Project Status: April 2010

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

Upcoming Events

PTEC Topical Workshop: Pedagogical Content Knowledge

On April 19 and 20, Rutgers University is hosting a topical workshop to assist faculty in developing their future teachers' pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), a concept described by Lee Shulman as the unique combination of content and pedagogical knowledge that is essential to the teaching profession. The workshop will include knowledge of students' difficulties and prior conceptions as well as content-specific productive representations, instructional strategies, and assessment methods. Participants will meet students and graduates of the Rutgers Ed.M. Certification Program in Physical Science and Physics Education who are New Jersey physics teachers. They will also attend workshop meetings, mock classes, and actual classes in the program. See for more information.

Project News

2010 PTEC Conference

The 2010 Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PTEC) Conference was held on February 12 - 13, 2010 in Washington, DC at the Omni Shoreham. The conference was held in conjunction with the joint American Physical Society "April" Meeting / American Association of Physics Teachers Winter Meeting. This was the sixth annual PTEC Conference, and for the fourth straight year it attracted over 100 participants, many of whom battled record-breaking snow storms and travel difficulties to get to the event.

The theme of this year's conference was "Diversity in Physics Education: Preparing Teachers for the 21st Century." In two panel discussions on Friday that focused on issues in urban and minority-serving schools, participants heard the perspectives of young teachers in urban classrooms as well as faculty members at urban institutions. Another workshop led by Duane Merrell of Brigham Young University tackled the challenges of rural physics education.

Other conference sessions focused on the persistent achievement gap between richer and poorer students, as well as between underserved minority students and the rest of the US population. A panel of faculty and teachers discussed the preparation not just of teachers but of teacher leaders who will address such inequalities by becoming change agents in the educational system. Michael Marder, a physics professor at the University of Texas in Austin, presented data on the achievement gap in Texas, a state that often sets national standards in education. A group of graduate and undergraduate students from UC Berkeley, discussed the Compass Project, which aims to increase diversity in the physical sciences.

The conference also featured a number of national efforts in science and mathematics teacher preparation. Marder, who co-directs the University of Texas' UTeach Program, led a workshop on the UTeach replication effort, which supports thirteen universities to develop programs modeled after the one at Texas. Following that, Joseph Heppert of the University of Kansas led a workshop on UKanTeach, the UTeach replication effort at his university.

Other groups represented included the American Chemical Society, which led a workshop on the "Chemistry Teacher Education Coalition," a PhysTEC-inspired effort to engage chemistry departments in teacher education; and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, which organized a reception for conference attendees whose institutions are members of the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative, a group of public research universities that have committed to increasing the number of science and math teachers they prepare.

Unfortunately, the pre-conference workshop on Funding for Teacher Education Programs had to be canceled due to inclement weather; however, several of the sessions planned for this event were rescheduled during the conference as time and space allowed.

More information and presentations from the conference are available at

Task Force Results and Findings Released

The National Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics released a set of findings and recommendations on February 13 at the PTEC Conference. The release, which summarizes more than two years of research on physics teacher preparation programs at American universities, is the synopsis of a report the task force plans to publish later this year and distribute to every physics department and education school in the country.

The task force found that "Except for a handful of isolated pockets of excellence, the national system of preparing physics teachers is largely inefficient, mostly incoherent, and massively unprepared to deal with the current and future needs of the nation's students." The authors identified a number of areas in which they felt improvement was needed, including collaboration between physics and education departments, physics-specific pedagogical preparation of teachers, induction and mentoring support for new physics teachers, and professional development for physics teachers coming from other disciplines.

The authors also drew a connection between the state of US physics teacher education and the country's challenges in the science and engineering labor market, stating that "An effective precollege physics education is indispensable in preparing U.S. students for global competition."
To address these challenges, the authors wrote that "Physics departments, schools of education, university administrators, school systems, state agencies, the federal government, as well as business and foundations, have indispensable collaborative roles to play so that every high school student has the opportunity to learn physics with a qualified teacher."

