member of the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) which authored the Rising above the Gathering Storm Report).

Here is a partial list of workshops: (90-minute sessions with three or four running concurrently)

On Recruitment:

  • Direct Practices for Physics Teacher Candidate Recruitment , Carl Wenning
  • Recruiting a New Generation of Physics Teachers: The Role of Mentoring in the Learning to Teach Continuum, D. Isola and B. Poel
  • Recruiting Females into High School Physics Teaching: Issues, Actions, and Results , Patsy Ann Johnson

On Interactive Pedagogy

  • Investigative Science Learning Environment: Using the processes of science and cognitive strategies to help students learn physics , E. Etkina and A. Van Heuvelen
  • Modeling Instruction in Physics: An Appetizer , Kathleen A. Harper
  • Resources and tools that can help you implement the Investigative Science Learning Environment , A. Van Heuvelen and E. Etkina
  • An Undergraduate Teacher Education Program For Engineering Students , Janet A. Blume

On Institution changes

  • "Just Can't Be Done: Four Year Degree Plans, Full Internal Funding, and Other Secrets for Doubling Science and Math Teacher Graduates", Michael Marder
  • Retaining a New Generation of Physics Teachers: The Role of Physics Departments in Effective Mentoring Programs, B. Poel and D. Isola
  • TIR'S and Teacher Preparation; The What, When, Why and How ! , Dave Buck-Moyer and Nancy Stauch
  • "Why Should I Care?" Making Physics Relevant to Non-Believers" , Robert Thorne

Overall Project Activities

RTOP Workshop. Twenty-one PTEC members attended the 3 day workshop held at the American Center for Physics in College Park , Maryland from October 13-15. The Workshop was run by Kathleen Falconer and Dan MacIsaac from Buffalo State College, and PhysTEC Consultant Paul Hickman. During this workshop attendees worked in pairs to evaluate videos of physics instruction according to the RTOP Protocol, a well-established and normed rubric for active-engagement teaching. The 14 videos that were evaluated had been produced by PhysTEC institutions by recording classes taught by their preservice teachers, graduates, and faculty. The settings ranged from labs and tutorials to lectures.

The workshop commenced with an extensive discussion of how to interpret the terminology used to describe classroom observations and a detailed discussion on applying this terminology to the evaluation of several short video segments supplied by Dan MacIsaac. Over the next two days each participant evaluated 4-5 videos. In each case, participants individually evaluated a particular instructor on 25 different criteria and discussed their scoring in small groups until they reached a consensus score for each item.

Overall the workshop was rated a success, with near unanimous reporting by attendees of confidence in their abilities to effectively observe and score their classrooms.

Request for Proposals. Forty-five Letters of Intent were submitted by the November 1 deadline in response to the PhysTEC Call for Sites. The institutions submitting letters represented 28 states and included large R-1 universities, small colleges and public and private institutions. We were overwhelmed (and delighted) to receive 45 applications for the limited 3-4 sites we can support at this time. A response of this magnitude clearly indicates the willingness within the academic community to address the significant shortage of science teachers overall and physics teachers in particular. PhysTEC Management reviewed the letters and invited 12 institutions to submit full proposals by the January 12 deadline. An NSF-style review is planned for late January to read and comment on the 12 proposals.

PhysTEC Activities

Site Visits. Visits this quarter were made to the University of Colorado and Towson University . Ted Hodapp represented PhysTEC Management on these visits.

University of Colorado . This visit, like all of the visits this coming year was designed to try and bring together a number of members of both the PhysTEC and PTEC communities to begin conversations on next steps, and taking on significant writing projects to help document the lessons learned from PhysTEC and to work toward dissemination of best-practice ideas. The Colorado visit included Lane Seeley and Eleanor Close from Seattle Pacific, as well as Gay Stewart from Arkansas on Tuesday morning. The goals of each of their participation were to get more of a first-hand exposure to the Learning Assistant (LA) model as well as to outline the writing of papers on LAs. Additionally, Seattle Pacific University (SPU) has just received a Noyce fellowship award from the NSF, and they spent a bit of time seeing how Valerie Otero manages some aspects of their Noyce.

The group also met with several College of Education grad students who are working on an assessment instrument designed to produce a numerical rating of both content mastery and an orthogonal measure of flexibility in addressing the instruction of the content. The instrument is in its early stages, but it is aimed at evaluating the LAs. It could also be used for other classes of teachers as well. Currently it uses free responses, and eventually will involve some aspect of multiple choice scoring.

