Project Status: April 2011

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

Upcoming Events

2011 PhysTEC Conference
May 23-24 ~ Austin, TX

Registration is now open for the 2011 PhysTEC Conference, which will focus on the theme of "Building Sustainable Programs." A sampling of workshop themes includes:

  • Sustaining Program Elements
  • Assessment
  • Course Reform
  • Fundraising and Sustainability
  • Preparing Teachers in the Physical Sciences
  • Recruiting Physics Teachers.

The conference will feature plenary speakers Dr. Carl Wieman, Associate Director for Science, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Nobel Laureate in Physics, and Dr. Eugene Levy, Professor of Astrophysics and former Provost, Rice University.

This year's conference will be held jointly with the UTeach Institute Annual Conference being held May 24-26. The UTeach conference will provide additional workshop opportunities, as well as exposure to a large network of individuals dedicated to science teacher education. PhysTEC conference attendees are invited to attend the UTeach Conference for a reduced fee of $200.

AAPT Summer Meeting
July 30-August 3 ~ Omaha, NE

The PhysTEC project will be featured at the APS Education & Diversity department's exhibit booth at the AAPT Summer Meeting. The meeting will also feature a number of sessions related to physics teacher preparation:

Developing a Network of Cooperating Teachers, Duane Merrell, organizer
Developing Teacher Leaders, Jon Anderson, organizer
Induction and Mentoring of Physics Teachers, Monica Plisch, organizer
Recruiting Students to High School Physics, Gabriel Popkin, organizer

PhysTEC Teacher & TIR Gathering
July 29, 2011 ~ Omaha, NE

The project will be hosting a day-long gathering for PhysTEC Teachers, Teachers In Residence and Visiting Master Teachers in conjunction with the AAPT Summer Meeting. The gathering will feature discussion, sharing of ideas and experiences, and professional development sessions.

2012 PhysTEC Conference

The 2012 PhysTEC Conference will be held February 3-4, 2012 in conjunction with the AAPT Winter Meeting in Ontario, California. More details will be provided in the next status report.

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 later this year.

Teacher Education News

Physics Today Article on Science Teacher Recruitment and Retention

Physics Today recently published an article entitled "National initiatives recruit and retrain science teachers," which details how businesses, nonprofit organizations, and the White House are betting on K-12 STEM teachers to forestall the "gathering storm" forecasted by the National Academies. The article also describes the PhysTEC project and the role it is playing in helping physics departments prepare more teachers.

Webinar: Becoming a Physics Teacher

On March 7, the project hosted a webinar featuring Eugenia Etkina, education professor at Rutgers University. Eugenia shared advice and strategies on becoming a physics teacher, drawn from her many years of experience in teacher preparation and physics education research. Jon Anderson, physics teacher in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, former TIR at the University of Minnesota and project consultant, moderated the discussion. Watch the recorded webinar.

Professional Development Map

The professional development opportunity map has been recently updated and enhanced. This interactive google map provides information about Research Experiences for Teachers, Department of Energy programs, Modeling Workshops, PTRA programs, QuarkNet sites, and other opportunities from around the country. If you run a professional development opportunity, you can add it to the map using the link at the bottom of the page. If you know of programs we should include, please contact us so that we can add them to this growing resource.

Project News

PhysTEC Noyce Awardees Selected

The PhysTEC Noyce selection committee selected 11 applicants to receive PhysTEC Noyce scholarships in the 2011-2012 academic year. Of these, seven are returning scholars, and four are new applicants. Eight will be post-baccalaureate students, two will be seniors, and one will be a junior in 2011-2012. Awards went to students at Seattle Pacific, Arkansas, Western Michigan and the University of North Carolina. 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. More information.

PhysTEC Site Applications

In response to the Request for Proposals released in early October 2010, the project received a record total of 70 letters of interest in applying for PhysTEC funding. After completing a review process, the project invited 14 of these institutions to submit full proposals. The full proposals were reviewed in early February 2011 by a committee that included representatives of APS and AAPT, as well as external reviewers.

Project leaders are currently in the process of conducting site visits to those institutions ranked highest by the review committee. Final selection and awards will be made later this spring. The project expects to fund about six proposals in this round, and plans to release another solicitation in Fall 2011.

PhysTEC Endorsed Site: Rutgers University

Rutgers University is the first institution to be designated as a PhysTEC Endorsed Site.

The project established the Endorsed Site status to recognize and support those institutions that have independently become models of teacher education in physics. In order to become a PhysTEC Endorsed Site, the program must demonstrate that it includes the key components established for PhysTEC sites, and that it graduates a significant number of pre-service high school physics teachers each year (at least 2 per year averaged over the past 3 years).

