Project Status: October 2008

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

Upcoming Events

The 2009 PTEC Conference will be held in Pittsburgh on March 13 and 14, 2009, just before the APS March Meeting. The theme will be "Institutional Change: How do we change departments and universities to embrace the mission of preparing tomorrow's teachers?"

The two-day conference will explore institutional transformation as it pertains to physics teacher education. Sessions will explore topics such as course transformation, institutional partnerships, recruiting, and mentoring. The conference will feature parallel workshop tracks, plenary speakers, a poster session, and time set aside for informal discussion and network-building. The plenary speakers will be

  • Don Langenberg, Chancellor Emeritus, University System of Maryland; President Emeritus, American Physical Society; Former Deputy Director, National Science Foundation
  • Phil Sadler, Director, Science Education Department, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Executive Producer of A Private Universe; Recipient of Journal of Research in Science Teaching Award; Former Middle School Math and Science Teacher
  • Linda Slakey, Director of the Division of Undergraduate Education, National Science Foundation; Former Dean and Professor of Biochemistry, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Post-conference workshops will be given on Sunday, March 15th by Eugenia Etkina, Professor of Education at Rutgers University; Ed Prather, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, and Valerie Otero, Professor of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Please see for the most recent information.

On Thursday March 12th, 2009, immediately prior to the PTEC Conference, the project will co-host two concurrent full-day meetings, one in conjunction with Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) and the other in conjunction with the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC). The PKAL meeting will focus on providing information and inspiring action on teacher education for PKAL members. PKAL is committed to reform of science and math education, and its members are change agents within their institutions. The NASULGC meeting will help faculty from NASULGC institutions to develop plans to ramp up teacher education activities in their departments.

The 2010 PTEC Conference will be held jointly with the APS/AAPT/NSBP/NSHP meeting in Washington, DC on February 12 and 13, 2010.

Recent Events

The project sponsored the PTEC-Northwest regional conference on Friday, October 10th at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington. This was the project's second regional conference. The program consisted of workshops by national leaders of best-practice teacher preparation programs from around the country, including Monica Plisch (APS), Noah Finkelstein (University of Colorado at Boulder), Michael Marder (University of Texas at Austin), and George "Pinky" Nelson (Western Washington University). The workshop was attended by around 30 teacher preparation professionals, and a similar number of Seattle-area K-12 teachers. Evaluations were very positive, with some requests for additional networking/discussion time. In response to these requests, the project has set up an online discussion forum for conference participants. For more information, including conference proceedings and a link to the discussion forum, please see the conference page.

Project News

PhysTEC Noyce Scholarship Program

The American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) recently won a $750k award from the National Science Foundation to provide scholarships to around 30 new physics teachers over the next 5 years. These PhysTEC Noyce Scholars will receive up to $15,000 of scholarship support per year, in exchange for a commitment to teach in a "high-need" school after graduation.

APS Assistant Director of Education Monica Plisch will lead the project, which includes the PhysTEC sites Ball State University, Cornell University, Seattle Pacific University, the University of Arkansas, the University of North Carolina, and Western Michigan University. Funding comes from the NSF's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, which is designed to increase the number of qualified science and math teachers in high-needs school districts. Several PhysTEC institutions, including Arkansas, Seattle Pacific, the University of Arizona, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, already offer Noyce scholarships to their teachers, and the project will be able to take advantage of the expertise these sites have gained.

For more information, please see the article in the most recent edition of PhysTEC News.


The Fall 2008 edition of PhysTEC News (pdf) came out in October. The newsletter features articles on the recently awarded PhysTEC Noyce project (see above), the increase in teachers graduating from PhysTEC institutions (see also PhysTEC Outcomes), the PhysTEC teacher gathering in Edmonton, an exemplary Teacher in Residence, and an exemplary PhysTEC site. The newsletter contains an article by guest author Laurie McNeil (University of North Carolina) as well as APS staff.

An article in the September edition of the APS's Capitol Hill Quarterly featured data showing that the increase of physics teachers graduating from PhysTEC sites is an order of magnitude greater than the average increase from schools around the country. The Capitol Hill Quarterly goes to every member of Congress. The data on physics teachers certified at non-PhysTEC schools is being collected as part of the National Task Force on the Professional Preparation of Teachers of Physics, and is believed to be the first comprehensive effort to collect this data.

Assessment effort

The PhysTEC teacher assessment effort has collected its first round of data. Ten physics teachers-including some who graduated from the PhysTEC project and some non-PhysTEC teachers who will form a comparison set-have provided pre-test scores on a standardized physics concept assessment. Post-test scores will be collected later in the school year and analyzed. This is the pilot run of a multi-year planned assessment effort aimed at gathering evidence for effective teaching.


The project has contracted with a video production company to make a 5-minute video profiling a teacher who graduated from a PhysTEC institution. The teacher is Mary Lee McJimsey (Cal Poly, Class of 2006), who teaches high school physics in Spokane, Washington. McJimsey is also a Knowles Science Teaching Fellow, and the Knowles Foundation has signed on as a co-sponsor to the video project. The video is expected to be completed in December, and will appear on YouTube, the PhysTEC website, and the APS website, among other venues.