One of the best parts of the visit was a meeting of Noyce Fellows (all of who either have been or currently are LAs) where they discussed their experiences and the impact of the LA program on their decision to become teachers. Their comments were great examples of why a program like LAs is so successful and important. Examples like, 'This cemented my desire to become a teacher,' or 'I didn't understand how much fun teaching was until I entered the LA program.'

Towson University . During the visit the current status of the project and writing and dissemination efforts were discussed. A strong feature of Towson 's program is the early field experience method that is used to introduce students into the classroom. The elementary class observed was divided up into smaller groups of 3-5 students and two interns (teacher candidates). The interns took turns presenting a lesson to the students while the other observed and recorded comments for later de-briefing of the session. The practicing teacher was also present and made comments later to the interns. The power of this method is in essentially removing most of the classroom management tasks (by virtue of the small groups) and allowing the interns to focus on practicing their craft of teaching. This practice is a good candidate for writing a more substantive article or thinking critically about possible assessment methods that might illuminate the value of this instructional technique.

Plans are in place to create a permanent staff position to replace the TIR funding from the project. This idea enjoys support from all project members up through the dean.

From the PhysTEC Files.

  • Ruamrudee International School in Bangkok , Thailand is the new teaching home to two PhysTEC Physics Educators-Marc Reif and David Byrum. Both Marc and David hold the title of being among PhysTEC's first Teachers In Residence (TIR); David was a TIR at the University of Arizona and Marc was a TIR at the University of Arkansas .
  • Ingrid Novodvorsky, PPI Lead at the University of Arizona has accepted the invitation by AAPT President Elect Harvey Leff to assume the role of Chair of the AAPT Committee on Teacher Preparation Julia Olsen, University of Arizona PhysTEC TIR (2005-2006) has accepted the invitation from AAPT to serve as member of the Committee on Pre-High School Physics Education.
  • At the University of Colorado at Boulder , as part of extending support for PTEC teachers/future teachers and the Learning Assistants Program, they have initiated the CU STOMP, anticipated to integrate with early field experiences for Learning Assistants.

Project Website Updates


In September, 2006, the ComPADRE teacher education site- -went live. At this time, the URL for the former PTEC site, which had been maintained on an American Physical Society server, was redirected to this new ComPADRE site.

The new site features a map tool that shows the geographical distribution of members. Project staff prepared web pages describing each PTEC member's teacher education program, and editing instructions to enable members to update their pages themselves. In addition to the PTEC members' map, the new PTEC site includes a similar interactive map for Research Experiences for Teachers and QuarkNet sites.

The new PTEC site offers members the opportunity to post faculty positions in physics teacher preparation. Also, users will be able to register online for the March 2007 PTEC meeting and also find funding opportunities for preservice teachers, PER, and physics teacher preparation programs.

PTEC Activities

New Coalition Members. The Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PTEC) welcomes Andrews University, Bridgewater State College, California State Polytechnic University Pomona, Elon University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Saint Mary's College, Southern Oregon University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin Madison and Western Kentucky University. Current PTEC membership is 57; the complete list of members can be viewed at .

The physics department at Andrews University collaborates with three other departments to offer an interdisciplinary masters program MS: Mathematics and Science. This course of study can be and has been configured to the specific needs of physics teachers.

Andrews has also offered SmartLabs, a summer intensive program for teachers, for the past 4 years. The entire faculty puts on a week of labs and demonstrations along with a daily hour of lecture content, with an option for graduate credit. Each teacher participant brings a student with them as an assistant. Some teachers stay on for another 2 weeks, during which one of our faculty presents a 3 credit graduate course Topics in Teaching Physics.

Bridgewater State College has been successful in developing professional development programs for existing teachers. Through classes and workshops for in-service teachers the physics department has a group of excellent teachers with whom they maintain regular communication. Several of these teachers are responsible for sending their students to BSC to major in physics and becoming physics teachers themselves. BSC received a recent grant from the Massachusetts Math Science Partnership to provide professional development to middle and high school teachers across southeastern Massachusetts to improve the content knowledge in physical and earth science. BSC also works with school districts on district based programs that move teachers from an initial license to a professional license.

California State Polytechnic University Pomona , in partnership with school districts, community colleges, and business and community partners, has created TQE/Teacher PREP: Teacher Pathways Reaching Excellence through Partnerships. It is a comprehensive model of reform aimed at significantly improving the preparation of teachers for the challenges of the region's diverse
21st century classrooms.

