Project Status: December 2007

Here is the latest news on the PhysTEC and PTEC projects.

Upcoming Events

The 2008 PTEC Conference will be held on February 29 and March 1 in Austin, Texas. The conference themes will be Master Teachers and Assessment, and the workshops will develop these themes to address the needs of physics faculty, science education faculty, and master teachers at institutions ranging from liberal arts colleges to large research universities.

In conjunction with the conference, University of Texas faculty members will offer a workshop on the UTeach program on February 28, and Fred Goldberg (San Diego State University) and Robert Poel (Western Michigan University) will offer a workshop on Interactions in Physical Science, an inquiry-based curriculum developed for middle school teachers, on March 2.

In addition, the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) will send a delegation to the conference as part of the development of its effort to address the shortage of well-qualified science and mathematics teachers. PhysTEC Project management is working with Howard Gobstein, NASULGC Vice President for Research and Science Policy, to explore ways that our two organizations can work together to achieve common goals.

More information and Registration.

The 2009 PTEC Conference will be held in Pittsburgh on March 13th and 14th, 2009. The theme will be "Institutional Change."

PTEC will have a booth at the AAPT Winter Meeting in Baltimore from January 21-23. We will be recruiting new members and spreading the word about the upcoming conference. All PTEC members are invited to visit the booth and find out what's new in PTEC.

PTEC is also planning a booth at the APS March Meeting in New Orleans and April Meeting in St. Louis.

We are currently soliciting contributions for a forthcoming book on the preparation and professional development of teachers of physics and physical science.  The book, to be published jointly by the American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers, will include new reports reflecting cutting-edge research and practice, as well as reprints of previously published seminal papers.  Printed copies will be distributed to chairs of all physics departments in the United States, and the book will also be freely available online.


PTEC announces the retirement of Mary Fehrs from the project. Mary served as Associate Project Director for Coalition Development from 2005-2007, and was instrumental in building PTEC membership from under 20 to the current 88 institutions, as well as developing PTEC national conferences and topical workshops. Mary has been collaborating closely with APS Assistant Director of Education Monica Plisch as Monica assumes responsibility for Coalition development and leadership. We will honor Mary and her contributions to the project at the 2008 Conference.

Past Events

On October 24 and 25, 22 faculty members from 14 PhysTEC and PTEC institutions participated in a PTEC-sponsored Learning Assistant Workshop at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Colorado Physics and Education faculty put together an intensive 1.5-day workshop designed to give visiting professors information and tools they will need to implement a Learning Assistant program on their own campuses. Faculty came from large research institutions, small colleges and universities, and a two-year college; these included one Historically Black College or University, and one Hispanic Serving Institution. We were able to attract faculty members from three of the universities that attended the August PTEC-North Carolina workshop. Joining the participating faculty were three representatives from APS and one from AIP, as well as a host of Colorado faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates.

The workshop program consisted of sessions focusing on various aspects of the Colorado program, including a primer on the University of Washington Tutorials in Introductory Physics used in introductory physics recitation sections, presentations on several assessment instruments developed at Colorado, and a discussion of strategies for collecting data and securing funding for Learning Assistant programs. Workshop participants had several opportunities to interact directly with Learning Assistants, including a question-and-answer session, a chance to attend the weekly pedagogy course that all first-year Learning Assistants take, and a visit to one of the recitation sections in which Learning Assistants work with undergraduates on the Tutorials. Participants provided positive feedback on the workshop, and indicated they found it very useful to be able to see the Learning Assistants in action and interact with them. Many expressed the desire for follow-up workshops and online resources for institutions with Learning Assistant programs, and we are working on providing these at the upcoming PTEC Conference as well as on the PTEC website.

News from PhysTEC Sites

PhysTEC Management Team members Ted Hodapp and Monica Plisch visited the new PhysTEC site at Florida International University (FIU) in late November. In addition to PhysTEC, site leader Laird Kramer is involved in the Center for High-Energy Physics Research, Education, and Outreach (CHEPREO) project, which has brought onto campus a second Master Teacher, David Jones, in addition to the PhysTEC Teacher in Residence Leanne Wells. The project has recognized the strong potential for synergy between the two efforts, and has invited David to join PhysTEC Teacher in Residence listserv discussions. PhysTEC also feels that the recently hired Eric Brewe is a promising addition to the FIU PER group. Eric did PER graduate work at Arizona State and now teaches in the FIU College of Education.

