Project Status: July 2008

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

Upcoming Events

The project will sponsor a regional conference on Friday, October 10th at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington. The program will consist of workshops to inform participants about best-practice programs from around the country, and time devoted to forming action plans for attendees to take back to their home campuses. More information will be available soon at

The 2009 PTEC Conference will be held in Pittsburgh on March 13th and 14th, 2009, just before the APS March Meeting. The theme will be "Institutional Change." Please see for the most recent information.

Recent Events

The joint AAPT/AIP/APS National Task Force on the Professional Preparation of Teachers of Physics held its first meeting in Chicago on May 10th and 11th. The task force agreed upon a charge, and selected membership for several subcommittees including site selection, data gathering, communication, and site visiting. Work within the sub-committees is proceeding and we expect the first site visits to occur this fall. We expect a final report to be ready for the February 2010 joint meeting of the APS/AAPT/NSBP/NSHP.

All PhysTEC sites funded in 2007-2008 submitted their cumulative annual reports in early June. These reports document the goals, successes, challenges, lessons learned, and sustainable elements of the PhysTEC project at each site. All reports are currently in the editorial process, and will be available soon on the PhysTEC website.

All currently funded sites (Cornell, Florida International, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Seattle Pacific) also submitted Memoranda of Understanding for the 2008-2009 budget year. Final contracts will be in place within the next several weeks.

On June 25th, Ted Hodapp, Monica Plisch, and Gabe Popkin presented a booth about PhysTEC and PTEC at the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) reception and exhibition in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill (no federal funds were used for this activity). This event gave us the opportunity to inform Congressional staffers about the importance of continued federal support for science research and education activities, and to make valuable connections with others engaged in this important work.

On July 8th, the project held a half-day retreat for AAPT, APS, and AIP society heads, in lieu of the typical advisory committee meeting. The discussion proved to be stimulating and forward-thinking, and culminated in a number of actions being identified for project participants.

The AAPT Summer Meeting took place from July 19-23 in Edmonton, Alberta, accompanied by the usual flurry of PhysTEC activity. In a new initiative, the project brought together PhysTEC teachers who had been teaching at least one year to engage them in an effort to directly assess student learning gains in PhysTEC teacher classrooms. Each site that has graduated teachers was invited to select up to two to attend, and eight were able to come, representing six PhysTEC institutions (Arizona, Arkansas, Ball State, Cal Poly, Colorado, and Seattle Pacific). On Friday, July 18th, the teachers took part in a half-day PTRA workshop from PTRA leaders Jim and Jane Nelson, addressing concepts that the teachers had specifically identified as being difficult to teach. Meanwhile, former, current, and future Teachers In Residence (TIRs) participated in the annual TIR gathering, at which they discussed issues such as recruitment and mentoring, as well as the project's ongoing TIR Impact study, led by David Meltzer. In the afternoon, both groups joined for a discussion of assessment focusing on the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), the instrument we will be using in student classrooms this coming year. The program culminated with a conversation about PhysTEC teachers' experiences in the classroom. Evaluations of the program from both the teachers and the TIRs were positive, with a number of teachers expressing that they would have liked more time for both the PTRA workshop and the PhysTEC discussions. The project hopes to offer another such experience during the next AAPT Summer Meeting.

On Saturday, July 19th, the project held its biannual site leader meeting. After the normal announcements and updates, Gay Stewart led a discussion of recruitment and advising strategies, and Valerie Otero led a discussion on Learning Assistant programs. The day ended with a conversation about creating degree plans that encourage undergraduates to pursue teaching. As always, the meeting provided a valuable opportunity for the site leaders to learn from each other, and for project management to learn from the site personnel.

The project also conducted a number of activities during the AAPT meeting itself. The booth in the exhibition hall featured for the first time a PowerPoint slide show running continuously, which aided the visual appeal. As always, the booth served as a venue for a number of productive conversations, and, we hope, helped recruit some new PTEC members. Ted Hodapp gave an invited talk entitled "Physics Teacher Preparation: Problems, Perspectives, and Solutions," which drew around 30-40 people. Project consultant Paul Hickman co-led a full-day workshop on the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP), and chaired a session entitled "How do Master Teachers Help Prepare Teachers of Physics," which featured TIRs from Towson, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Cornell. In addition, the project sponsored an interactive poster session on Wednesday, July 23rd entitled "Physics Teacher Preparation around the U.S.," with 15 posters and about 30 participants. Hodapp and AAPT Committee on Teacher Preparation (CTP) chair Eugenia Etkina also held a joint PTEC-CTP meeting to discuss ways for the two efforts to work in tandem. The primary focus of this meeting was to discuss the proposed AAPT document on the preparation of high school teachers, and how to make this document have the largest possible impact. Chairs of AAPT's High School and Physics Education Research committees also attended this meeting.