The Elon University Department of Physics recognizes that the future of the discipline hinges on improving the interest in physics in K-12 grades, which in turn hinges on having more qualified teachers of physics. The department has therefore undertaken to do its part in improving the state of physics teacher education.

  • Elon has revised the Physics Bachelor of Arts requirements to offer more flexibility for pre-service high school teachers, allowing them to take courses covering earth sciences, a required class for all high school students in our state.
  • Elon University is in the process of developing a summer academy for local high school students, which will involve Elon faculty and high school teachers co-teaching classes. Our department will take part in the project by offering enrichment programs to increase interest in physics among the participants.
  • The physics department recently hosted the North Carolina Section Meeting of the AAPT, featuring a plenary panel discussion on increasing the number of high school physics teachers and support for existing teachers.
  • Members of the department are cooperating with teachers and administrators at to a local high school that is currently facing serious academic challenges. This endeavor involves non-majors in 100-level physics courses working with 9th graders taking earth sciences.
  • All physics classes are taught with the goal of high student engagement, and many use methodologies that have been documented to work through physics education research.

The Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Physics Department has a history of providing support for pre-service and in-service teachers, with a strong undergraduate program, and several alumni who teach physics in the area. Among the programs offered are the following:

  • ESPyC. In the mid 1990's, school districts in Pennsylvania expressed concern over the lack of qualified Physics teachers. IUP developed an External Secondary Physics Certification program, which provided Physics certification to practicing teachers.
  • 2+2+2 Integrated Workforce Leadership Program in Electro-Optics. This program is funded by a grant from Pennsylvania 's Department of Community and Economic Development. With a seamless transition from high school into college, the program offers the versatility of multiple entrance and exit points. After completion of each educational level, students can exit the program with various skill levels including: a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree.
  • IUP Alliance for Physics. Initiated in the late 1980's the Alliance was a collaboration of the IUP Physics department with school districts in western Pennsylvania . The Physics Alliance offered workshops for Physics Teachers twice per year, with presentations, calculator workshops and "make and take" activities. The Physics Alliance was initially successful in increasing Physics education enrollment, as can be seen from the number of graduates in the early 1990's.
  • CETP-PA. The IUP Physics Department actively participated in the VSP sends college faculty out to area elementary and secondary high schools, to discuss their area of expertise. This is viewed by the college as an outreach for recruitment.
  • IUP Physics Olympics. The Physics Olympics originated at IUP in 1972. It had been discontinued for many years, and has been brought back by the IUP Physics Club.

The support for teachers by the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Saint Mary's College serves both pre-service and in-service teachers.

Pre-service elementary, middle school, and non-science, non-math secondary teachers satisfy the college science requirement by taking a two-semester course in Physics by Inquiry (PBI). Pre-service secondary math and science students are encouraged to take a semester of Physics by Inquiry as an elective. Since the courses taught in the education department emphasize a constructivist agenda, the PBI course also serves as an unofficial laboratory in education. The students learn the content, and see the process modeled by their science teacher.

In-service teachers are supported by week-long summer workshops that focus on the process of teaching by student-centered guided inquiry. The first workshop focuses on the nature of science, learning science as scientists learn science, by guided inquiry, how that manifests itself in the classroom, and the role of misconceptions. The second workshop supports the teachers in their chosen curriculum and emphasizes the use of science notebook as a tool to engage student learning. Saint Mary's does not use a teacher leader model, but instead conduct professional development for every teacher who is willing to cooperate.

Saint Mary's serves the teachers in the state by being a beacon for guided inquiry through workshops and talks on all aspects of teaching by guided inquiry at the state science teacher's meeting and conduct professional development for school districts as requested. In this work we maintain an informal professional collaboration with the Educational Development Center in Newton , Mass.

Improvements to the Southern Oregon University physics teacher preparation program are new and were introduced during fall quarter 2006. The improvements are designed to address the following issues: providing interested students with consistent access to informative resources in teacher preparation, developing greater collaboration with the School of Education, paying particular attention to the development of students' communication skills, bringing knowledgeable speakers into the classroom, and increasing the number of opportunities for students to interact with the community as a knowledgeable physicist. In addition, there will be considerable effort to include students who are traditionally underrepresented in the physics community through outreach efforts.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is developing a "fast track" to teacher certification in which physics majors could take three courses in their School of Education (which would count toward general education or elective requirements in their College of Arts & Sciences bachelor's degree) and one course in the physics department on physics pedagogy (which would count toward physics major requirements) and become licensed to teach high school physics upon graduation without extending their time to degree. This is part of a broader program that includes our departments of biology, chemistry, and geological sciences as well as the School of Education .

