Project Status: November 2010

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

Upcoming Events

AAPT Winter Meeting

PhysTEC will have an exhibit booth at the AAPT Winter Meeting in Jacksonville, Florida. The meeting will also feature a number of sessions related to physics teacher preparation:

Sunday January 9
5:00 - 6:30 pm AAPT Teacher Preparation Committee Meeting
Monday January 10
8:00 - 9:00 am Preparing pre-High School Physics Teachers
1:15 - 3:15 pm Using the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics Report as a Guide for Improving Physics Education
1:15 - 3:15 pm Sustaining the Key Elements of a High Quality Physics Teacher Preparation Program
Tuesday, January 11
1:00 - 2:30 pm Recent Research in Teacher Education: A PhysTEC Project to Inform Larger Audiences
Wednesday, January 12
11:30 am - 12:30 pm Task Force on Teacher Education Crackerbarrel

2011 PhysTEC Conference

The 2011 PhysTEC Conference will be held in Austin, TX on May 23 and 24, 2011, with the theme of "Building Sustainable Programs." The 2011 Conference will be held jointly with the UTeach Institute Annual Conference.

Acronym/Website Merge

The project is phasing out the PTEC acronym, and subsuming all activities under the acronym PhysTEC. PTEC members will be known as PhysTEC Member Institutions, and funded institutions will be PhysTEC Supported Sites. The and websites will be merged-look for the rollout of the new at the beginning of January.

Teacher Education News

Future Teacher Scholarships

The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program funds institutions of higher education to provide scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare science and math majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers. The next solicitation will be released soon, and proposals will be due in March 2011.

AAPT's Barbara Lotze Scholarship for Future Teachers provides stipends of up to $2,000 per year. Applications are typically due around the beginning of December.

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) offers an annual Future Teacher Scholarship of $2,000 to future teachers who are SPS members.

AIP Report on "Who Teaches High School Physics?"

The AIP Statistical Research Center has been publishing brief reports based on its 2009 high school physics teacher survey. The focus on "Who Teaches High School Physics?" just came out, available at

A few highlights from the report:

  • There are 27,000 physics teachers in the US, up from 23,000 four years ago.
  • Over half of physics teachers taught all or most of their classes in physics, up from one-third in 1993.
  • 35% of physics teachers have a major in physics or physics education; another 11% have minors in physics or physics education.
  • 32% of physics teachers are women, up from 22% in 1990.

PCAST Report on STEM Education

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) published a report on improving K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. One of its key recommendations is recruiting and preparing more STEM teachers, with both deep content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.

For the full report, go to

The All-Purpose Science Teacher

A National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) report documents the widespread problem with generic science certifications that allow unqualified teachers to teach physics. NCTQ's latest "traffic light" paper, The All-Purpose Science Teacher, reveals loopholes in state policies that allow secondary science teachers to teach subjects they may be ill-prepared to cover.

Project News

PhysTEC Site Applications; Webinar

In response to the Request for Proposals released in early October, the project received a total of 68 letters of interest in applying for PhysTEC funding. The Project is in the process of reviewing these, and will respond to all applicants within a few weeks. Selected institutions will be invited to submit full proposals, which will be due in early January 2011. Awards will be made in the spring. The project expects to fund about six proposals in this round, and plans to release another solicitation in Fall 2011.

On October 18, the project held a webinar for faculty who were interested in applying for PhysTEC funding. The webinar consisted of a half-hour presentation by project director Theodore Hodapp, who provided information on how to create a strong proposal, followed by a half-hour question-and-answer session. The webinar is archived on the PhysTEC website at

PhysTEC Topical Workshop: Learning Assistants

On October 13-14, the project sponsored a second workshop focusing on the University of Colorado's Learning Assistant program (the first took place in October 2007). The two-day workshop was designed by faculty and staff at the University of Colorado (CU-Boulder), led by Education Professor Valerie Otero, and provided participating faculty from other institutions with information they need to set up a successful Learning Assistant program. Participants observed learning assistant tutorials, participated in the pedagogy class that first-year Learning Assistants take, and received copies of the materials developed by CU-Boulder faculty and staff.

Thirty-eight faculty and staff representing 21 PhysTEC Member Institutions attended the workshop, which took place on the CU-Boulder campus. Approximately half of the attendees were from physics departments, with the others representing math, biology, geology, chemistry, and education. The workshop schedule and selected presentations are available at

Advisory Committee Meeting

The new PhysTEC Advisory Committee met for the first time at the American Center for Physics on September 27-28. The Committee reviewed project progress and provided guidance on future project initiatives in teacher preparation. They met with project staff, a practicing PhysTEC teacher, and representatives of PhysTEC institutions.

The Advisory Committee includes the following individuals:

  • Helen Quinn (chair), Stanford University
  • Keith Clay, Green River Community College
  • Mary Kirchhoff, American Chemical Society
  • Jill Marshall, University of Texas at Austin
  • Jose Mestre, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Kimberly Mitchell, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Jo Anne Vasquez, Helios Education Foundation

PhysTEC Sites Begin; Towson, Chicago State Site Visits

The five newest PhysTEC Supported Sites, California State University, Long Beach; Chicago State University; Middle Tennessee State University; Towson University; and the University of California, Davis, began project activities in August 2010. On October 25, the project held its first ever videoconference for funded sites; these will occur monthly.