The Rutgers physics and physical science teacher education program, led by Eugenia Etkina, graduated an average of 6 students per year over the past 5 years and anticipates graduating 8 students this spring. The program focuses on preparing teachers of physics or physical science who are knowledgeable in the content and processes of physics, who can engage students in active learning of physics using scientific inquiry, and who can assess student progress in ways that improve learning.

Read more about the criteria and procedures for PhysTEC Endorsed Sites.

Site Visits: University of California, Davis and University of Minnesota

On February 7, the PhysTEC site visit team of Theodore Hodapp and Monica Plisch made the first site visit to UC Davis since funding began in Fall 2010. The UC Davis Math and Science Teacher Program (MAST), a partner in the statewide CalTeach project is housed in the division of Mathematics and Physical Sciences. PhysTEC and MAST together have strong potential to substantially increase the number of physics teachers graduating from UC Davis. This quarter there are 7 Learning Assistants (LAs) in the introductory courses for life science majors. All were interested in careers that involved teaching, and some were considering becoming a high school teacher. The physics department is currently considering reforms to improve physics education which include revision of the introductory course sequence for engineering and physics majors, and a proposal by the project PI to create a physics education track for future teachers.

On February 24, the PhysTEC site visit team of Theodore Hodapp and Monica Plisch visited the University of Minnesota. The site is in its fourth and final year of project funding, and sustainability was the primary topic of discussion. Project leaders have applied for external funding to continue their LA program and TIR position as part of more comprehensive efforts to improve undergraduate education. There has also been commitment from the physics chair to hire a TIR to teach one section of the PET course for future elementary teachers each semester, which will keep a TIR on campus. The possibility of sustaining the LA program by offering students credit rather than a stipend was discussed. The project at Minnesota is now in a position to start evaluating what changes were made as a result of PhysTEC support. These include the TIR position and LA program, as well as better collaboration with the College of Education and Human Development.

Article & Webinar: Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)

At the request of the APLU, the project will be producing a scholarly article and webinar related to project impact. Plans are in process for an article to be written about the impact of the PhysTEC project on physics and education departments. The article will be posted on the web and printed for distribution to professional societies and physics and other academic departments. The webinar will address communicating effectively with administrators, with the intended audience being UTeach replication sites and PhysTEC Member Institutions, as well as APLU.

American Chemical Society (ACS) Proposal

The American Chemical Society (ACS) submitted a planning proposal to the National Science Foundation for a chemistry teacher education initiative, inspired by the PhysTEC project. Theodore Hodapp and Monica Plisch are co-PIs on the proposal. If funded, the project would bring together leaders in the chemistry teacher education community as well as PhysTEC project leadership and others stakeholders to develop a plan for a larger initiative.

Project Updates

PhysTEC Project Synopsis
A synopsis of the PhysTEC project was released this past December. The four-page report describes the basic structure of the program as well as key project successes, major initiatives, and products.

PhysTEC Teacher Survey Report

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, 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.

Highlights from the report:

  • Over 75% of the respondents taught during the 2009-10 academic year.
  • About 30% of the respondents filled various educational leadership roles during the year.
  • Over 70% plan to stay in high school education until they retire.

Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics

The full report of the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics is expected to be available at the PhysTEC Conference. It is currently in the process of being edited. There will be a session at the PhysTEC Conference on the report and the national proposal for regional centers. 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 and a copy of the report synopsis.

Teacher Preparation Book

Three papers written for the book have now completed the full review process and have been published in refereed journals. The most recently published is below:

Fred Goldberg, Valerie Otero, and Stephen Robinson, "Design principles for effective physics instruction: A case from physics and everyday thinking," American Journal of Physics 78 (12), 1265-1277 (2010).

A fourth paper is in press and a fifth is the in final stages of editing. The editors are also assembling a selection of previously published papers for reprinting in the book and additional editorial material is being prepared. The book is moving toward publication this summer.

New Coalition Members

The Coalition currently has 228 members. No new members have been added since the last status report; however, several institutions are currently in the process of applying.


Jacob Blickenstaff will be joining APS this June as the Teacher Education Programs Manager. Jacob's responsibilities will be split between the PhysTEC project and teacher professional development programs. He joins the APS staff with significant experience in science education and physics. After five years teaching high school physics in the Central Valley of California, Jacob earned a Ph.D. in Science Education from the University of California, Davis and worked with Wendell Potter on a reformed physics course for his dissertation. He has held assistant professor positions in Science Education and Physics at Western Washington University and the University of Southern Mississippi, working in secondary teacher education at both institutions. He has published on gender issues in science education, and writes a column on science in movies for the National Science Teachers Association.