The support for teachers by the Department of Physics at the University of Notre Dame includes providing an undergraduate degree in "Physics and Education", as well as numerous ongoing summer and academic-year programs in professional development for teachers in the areas of education and teaching theory and in research in physics. Notre Dame also collaborates with Saint Mary's college in several of the teacher development programs.

  • In-service teachers are supported by two-month-long summer internships within different research groups within the department. The program is coordinated by the High-energy Quarknet program (a nationwide collaboration of high energy research groups dedicated to enhancing pre-college teacher professional development).
  • The astrophysics center JINA (the center for a multi-university group) has numerous education outreach programs for students, pre-college teachers and the local community.
  • Month-long summer workshops for middle-school science and mathematics teachers on "Guided Inquiry methods in the classroom". These focus on the process of teaching by student-centered guided inquiry. The teachers develop module examples for their own curriculum.
  • Faculty members (in both the Physics and Chemistry Departments) collaborate in the program of professional development of elementary school teachers described in the Saint Mary's College program: In-service teachers are supported by week-long summer workshops that focus on the process of teaching by student-centered guided inquiry.
  • We have established NISMEC (the Northern Indiana Science. Mathematics and

Engineering Collaborative) to coordinate many of the activities described above. The Collaborative includes the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary's College, and IUSB (the University of Indiana , South Bend ), as well as representatives from the local school districts and several community groups. We serve the teachers in the state by promoting science teaching by guided inquiry. We present workshops and talks on all aspects of teaching at the annual state science teacher's meeting and provide professional development for school districts as requested.

The Physics Education Group in the Physics Department at the University of Washington conducts a coordinated program of research, curriculum development, and instruction to improve student learning in physics (K-20). The work of the group is guided by ongoing discipline-based research. For more than 30 years, we have been deeply involved in the preparation of prospective and practicing teachers to teach physics and physical science by inquiry. In undergraduate physics, we have been engaged in a major effort to improve the effectiveness of instruction at the introductory level and in more advanced courses. These projects provide a context in which we work toward promoting the professional development of teaching assistants and new faculty.

As the director of the Physics Education Group, Professor Lillian C. McDermott shares leadership responsibilities with Paula R.L. Heron (Associate Professor) and Peter S. Shaffer (Associate Professor). The group includes visiting faculty, research associates, graduate students, and a small administrative staff. Graduate students in the group earn a Ph.D. in physics for research on the learning and teaching of physics. Through in-depth investigations of student understanding, the group seeks to identify and analyze specific difficulties that students encounter in studying physics. The findings are used to guide the development of two sets of instructional materials. Ongoing assessment, which is an integral part of this iterative process, takes place at the University of Washington and at pilot sites.

K-12 teacher training at the University of Wisconsin Madison is managed by the School of Education , which offers discipline-specific programs for secondary education majors in physics and other sciences. Students in the physics option are required to take 34 physics credits including calculus-based courses. Elementary education majors are not required to take many science courses unless they select a science minor.

The physics department maintains a presence throughout Wisconsin with a traveling science show called "The Wonders of Physics." Faculty also take part in professional development workshops for K-12 teachers in Madison .

Many of the Secondary Education Physics students join the Physics Learning Program as Peer Mentor/Tutors (PMTs) and work closely with a small group of physics students throughout the semester. Working for a stipend or course credit, these PMTs hone their content knowledge and take part in weekly seminars on best teaching practices.

The Western Kentucky University Physics & Astronomy Department has overhauled or created new pedagogically innovative courses for pre-service science teachers -- "Physics for Middle School Teachers" (via Physics By Inquiry), "Physics for Teachers," "Astronomy for Teachers," and "Classroom Applications of Physics Education Research." In addition, the department has worked to provide Alternative Route to Teacher Certification and other initiatives to assist non-traditional prospective physics teachers. Each year Western Kentucky hosts multiple professional development workshops; incorporating pre-service and in-service teachers, building skills and content knowledge for out-of-area science teachers. Western Kentucky also offers numerous K-12 competitions, contests, and opportunities to exhibit science skills and knowledge; which incorporate pre-service teachers as one way for them to work with young pupils.