News from PhysTEC Sites

On April 22nd, Ted Hodapp and Monica Plisch visited Towson University and met with project leaders Cody Sandifer and Laura Lising, as well as Dave Vanko (interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences), Dave Schaefer (chair of the Physics Department), and a number of students in the SCIE 376 elementary education field experience course, which the site leaders have spent the past four years reforming. Lising and Sandifer have had considerable success improving the course, such that the 200+ elementary teachers graduating annually from Towson now report much better attitudes toward science teaching, and demonstrate a greater ability to teach using inquiry than before the project started. We were pleased to hear that internal support had been found for a full-time TIR starting in the fall from a university line budget. This position will probably be filled by Ann Craig, who has been the PhysTEC-sponsored TIR since 2006.

Although Towson has focused its PhysTEC efforts on elementary teacher preparation, it is now preparing to become a major player in secondary preparation as well. The chancellor of the University System of Maryland has issued a call for the state's universities to triple their STEM teacher production, and the Towson physics department is preparing to hire a tenure-track faculty member to focus on secondary teacher preparation. In addition, Sandifer set up a Learning Assistant program that included 11 Learning Assistants in various STEM departments, after attending the PTEC-sponsored Colorado Learning Assistant Workshop last fall. Although Towson has finished its PhysTEC funding period, the project plans to continue to advise and work with Sandifer and others to improve teacher preparation.

An article in the August/September 2008 issue of APS News describes the Towson program in more detail.

In April 2008, Monica Plisch and Ted Hodapp visited Seattle Pacific University (SPU) and met with site leaders Lane Seeley, Stamatis Vokos, Elanor Close, Hunter Close and Lezlie Dewater. This program has a strong connection with local school districts and is pursuing partnerships across the state to improve science education. As a result of these partnerships and a district-level decision to link educational reforms to student learning, student achievement in science has increased dramatically. Laird Kramer, PhysTEC site leader at Florida International University, joined the SPU site visit team to learn more about school district partnerships, with the intent of taking back some of the lessons learned to build stronger relationships with Miami-Dade County schools. The SPU physics department also enjoys a strong relationship with the School of Education, with Eleanor Close having a joint appointment between the two departments. In addition, the two entities have formed a joint task force to recommend improvements to the physics education program.

SPU has established a Learning Assistant program based on the model developed by University of Colorado at Boulder, also a PhysTEC site. At least one Learning Assistant has committed to becoming a physics teacher, and is supported by a Noyce scholarship. SPU has a unique part-time Teacher in Residence (TIR) arrangement that the project is piloting to explore the feasibility and efficacy of employing a part-time person in this role. This person is focusing on recruiting and mentoring student teachers. SPU is pursuing funding for the part-time TIR through the School of Education, to supervise and mentor student teachers.

Project News

Presidential letters

Ted Hodapp invited all PhysTEC sites to draft text for letters to their respective presidents or provosts, to be signed by the AAPT, APS, and AIP society heads. Five out of the seven legacy sites sent letters (Arizona, Arkansas, Cal Poly, Colorado, and Towson) along with all five of the newer sites (Cornell, Florida International, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Seattle Pacific). This action was part of the project's ongoing efforts to engage with the administrations of PhysTEC and PTEC institutions, in order to leverage institutional support for teacher preparation.


Monica Plisch has created a number of graphs that illustrate the impact of the PhysTEC project. These can be viewed on the Outcomes page.

Teacher Preparation Book

The tireless editors of the PTEC-sponsored book on the preparation and professional development of teachers of physics and physical science have reviewed and responded to all 33 prospectuses they received for articles to be included in the book. The editors have provided comments to the authors, who have now been invited to submit full articles. We expect to receive a second round of improved prospectuses by September 15, and submission of full articles by spring 2009. Publication of the book is scheduled for January 2010.


As mentioned above, Ted Hodapp delivered a presentation on PhysTEC at the AAPT Summer Meeting. In addition, Paul Hickman gave a presentation on PhysTEC's induction and mentoring efforts at this meeting. Lane Seeley of Seattle Pacific gave a talk on PhysTEC on May 17th at the APS Northwest Section meeting in Portland, Oregon, and Marty Alderman, Cornell TIR, gave a talk at Cornell on April 19th.

View all presentations.

PTEC Member News

In order to assess PTEC's effectiveness in engaging institutions in physics teacher preparation, we have asked all members to verify that their PTEC website page is up-to-date, and we are planning to ask for physics teacher preparation data from 2007-2008. All members who provide data will be given the status "active members" and will be eligible for reduced admission rates to future PTEC conferences and workshops, including the 2009 national meeting.