More information and a summary of the task force's findings and recommendations are available at

PhysTEC Site Selection

Project management team (PMT) and external site selection committee members met in February for a day-long NSF-style review of finalists to be PhysTEC funded sites beginning in the 2010-2011 academic year. PMT members are in the process of visiting a number of applicants, and plan to announce awardees soon so they can begin the process of ramping up their programs in time for the Fall 2010 semester.

PhysTEC Noyce Awardees Selected

The PhysTEC Noyce selection committee selected 15 applicants to receive PhysTEC Noyce scholarships in the 2010-2011 academic year. Of these, six are returning scholars, and nine are new applicants. Eight will be post-baccalaureate students and seven will be seniors in 2010-2011. Awards went to students at Seattle Pacific, Arkansas, Cornell, Western Michigan, and Ball State (the University of North Carolina is also a PhysTEC Noyce site). Each of these scholars will receive up to $15,000 toward tuition and other education-related expenses, and will become part of a cohort that receives project support during their early years in the classroom. For information, see

Teacher Recruiting Video Released

The project recently produced a five-minute video designed to inspire physics majors to pursue a career in teaching. The video features four young physics teachers who talk about what excites them about their jobs, as well as extensive footage from these teachers' classrooms. The video was screened at the PTEC Conference, and all attendees received a free DVD. The video is also available online at and on YouTube at The project is in the process of making another version of the video to feature the Noyce Scholarship Program.

PhysTEC/Noyce Site Leader Meeting

The PhysTEC and PhysTEC Noyce site leaders met for a half day after the PTEC Conference to discuss progress and, in the case of currently funded PhysTEC sites, prepare to transition off of project funding. Topics of discussion included Learning Assistant programs, which have been implemented in various forms at all currently funded sites, and sustainability of project successes post-funding. Several sites are considering no-cost extensions for 2010-2011, and it appears that all sites will continue to employ a Teacher in Residence (TIR) post-funding.

PTEC at APS "April" and March Meetings

The PTEC booth made appearances at the joint APS "April" / AAPT Winter Meeting in Washington, DC, and the APS March Meeting in Portland, OR. The main purpose of the booth is to promote PTEC to the physics community and recruit new members; however it also serves as a hub of networking and community building among existing Coalition members. A new feature of the booth this year is a large video monitor on which the video (see above) or other content can be displayed.

PhysTEC Teacher Survey

The project has contracted with the American Institute of Physics' Statistical Research Center to administer a survey to all PhysTEC graduates from all sites and all years. This survey will go out in late April. PMT members as well as AIP staff will do follow-up to ensure a good response.

Site Visits

University of Minnesota

Ted Hodapp and Monica Plisch made a site visit on March 12 and 30, 2010 to the University of Minnesota, now in its third year of project support. Teacher recruitment efforts are focused on the Learning Assistants program, and they are beginning to pay off. Just this semester, 6 physics majors enrolled in the teacher certification program. Minnesota has had a series of excellent TIRs, including current TIR Steve Olsen who manages the LA program and co-teaches PET for pre-service elementary teachers. Outreach programs including The Physics Force and QuarkNet have provided connections to these outstanding teachers. In spite of the financial crisis, PI Cindy Cattell has pulled together funding for next year to continue PhysTEC programs, including $30k from Physics, $30k from the Institute of Technology, $25k from Education, $5k from Noyce, and $30k rollover funds from PhysTEC. Cindy will also step into the associate department head role and take over leadership of The Physics Force.

Project Updates

Teacher Preparation Book update

Manuscripts intended for publication in the book have been submitted to both the
American Journal of Physics and Physical Review Special Topics Physics Education Research.
The manuscripts are undergoing careful review both by the journal reviewers and journal editors, and by the book editors. After receiving comments from the various reviewers and editors, authors are submitting revised versions of their manuscripts to the journals. At this point the book editors are in the middle of that process, and expect to see final versions of accepted manuscripts enter the proofreading and typesetting process in preparation for publication.

New PTEC Members

PTEC now has 185 members. New PTEC members include:

Auburn University University of Cincinnati
Florida State University *University of Education, Winneba
Ithaca College University of Texas-Pan American
Passaic County Community College Virginia Tech
San Antonio College  
*first Coalition member from Africa