Task Force

The National Task Force on the Professional Preparation of Teachers of Physics made its first site visit, to the physics teacher education program at Rutgers. The four-member site visit team had two Task Force members, Stamatis Vokos and Valerie Otero; an APS liaison, Monica Plisch; and Paula Heron from University of Washington. The team observed classes and met with members of the Graduate School of Education, including program director Eugenia Etkina; members of the Physics department, including the chair; and current and former students of the program. The team was impressed with the number of physics education courses in the program and the strength of the induction and mentoring program.  

Meanwhile, the task force's data collection subcommittee has been gathering data from state and national sources on numbers of physics teachers educated at U.S. institutions. The site selection subcommittee conducted a national survey of physics departments and schools of education to learn about physics teacher education programs. Another site visit is planned for Illinois State University for Nov. 5-6, hosted by Carl Wenning. The site visit team will be Ted Hodapp (APS), Monica Plisch (APS), Eugenia Etkina (Rutgers) and Mel Sabella (Chicago State). In addition, the Task Force will have its second meeting Nov. 10-11, and will be joined by representatives from NASULGC and the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, as well as Don Langenberg, who will give an update on the National Research Council's Study on Teacher Preparation Programs.

Teacher Preparation Book

As previously reported, the editors of the PTEC-sponsored book on the preparation and professional development of teachers of physics and physical science received 33 initial prospectuses from researchers around the world. The editors provided detailed comments to all authors, and invited them to submit a revised prospectus for further comments. Just over half of the initial author groups submitted a revised prospectus by the September deadline. The book editors and members of the book's editorial board are now reviewing the revised prospectuses and will provide additional feedback during the next several weeks. At that point, authors will be invited to submit final manuscripts to one of the two journals participating in the book project (American Journal of Physics and Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research). Referees and editors of the respective journals will review the manuscripts and provide further feedback to authors at the end of that review process.

News from PhysTEC Sites

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

On October 20th and 21st, the site visit team of Ted Hodapp and Monica Plisch visited the University of North Carolina (UNC). They met with a number of UNC faculty, administrators, and staff who are connected with the project. All were highly supportive of the program and it seemed that even in a tough budgetary time, the discretionary spending devoted toward UNC-Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching (BEST) program and the PhysTEC effort at UNC would have a high priority. All expressed a good working relationship with Laurie McNeil, the site leader, and the project in general. They discussed a possible way to promote a physics certification to biology teacher candidates to give them additional flexibility and marketability in choosing teaching assignments, and local project leaders plan to draft a plan to implement this soon.

Jennifer Coble, coordinator of UNC-BEST, recently helped write a successful Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow (TCT) grant that will allow the Geology and Math departments (whose chairs the site visit team also met with) to join the program and provide salary support for teachers coming out of that program. Continued efforts will be made to encourage the Chemistry department to join the program as well. The team was very impressed with Teacher in Residence Liz Woolard, who has 42 years of teaching experience, and with the program's first future physics teacher, an enthusiastic student who had previously been stymied in his attempts to pursue teaching certification at UNC. The project is also strongly supported by PER specialist Alice Churukian, who is working with McNeil to reform the introductory physics course through a Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement grant. Overall the team feels very confident in the continued success of the North Carolina project, and plans to feature it in APS News in the coming months. An article on UNC-BEST by Laurie McNeil entitled "Doing the Right Thing (and in the Right Place): Starting a Teacher Preparation Program at a Research University" appeared in the Summer 2008 edition of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter.

Cornell University

On October 22nd and 23rd, Hodapp and Plisch visited Cornell University and met with faculty, students and administrators connected with the project. The visit included a lot of discussion about sustainability of the project beyond 2010, when funding will come to an end. Education Professor Deb Trumbull is currently working to make the certification program for physics teachers more flexible so that students could become physics teachers after four and a half years. In addition, the incoming provost, currently the dean of the engineering college, has shown a strong commitment to education, having revamped the undergraduate engineering curriculum as dean. Hodapp proposed planning a June event promoting PhysTEC and teacher education in general to university administrators.

The site visit team noted several encouraging developments. Marty Alderman, the Teacher in Residence (TIR), is embarking on his second year, and has done a great job helping to establish the program at Cornell. The project is currently investigating funding options to keep Marty on board beyond his TIR term, as Cornell will need to find a new person for the TIR role next year, and is already looking into options. The Learning Assistant program has been expanded to 12 students in two introductory mechanics courses for engineering students and pre-med students. It seems to be going well, and has recruited a number of bright and enthusiastic students, including at least two who are strongly considering teaching careers. A number of talented assistant professors are excited about educational reform and have become allies to the project. One of them, Julia Thom, has also revitalized the SPS chapter.

2008-2009 Contracts

Signed contracts for the 2008-2009 budget year are in place for all currently funded sites (Cornell, Florida International, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Seattle Pacific).


Warren Hein rejoined AAPT full-time on September 1st, as Executive Officer. Although Charlie Holbrow remains the official co-Principal Investigator from AAPT, Hein is once again able to work closely with the Project Management Team to forge future directions.


Monica Plisch gave a presentation entitled "The Role of Colleges and Universities in Teacher Preparation" at the PTEC-Northwest Conference in Seattle, Washington. Ted Hodapp gave a presentation on PhysTEC at a recent APS Fellows meeting.

View all presentations.

PTEC Member News

PTEC is up to 116 members! New PTEC members from this past quarter include:

Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota
Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois
Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Randolph College, Lynchburg, Virginia
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee