Project Status: January 2009

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. The conference will feature parallel workshop tracks, plenary speakers, a poster session, and time set aside for informal discussion and network-building. Workshop threads will be:

  • Partnerships for Transformation
  • Recruiting Teachers
  • Early Teaching Experiences
  • Teaching Methods
  • Resources for Transformation
  • Introductory Course Reform
  • Professional Development
  • Education Research

The plenary speakers will be

  • Don Langenberg-Chancellor Emeritus, University System of Maryland
  • Phil Sadler-Director, Science Education Department, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
  • Linda Slakey-Director of the Division of Undergraduate Education, National Science Foundation

PTEC is also sponsoring two post-conference workshops, which are open to APS March Meeting attendees as well as PTEC Conference participants:

  • Ed Prather, Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona: How to implement proven interactive learning strategies into the lecture portion of your classroom
  • Valerie Otero, School of Education, and Noah Finkelstein, Department of Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder: Transforming your undergraduate physics course using Learning Assistants

In addition, there will be a contributed poster session on Friday, March 13 from 6 to 8 p.m.

On Thursday March 12, 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 provide information and inspire 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.

The PTEC booth will make appearances at the upcoming AAPT Winter Meeting and the APS March Meeting. The booth is an important part of the project's outreach efforts to recruit more PTEC members and involve more physics faculty in teacher education efforts.

Project News

Florida International University site visit

Ted Hodapp and Monica Plisch of APS and Stamatis Vokos of Seattle Pacific University visited Florida International University (FIU) on November 18 and 19, 2008. The team met with university officials including the provost, the dean and associate dean of arts and sciences, the senior vice president for research and dean of the graduate school, and the dean of education. These administrators expressed unanimous support for the program, and acknowledged it as one of the most successful efforts currently ongoing at FIU. The team also met with various faculty including the site leader Laird Kramer, and the Teacher in Residence Jorge Gibert. Gibert has an interesting background and a combination of teaching and research experience that is very beneficial to the project. He has been helping to teach and modify the Modeling curriculum that is used at FIU, and also assists with the Learning Assistant seminar and teacher recruitment.

The team met students in the FIU Society for Physics Students (SPS) chapter, who indicated that the three main factors that had influenced them to become physics majors were Kramer, the Modeling curriculum (which is used in some but not all introductory sections of calculus-based physics), and the learning community that has been established in the physics department. The site visit team felt that all three of these factors bode well for FIU's future success in teacher recruitment. An additional development is that the university administration has issued a directive that all secondary science teacher preparation be located in the science departments, similar to the setup at the University of Arizona. The university has hired Leanne Wells, the 2007-2008 TIR, to set up the program.

Teacher profile video

The project recently completed a video profile of Mary Lee McJimsey, a graduate of the Cal Poly class of 2006 who teaches physics at North Central High School in Spokane, Washington. Mary Lee is a dynamic teacher who exemplifies many of the goals of the PhysTEC project. She attended the PhysTEC teacher gathering last summer in Edmonton and has been very supportive of the PhysTEC teacher assessment effort. Mary Lee is also a Knowles Science Teaching Fellow, and the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation generously agreed to co-sponsor the video, which was produced by the Spokane-based company North by Northwest. The video can be viewed on the PhysTEC home page,, and will be disseminated over the coming months through a number of avenues including APS and AAPT websites and YouTube.

Physics Today article

PhysTEC co-Principal Investigators Ted Hodapp (APS), Jack Hehn (AIP), and Warren Hein (AAPT) recently co-authored an article for the journal Physics Today, which is published monthly by AIP and reaches over 100,000 physicists. The article states the need for more attention to physics teacher education, describes some of the exemplary programs that PhysTEC is promoting, and gives detailed and practical advice for readers who wish to jump-start teacher preparation efforts in their own departments. The article will come out in the February issue and will be featured on the PhysTEC website.

PhysTEC appearances in the press

The PhysTEC project has appeared in the press on a number of occasions recently. Most notably, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) published an article on PhysTEC in the January edition of its monthly newsletter, NSTA Reports. In addition, articles on PhysTEC have appeared in several publications at the University of Minnesota, a PhysTEC site. Project leaders are also working closely with the APS head of media relations to create an effective media strategy that will lead to more media appearances for PhysTEC and its collaborators. For a list of all PhysTEC publicity, see

National Physics Teacher Education Task Force

The National Physics Teacher Education Task Force has completed its first four site visits, to Rutgers, Illinois State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Buffalo State College. The site selection committee has nearly finalized a list of more than a dozen institutions, including traditional teacher colleges, research-intensive universities, urban-serving institutions, liberal arts colleges, and in-service teacher certification programs. The fast-paced site visit schedule will have most of the site visits completed by the summer. So far, the visits have provided valuable information and insights, which are captured in detailed site visit reports.

The second general meeting of the task force was held at the American Center for Physics on November 10 and 11, 2008. Members discussed the first two site visits and developed a draft list of criteria for excellent physics teacher education programs. In addition, the task force set a goal of completing the report by the February 2010 PTEC meeting in Washington, DC.

The data collection subcommittee is conducting a national survey of physics departments with the AIP Statistical Research Center. The goals of the survey will be to determine the level of engagement of physics departments in teacher education, and, if possible, to correlate program elements with the number of teachers educated per institution. The on-line survey will be conducted during the Spring 2009 semester.

PhysTEC Noyce update

Project and APS staff have created a website, application, and promotional material for the PhysTEC Noyce program. Fliers and brochures were sent to the six PhysTEC Noyce sites in December, and most of these sites report that prospective teachers have shown significant interest in the program. Scholarship applications are due by the end of February, and applicants will be notified by the end of March whether they have been accepted into the program. The project looks forward to welcoming its first cohort of Noyce Scholars. For more information, see

PhysTEC site mid-year reports

All five active PhysTEC sites submitted mid-year progress reports in January, 2009. In addition, Ted Hodapp and Monica Plisch made phone calls to each site leader to discuss progress on the MOUs signed in Summer 2008.

APS/AAPT doubling initiative

Both APS and AAPT have passed resolutions endorsing a doubling of the number of undergraduate degrees in physics. These resolutions are focusing on increases in three areas: high school teachers, minorities, and women. In each case, there are programs in place. For educating more high school teachers, PhysTEC is the most significant program run by the societies. The advisory committee for the doubling initiative met in January 2009 and made a number of recommendations to enhance these efforts. These include:

  • Creating a brief document outlining how to implement PhysTEC reforms at a university. The document would include basic elements of the program; give examples of how various institutions have put them in place; and discuss financial implications.
  • Creating a set of indices that would allow physics departments to evaluate their progress in meeting various goals, including the education of high school physics teachers, and publishing these numbers for each institution on a website.
  • Contacting marketing specialists who have been successful in improving recruiting in teacher education programs to see if their strategies can be applied more broadly at PhysTEC or PTEC institutions.

The doubling initiative advisory committee is working with PhysTEC management to put these and other ideas into practice.

PTEC Member News

PTEC now has 120 members. New PTEC members from this past quarter include:

Chicago State University, Chicago, Illinois
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling, West Virginia
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania