Project Status: December 2009

This report contains the latest news and updates on the PhysTEC and PTEC projects.

Upcoming Events

2010 PTEC Conference

Registration recently opened for the 2010 Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PTEC) Conference, which will be held on February 12 - 13, 2010 in Washington, DC at the Omni Shoreham. The theme is "Diversity in Physics Education: Preparing Teachers for the 21st Century." This year's PTEC Conference will be held in conjunction with the American Physical Society "April" Meeting, the American Association of Physics Teachers Winter Meeting, the National Society of Black Physicists/National Society of Hispanic Physicists Joint Annual Meeting.

The conference will feature parallel 90-minute workshop tracks with themes of:

  • Diversity in teacher recruitment
  • Preparing teachers for urban schools
  • Closing the achievement gap
  • Building support for teacher education programs
  • Educating teachers in the physical sciences
  • Teaching physics-specific pedagogical knowledge

In addition, there will be several plenary sessions and time for networking and informal conversation. The conference will feature the release of the findings from the National Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics. There will also be a contributed poster session.

There will be a pre-conference workshop on Funding for Teacher Education Programs, featuring program directors of three major programs that support pre-service science and math teacher education.

More information is available at

Pedagogical Content Knowledge Topical Workshop

PTEC will be organizing a topical workshop in April 2010 on Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) for physics teachers. The workshop will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, and will be led by Eugenia Etkina, a physics educator who has developed an exemplary master's program for physics teachers based on a PCK-infused curriculum. The workshop will be available for free to faculty at PTEC member institutions.

Project People

Jon Anderson, a physics teacher at Centennial High School in Circle Pines, MN, near Minneapolis, has become the project's first PhysTEC Teacher and TIR Coordinator. Jon was a Teacher in Residence (TIR) at the University of Minnesota from 2007 through 2009, and has served for the past two years as the TIR representative on the project's Leadership Council. In his new position, Jon will develop professional development and mentoring programs for PhysTEC teachers, and assist the project with teacher tracking and assessment.

Project News

PhysTEC Request for Proposals

The PhysTEC project was pleased to receive 52 letters of interest in response to a request for proposals for new sites. Of these, about half were for comprehensive sites, which will receive up to $100k/year for three years to implement the full PhysTEC program, and the other half were for pilot sites, which will receive up to $25k for three years to implement specific components of the PhysTEC program. The proposals came from a diverse group of institutions of various sizes, including eleven minority-serving institutions. The Project Management Team has sent letters encouraging a select group of institutions from each group (comprehensive and pilot) to submit full proposals, which will be reviewed in early 2010 by an NSF-style panel. The panel's decisions will be announced in Spring 2010, and funding for the new sites will begin in August 2010.

The project plans to invite additional comprehensive and pilot proposals in each of the next few years. The project is also working with the sites that were not selected to submit full proposals, to help them improve their submissions in the future and to continue to improve their programs without PhysTEC funding.

California Two-Year College Meetings

Ted Hodapp and Bo Hammer from the PhysTEC management team went to California to meet with two groups of representatives from four-year and two-year colleges, with the goal of developing relationships leading to PhysTEC projects that would create articulation agreements for future teachers transitioning from a two-year to a four-year institution. Several proposals were submitted by institutions involved in these meetings.

PhysTEC Newsletter Published

The Fall 2009 edition of PhysTEC News (pdf) came out in October. The newsletter features articles on the new PhysTEC NSF award, the University of Arkansas program's sustained successes, the linkages between PTEC and the Modeling Instruction Program, and the political scene surrounding teacher education. Also included are a number of profiles, including a TIR from Florida International University, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina, the first class of PhysTEC Noyce Scholars, and Bo Hammer, the new AAPT Associate Executive Officer and PhysTEC co-Principal Investigator. redesign

The redesign was rolled out at the beginning of November 2009. The new design includes a prominent feature area for graphical content, and divides content into three main areas - PTEC membership, conferences and workshops, and the PTEC library. The project is working on improving the professional development opportunities map that is housed on the website, to make it a more useful resource for inservice and pre-service teachers.

Marketing campaign

John Rice, a marketing consultant hired by the project, made visits to Florida International University and the University of North Carolina to help these institutions develop marketing campaigns to recruit more physics teachers and physics majors. The campaigns are based on a campaign currently being implemented at the University of Texas at Austin, which involves developing a slogan and a suite of materials featuring physics undergraduates. Rice conducted focus groups at each site to determine the barriers to recruitment, conducted photo shoots, and developed a marketing campaign based on student and faculty input.

Site Visits

University of North Carolina

The PhysTEC team of Ted Hodapp, Monica Plisch, and Gabe Popkin made a site visit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on September 14 -15, 2009. They were hosted by Frank Tsui, PhysTEC site lead while Laurie McNeil is on sabbatical. The first two PhysTEC graduates are now teaching in K - 12 schools, a major accomplishment since UNC has not graduated a physics teacher in recent memory. The physics department is launching an undergraduate teaching assistant program to help recruit and prepare more physics teachers. In addition, marketing consultant John Rice is working with the physics department to increase their undergraduate majors, which will help increase the pool of potential teachers.

