Project Status: May 2009

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

Upcoming Events

PhysTEC Site Annual Reports and MOUs

Each of the five PhysTEC sites receiving funding in 2008-2009 will submit an annual progress report by June 5. For Seattle Pacific University this will be a final report, as the site transitions to its post-funding period. These reports will go through an editorial process and be posted on the PhysTEC website by the end of summer.

The four PhysTEC sites receiving funding in 2009-2010 will submit draft Memoranda of Understanding by June 12. These will be reviewed by the Project Management Team, and final contracts will be signed later in the summer.

PhysTEC Teacher Gathering and Site Leader Meeting

The annual PhysTEC teacher and Teacher in Residence (TIR) gathering will take place on July 24 in Ann Arbor, Michigan prior to the AAPT summer meeting. For the second straight year, the project is providing travel stipends to graduated and soon-to-graduate PhysTEC teachers. The project is organizing a day-long professional development and community-building session for the teachers and TIRs.

The PhysTEC site leader meeting will take place on July 25, also in Ann Arbor. Site leaders will provide updates on their progress, and new directions for the project will be developed.

PTEC booth

The PTEC booth will make an appearance at the summer AAPT meeting, with a dynamic new design, developed in conjunction with the APS outreach department. 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.

2010 PTEC Conference

The 2010 PTEC Conference will be held jointly with the APS/AAPT/National Society of Black Physicists/National Society of Hispanic Physicists meeting in Washington, DC on February 12 and 13, 2010. More information will be available this summer on the PTEC website.

Project News

The 2009 Physics PTEC Conference was held in Pittsburgh on March 13 and 14, 2009, with the theme of "Institutional Transformation: How do we change departments and universities to embrace the mission of preparing tomorrow's teachers?" As in previous years, the conference was organized into four parallel workshop tracks, with lunchtime plenary talks each day. Over 100 physics and education faculty members, teachers, and professional society representatives attended workshops, panels, and talks by leaders in physics teacher preparation. Twenty-five attendees presented posters at an evening poster session.

Among the most popular workshops were "Pedagogical content knowledge needed to teach physics," led by Eugenia Etkina of Rutgers, who discussed the need for teachers to be familiar not just with physics content but also with physics-specific pedagogy; and "Facilitating change in undergraduate STEM," given by Noah Finkelstein of the University of Colorado and Charles Henderson of Western Michigan University, who led a conversation on "the need to problematize and improve our approaches to change." Also well attended was a panel on "The university role in teacher preparation," which was led by Howard Gobstein of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU, formerly NASULGC), and included the perspectives of a physics department chair, an arts and sciences dean, and a university provost. Follow the above link for more information and downloadable presentations from the conference.

On March 12, immediately prior to the PTEC Conference, the project hosted a full-day workshop in partnership with APLU. The purpose of the workshop was to help faculty and administrators from institutions in the APLU Leadership Collaborative to develop plans to ramp up teacher education activities in their departments. The program included presentations by leaders in teacher preparation and several hours for guided brainstorming and program planning. Participants stated that networking and learning about successful programs were the most valuable aspects of the workshop, and they gave the overall quality of the presentations high marks. For more information, see

On March 15 the biannual PhysTEC site leader meeting took place. Leaders from the five currently funded sites gave updates on their projects, and the Project Management Team intiated discussion on a number of new efforts and directions for the project. This meeting also served as the first PhysTEC Noyce site leader meeting, as all currently funded PhysTEC sites are either participants in the PhysTEC Noyce program or administrate their own Noyce scholarships, and some institutions do both.

On April 14, Shirley Wilson joined the PhysTEC project as Education Projects Assistant at APS. Shirley will be supporting the project in a number of capacities.

Seattle Pacific University site visit

On March 4-5, Ted Hodapp and Monica Plisch of APS visited Seattle Pacific University (SPU) along with Laurie McNeil, PhysTEC site leader at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The visit was also part of a joint effort between PhysTEC and the PhysTEC Noyce grants to combine site visits and information on these two synergistic projects, and it was also the final site visit to SPU, which is transitioning to its post-funding period. The principle components of the SPU PhysTEC project are recruitment (this includes both community college students and in general those who can complete a physics major); revision of the introductory class and use of learning assistants (LAs) in this class; early teaching experiences for the students through the LA program; providing a coherent and understandable plan for potential students (this included a BA in physics targeted at potential secondary physics teachers); a mentoring experience through the first year of teaching; and the development of a professional community among the recent graduates and other science teachers in the area to provide effective and ongoing professional development opportunities.