While at FIU the PhysTEC team visited an interactive modeling classroom where students worked together on computer-assisted momentum experiments. The team was impressed with the strong learning community they observed on campus, and particularly with students' transfer of Socratic questioning techniques from a pedagogical tool to their own work in upper-level physics courses.

Towson University reports some exciting developments from the past semester. Math education faculty have for the first time approached the PhysTEC site leaders to develop a collaboration and introduce inquiry teaching into math teacher education courses. In addition, the site leaders developed an activity in which pre-service elementary teachers reflected on their own audiorecorded lessons. According to site leader Laura Lising, "most students comment[ed] that they were surprised at the results and motivated to make changes henceforth, and many discuss[ed] how they would continue to use this type of reflection in their future classrooms (and perhaps buy their own recorders)."

Sherm Williamson has begun his work as Visiting Master Teacher at Seattle Pacific University. The Visiting Master Teacher is an experimental position that Seattle Pacific has developed to assess the benefit of a part-time Master Teacher. The project will be following Sherm's progress to learn whether this arrangement is a means by which smaller schools can develop a teacher preparation program without the investment required for a full-time Teacher in Residence.

The University of Colorado has won $2.4 million to become one of twelve UTeach replication sites to develop its math and science teacher preparation program under the National Math and Science Initiative. This is an excellent example of a PhysTEC site using its PhysTEC experience, as well as other teacher preparation and physics education activities, to support a new grant application. Read the press release.

Project News

We are pleased to announce the launch of the new PhysTEC website. Beyond a new and (hopefully) improved look, the site features a new Key Components section with strategies and resources developed by PhysTEC sites and other national leaders that faculty and master teachers can use to plan and develop their teacher preparation programs. The new site also contains much of the content from the old site, including PhysTEC Institutions' annual reports; presentations by site leaders, master teachers, and project management; News and Announcements about PhysTEC and teacher preparation; and a Project Status page with quarterly and annual project reports. We hope that people engaged in teacher preparation around the country will find a valuable resource.

We are also pleased to announce the submission of a proposal to the National Science Foundation for a second round of funding for PhysTEC and PTEC. Over the past six years, PhysTEC sites have developed model programs and demonstrated the ability to recruit and prepare highly qualified physics and physical science teachers. In addition, PTEC has grown to nearly 100 institutional members that are committed to improving teacher education. The next step is to use PhysTEC and PTEC to expand these model programs and help more institutions build effective, sustainable teacher preparation programs.

In October, the American Institute of Physics' Statistical Research Center (SRC) reported on the first year of a multi-year effort to gather project-wide information on PhysTEC teachers. The SRC researchers added a module to their 2006 annual bachelor's follow-up survey that included questions targeting first-year high school teachers, as well as questions for the general population of recent bachelor's degree recipients. Although the sample set of responding PhysTEC graduates was too small to use to draw conclusions about the project this year, the report did provide interesting information about new high school physics teachers generally, some of which may contradict commonly held notions. For example, the report indicates that

  • The overall job satisfaction of new teachers seems very high. This includes satisfaction with salary and with the intellectual content of the profession.
  • Nearly all new high school physics teachers surveyed would major in physics again.
  • 40% cited a high school physics teacher (some good, some bad) as an influence in their choice to become a teacher. Relatively few cited a college professor.
  • Many more graduates - both teachers and non-teachers - reported receiving encouragement than discouragement to pursue high school teaching from their college faculty.


Ted Hodapp delivered a presentation on APS Education and Diversity efforts, including PhysTEC, at the Institute of Physics in Great Britain in October. Warren Hein spoke about PhysTEC in his presentation "The Role of Professional Societies in Engaging STEM Faculty in K-12 Work" at a recent Math and Science Partnership STEM Summit in Washington, DC. In November Paul Hickman spoke about PhysTEC at a State of Science Education Reform event in Carroll County, Maryland. And Rob Thorne, Cornell site leader, traveled the greatest number of miles to speak to faculty about PhysTEC and teacher recruitment at the Qatar University, in Doha, Qatar.

View all presentations.

PTEC Member News

We welcomed two new PTEC Member Institutions this quarter: the University of Missouri-Rolla and Winston-Salem State University. Both of these new members jumped right into PTEC by sending faculty to the Learning Assistant workshop.

PTEC recently received applications from two federally funded laboratories that offer programs for pre-service and in-service teachers, and has decided to extend memberships labs of this type. We look forward to working with these and other research laboratories to improve teacher education at all levels.

Congratulations to PTEC member Western Kentucky University, which received a $2.4 million UTeach Replication award from the National Math and Science Initiative! Read the press release.