This was the final site visit to the UNC under the PhysTEC program, as its project is in its final year of funding. Sustainability of physics teacher education activities is on track, as the physics education specialist position was recently renewed for another four years. A former TIR, David Green, was rehired to help implement SCALE - UP sections in introductory physics. The broader UNC - BEST program to prepare secondary science and math teachers is expanding rapidly and has strong administrative support at all levels. Math and geology were added with a grant from the Department of Education and matching funds from the provost for education specialist positions within the departments, analogous to physics. Chemistry is also planning to join.

Florida International University

The PhysTEC site visit team to Florida International University comprised Ted Hodapp and Bo Hammer. As with the other sites, FIU is rotating off project funding next year, so this was the project's last visit. Laird Kramer, the project PI, had made major reforms in the undergraduate physics program prior to PhysTEC funding, and has been able to build on these during the project. The administrators who met with the team expressed enthusiastic support for the direction of the project and for Kramer's efforts in general. For example, the dean of arts and sciences stated that he hopes to see the physics department's successes propagate into other departments. The site visit team also met with Learning Assistants and Noyce scholars, who were also quite supportive of the program and expressed a desire to see even more of the introductory physics courses take on the Modeling curriculum. Diane Crenshaw, the TIR, is managing the Learning Assistants and TAs as well as co-teaching the pedagogy course, and seems to be doing well. Kramer is preparing to ask for continuing TIR funding from the FIU administration; this may take the form of a joint appointment in physics and education.

The team also had extensive conversations with Erik Brewe, who is a strong ally for the project in the Education School. The project reiterated the broad concern about how tenure is granted in cases like Brewe's, where there is a substantial alignment with a disciplinary department. Former TIRs continue to contribute to the program, and other faculty seem to be engaged as well. The site visit team encouraged the physics department to become engaged in elementary education by offering the Physics and Everyday Thinking course.

Cornell University

Ted Hodapp and Monica Plisch visited Cornell on November 18-19. This is the last year of full PhysTEC funding at Cornell, and many conversations centered on sustainability, especially of the Teacher in Residence (TIR) position. Project leadership in the physics department is now split between Rob Thorne, Ritchie Patterson, and Erich Mueller. Thorne is PI, and leads teacher recruitment and preparation efforts within the physics department. Mueller, who is now Director of Undergraduate Studies, is mounting a marketing campaign to recruit more majors, and has studied John Rice's materials. The site visit team gave him some suggestions on these. Patterson, the new chair, has taken on a significant role in the project and is now in charge of communicating with entities outside the physics department.

The site visit team met with an associate dean in arts & sciences, who expressed support for the program. The Education Department is in significant flux, and the dean has recommended that Cornell realign or possibly drop its certification program for teachers in physics and other fields outside the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. However, the project has a number of supporters on the faculty in the education department. The TIR, Jim Overhiser, is doing very well in hit position, and may wish to transition into a more permanent role at the university if funding comes through. The two current Noyce scholars reported that they did not get much support for teaching careers from their peers. One possible idea to address this is to focus on preparing "teacher leaders." This may appeal to the ambitious students who go to state flagship institutions and similar universities.

Project Updates

National Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics update

The Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics held a final meeting September 27 - 29 at the American Center for Physics in College Park, Maryland. The primary goals were to draft findings and recommendations and review draft sections of the report. In October, two final site visits were completed. The findings and recommendations of the task force will be unveiled at plenary sessions at the PTEC Conference and the joint APS/AAPT Meeting in February 2010.

Teacher Preparation Book update

During November, authors have been submitting final manuscripts to the American Journal of Physics and to Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research. The manuscripts are going out to journal referees for review, and the book editors will also review them. Manuscripts that are accepted in final form by journal referees and journal editors as well as by the book editors will be accepted for publication in the book. The editors expect the final review process to take several months.

New PTEC Members

PTEC now has 176 members. New PTEC members from this past quarter include:

California State University, Fresno SUNY Geneseo
California State University, Long Beach Texas A&M University
Chuvash State Teacher Training University The Citadel
Claflin University University of California, Santa Cruz
Florida A & M University University of Idaho
Georgia Southern University University of Illinois-Chicago
Iowa State University University of Massachusetts-Boston
Juniata College University of Memphis
Lehman College, City University of New York University of Missouri-Kansas City
Louisiana State University University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Monmouth College University of New Hampshire
North Carolina A&T State University University of Oregon
Pittsburg State University University of Rhode Island
Portland State University University of Texas at San Antonio
Saint Anselm College University of Texas at Tyler
Sonoma State University University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville University of Wyoming
SUNY Cortland West Virginia University
  Worcester Polytechnic Institute