SPU has been experimenting with a part-time Teacher in Residence called a Visiting Master Teacher (VMT). This year's VMT is B Lippitt. The VMTs have been mentoring student teachers and new teachers, assisting with student placement, and interacting with potential teachers back at SPU. In general it seems that the VMT is effective at the mentoring and placement aspects, but not as visible on campus as full-time TIRs, who engage in more active and pervasive recruiting techniques at other sites. Project management suggested a possible way to improve the interactions by directly scheduling meetings between the VMT and students being targeted to become teachers. Project management sees the prospects for sustainability of SPU's PhysTEC intiatives as generally good, but funding will need to be found for two areas: LAs, and the VMT. SPU is currently pursuing options for continued funding through internal college support, and external grants (primarily for the VMT). The site leaders feel prospects for funding the VMT are very good. It looks like LA support will not be an issue, as the department will pay for this from their budget. Project management will encourage SPU faculty to publish more about their successes and challenges, as SPU is currently the only smaller institution that has received funding from PhysTEC, and thus has a lot to offer other similar institutions in terms of experience.

University of Minnesota site visit

On April 16-17, Hodapp and Plisch visited the University of Minnesota, which is finishing up its second of three years of funding. Much of the emphasis of Minnesota's PhysTEC project has been on building a learning assistants program. Hodapp and Plisch met with LAs, who reported many benefits to being a LA, including better understanding of physics, more effective study habits, and improved communication skills. One LA said that it helped her stay a physics major, stating the LA experience "encouraged me to stick with physics," and "If I hadn't done [the LA experience], I don't know if I would still be a physics major," since it provided strong connections within the department and gave her confidence about her abilities. The LA program began last year in the algebra-based introductory sequence, and has expanded into the engineering sequence this year. Site leader Cindy Cattell is working on securing funding for the LA program from the Institute of Technology, which houses the math and science departments, as it sees the program as an opportunity to increase retention of math and science majors.

Cattell is also working to secure funding for a permanent Teacher in Residence (TIR) position, as the TIR has been a major driver of the program at Minnesota. Jon Anderson, the current TIR, is finishing up his second year with the project, and a promising new TIR named Steve Olsen has been recruited. The TIRs at Minnesota have been heavily involved in running the LA program and recruiting teachers, and they also teach the Physics and Everyday Thinking (PET) course, which provides some of their funding. On a programmatic level, Cattell is working with colleagues in physics and in the school of Curriculum and Instruction to streamline the physics teacher preparation track for undergraduates. Currently all teachers must go through a graduate program to be certified. PhysTEC Project management sees the lessons learned at Minnesota as critical for other research-intensive universities seeking to get into physics teacher preparation.

PhysTEC Noyce update

Ten candidates submitted applications and were accepted to the PhysTEC Noyce scholarship program. Of these, three each are enrolled at Cornell University and Seattle Pacific University, and two each are enrolled at Ball State University and the University of Arkansas. Three will be juniors in 2009-2010, five will be seniors, and two will be in post-baccalaureate programs. For more information, see  

PhysTEC appearance in the press

On April 29, an article about PhysTEC was featured on the NSF's Science 360 website. See for more information.

National Physics Teacher Education Task Force Update

The task force continued its fast-paced schedule of site visits, including Arizona State University, Brigham Young University, Cal State Fullerton, City College of New York, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, and University of Northern Iowa. The site selection committee has nearly completed the list of institutions to visit, which will also include some smaller liberal arts institutions. The data collection subcommittee has been working with the AIP Statistical Research Center to develop a national survey of physics departments, scheduled to begin in June. At the APS April Meeting, Stamatis Vokos gave an invited talk to an audience of 30 people on the work of the task force. The full task force will meet June 10-12 in Houston at Rice University, and the final meeting will be September 27-29 at the American Center for Physics in College Park, MD. APS and AAPT are working together to schedule a joint session at the February 2010 meeting in Washington D.C. to unveil the report.

Teacher Preparation Book Update

Members of the book's editorial board have provided reviews of the 18 revised prospectuses submitted after the first round of review by the book editors. The editors are now working to reconcile the various reviews and provide the authors with a unified set of recommendations. These recommendations will be sent to the authors by the end of May. The authors will then be asked to prepare and submit their final manuscripts to the appropriate journals by approximately the beginning of the fall school semester (either to Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, or the American Journal of Physics). At that point the manuscripts will go through the standard journal review process.

Inside Higher Education Webinar

Jennifer Presley (APLU) and Monica Plisch (APS) gave a webinar on "Expanding the Math and Science Teacher Pipeline" on February 18, sponsored by Inside Higher Education. Over 50 institutions joined the webinar, with an average of 6-10 participants per institution, including math/science faculty, education faculty and students. The webinar discussed the need for more math and science teachers and presented PhysTEC successes as well as the APLU Science and Math Teacher Imperative. The discussion was lively with many listeners seeking more information on PhysTEC institutions.

PTEC on the road

The PTEC booth made appearances at the AAPT Winter Meeting/AAAS annual meeting in Chicago, the APS March Meeting in Pittsburgh, and the APS April Meeting in Denver.

PTEC Member News

PTEC now has 135 members. New PTEC members from this past quarter include:

Chatham University
Dodge City Community College
Georgia State University
Johns Hopkins University
Johnson C. Smith University
Lincoln University
Medaille College
South Dakota State University
SUNY Fredonia
University of Hawaii at Hilo
University of Illinois
University of South Dakota
University of Southern Indiana
University of Southern Mississippi
West Virginia State University
Women's Christian College