On September 16, the PhysTEC site visit team of Theodore Hodapp, Monica Plisch, and Sara Webb, visited Towson University. The PhysTEC project at Towson is launching at a time of growing institutional support for physics teacher education at all levels of administration. This support resulted in the recent hire of Ron Hermann, a former science teacher with a Ph.D. in science education, into the physics department. His presence is already making a difference in the department, and 6 students are now enrolled in the secondary physics education program, up from an average of 1 in past years. Towson has put in place a number of elements supporting future physics teachers, including a popular Learning Assistant program and a grant from the Noyce Scholarship Program; in addition, project leaders are developing courses based on UTeach's Step 1 and Step 2 early teaching experiences. More broadly, the physics department is increasing the annual number of majors graduating, a result of active recruiting of majors, an effort to improve instruction in introductory physics classes, and an active SPS chapter with a dedicated room in the physics building.

On October 8, the PhysTEC site visit team of Monica Plisch, Jack Hehn and Ted Hodapp visited Chicago State University(CSU). CSU is an urban Minority-Serving Institution, where many of the students are pursuing education with the goal of giving back to their community. The site visit team found that CSU students faced a number of challenges not often seen at other institutions, which forced many of them to interrupt their studies to deal with family situations, financial needs, and other issues. Increasing the number of physics majors will be crucial to this site's success, and existing connections with the Chicago Community Colleges (CCC) appear to be one avenue to doing this. The president, provost, dean, and physics chair were all very supportive of the project's efforts, and the department itself was clearly dedicated to helping CSU's students as well as encouraging them to consider becoming teachers.

Project Updates

PhysTEC Noyce Application Online

Applications for the PhysTEC Noyce Scholarship are now being accepted for the 2011-2012 academic year. Scholarships are available to future physics teachers at any of the six PhysTEC Noyce sites. Students who have previously received one year of support are eligible to apply for a second scholarship. The deadline to apply is February 15, 2011; see

PhysTEC Teacher Survey

The project contracted with the American Institute of Physics' Statistical Research Center to administer a survey to all PhysTEC graduates from all sites and all years, to collect information on employment and career paths, teaching methods, and attitudes. This was the first attempt to comprehensively survey all PhysTEC graduates. Eighty-three project graduates responded to the survey, and the report will be available by late fall.

Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics

The full report of the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics is expected in early 2011. All sections of the report have been drafted. A subcommittee of the task force held two face-to-face meetings to flesh out the full recommendations and review all sections of the report. A final vote will be taken by all Task Force members in early December to approve or reject the report, and then it will be sent out for editing and publishing. A printed copy of the report will be sent to all physics departments and schools of education, and a PDF version will be made freely available on the PhysTEC website. See for more information.

Teacher Preparation Book

Two papers written for the book have now completed the full review process and have been published in refereed journals:

(1) Eugenia Etkina, "Pedagogical content knowledge and preparation of high school physics teachers," Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research 6, 020110 (2010);

(2) Valerie Otero, Steven Pollock, and Noah Finkelstein, "A physics department's role in preparing physics teachers: The Colorado learning assistant model," American Journal of Physics 78 (11), 1218-1224 (2010).

Several other articles are in press, and a number of previously published seminal articles will also be reprinted. An invited session has been scheduled for the 2011 AAPT Winter Meeting at which some of the book authors will present their work (see above). The book is anticipated for publication in 2011.

PhysTEC News

The Fall 2010 edition of PhysTEC News recently came out. This newsletter introduces the new funded sites, profiles PhysTEC teachers and a Teacher in Residence, features the national Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics, and provides perspectives on broader issues surrounding physics teacher preparation. It is available as a PDF.


Theodore Hodapp gave a presentation on October 21 at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA that included information on PhysTEC. View Presentation

In addition, Monica Plisch presentated at Louisian State University in Baton Rouge on the Task Force in Teacher Education. View Presentation

New Coalition Members

The Coalition now has 228 members. New Coalition members include:

  • Abilene Christian University
  • Adrian College
  • Armstrong Atlantic State University
  • Augustana College
  • Berry College
  • Butler University
  • California State University San Marcos
  • Canisius College
  • Central Washington University
  • Cleveland State University
  • East Carolina University
  • Eastern Kentucky University
  • Howard University
  • Kent State University
  • Lawrence Technological University
  • Longwood University
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead
  • New Mexico State University
  • Purdue University
  • Rowan University
  • Southeastern Louisiana University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Southern University and A&M College
  • Southwestern Oklahoma State University
  • St. Ambrose University
  • St. John's University
  • Stony Brook University
  • Tarleton State University
  • Truman State University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California at Riverside
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • University of Houston Clear Lake
  • University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • University of Texas at Brownsville
  • University of Toledo
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Vassar College
  • Wayne State University
  • Western Illinois University
  • Wichita State University


Beth Cunningham joined the project in October as co-Principal Investigator from AAPT. Cunningham is the AAPT Executive Officer Designate, officially taking over from Warren Hein on January 1, 2011. Hein is retiring at the end of the year. Prior to coming to AAPT, Cunningham was Provost, Dean of the Faculty, and Professor of Physics at Illinois Wesleyan University. Within PhysTEC, she will take the lead on overseeing the project's interactions with Teachers In Residence and teachers, as well as representing AAPT within PhysTEC and the PhysTEC Noyce project.