Project Status: August 2011

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

Upcoming Events

PhysTEC Topical Workshop: Learning Assistants

The PhysTEC project is sponsoring a third workshop focusing on the University of Colorado's Learning Assistant (LA) program (the previous two took place in Fall 2007 and Fall 2010). The LA program is a highly supported peer teaching experience that has been shown to improve students' learning and attitudes toward science in undergraduate lecture classes and recruit talented science and math students into teaching careers. The workshop will take place November 2-3, 2011 and is open to PhysTEC members. Housing and on-site meals will be provided. 2011 LA Workshop

PhysTEC Request for Proposals

The Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) project requests proposals for new sites to develop model physics teacher preparation programs, beginning in the 2012-2013 academic year. Visit to view the 2011 RFP. Sign-up for the webinar (see next item) to learn more.

Webinar: 2011 PhysTEC Request for Proposals

A webinar on the 2011 PhysTEC RFP will be held on October 5, 2011, at 3:00 pm EDT. Ted Hodapp, Director of Education and Diversity, will present an overview of the PhysTEC project as well as the RFP process and guidelines. Participants will have the opportunity to submit questions. Register for the Webinar

SAVE THE DATE: 2012 PhysTEC Conference

The 2012 PhysTEC Conference will be held in Ontario, California, on February 3-4, 2012, with the theme of "New Paradigms for Teacher Education." The conference will be held jointly with the American Association of Physics Teachers Winter Meeting.

Science Education News

NRC Report Offers New Framework to Guide K-12 Science Education

The National Research Council recently released a new framework for K-12 science education. Helen Quinn, a past APS president and PhysTEC Advisory Committee chair, chaired the effort to create the framework, which calls for a shift in the way science is taught in the U.S. and will inform the development of national K-12 science standards.

Forum on Education Newsletter Article on the Science and Engineering Readiness Index

An article entitled "A State-by-State Science and Engineering Readiness Index (SERI): Grading States on Their K-12 Preparation of Future Scientists and Engineers" was published in the Summer 2011 FEd Newsletter. The authors propose and implement a SERI as a tool for policy-makers and educators to use to examine progress in K-12 physical science and engineering education. Massachusetts scored highest at 4.82 (out of 5), with only four additional states achieving a "well above average" (3.94 - 4.06) rating.

American Institute of Physics Mini-report on Female Students in High School Physics

A recent focus on report published by the AIP Statistical Research Center highlights a subset of the results from their 2008-09 nationwide survey of high school physics teachers. The report examines female representation by type of physics class and considers the implications of the lower representation of females in advanced physics classes. Read the Full Report

2011 Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI) Conference

The SMTI 2011 National Conference (June 8-10) provides an opportunity for faculty from science, mathematics and education disciplines to share their successful programs and strategies. This year, meeting participants learned about cutting-edge programs and shared their own experiences with science and mathematics teacher preparation approaches in a collaborative environment. Conference details and materials are available online:

Chemistry Teacher Education Coalition Planning Workshop

PhysTEC PIs Theodore Hodapp and Monica Plisch attended a workshop on the preparation of future chemistry teachers at the American Chemical Society, June 6-7, 2011, sponsored by the NSF's Noyce Scholarship program. Workshop participants considered the potential of forming a Chemistry Teacher Education Coalition (CTEC), a parallel initiative to PhysTEC, and proposed that the mission of CTEC should be "To actively engage chemistry departments in the preparation of future chemistry teachers." Over 100 chemistry departments have endorsed CTEC to date. Moving forward, some recommendations from the workshop include: acquiring funding, hiring a project director, and convening an advisory committee.

Project News

2011 PhysTEC Conference

The 2011 PhysTEC conference on the theme Building Sustainable Teacher Education Programs was held May 23-24 in Austin, Texas. A record attendance of 120 individuals representing over 70 different institutions and organizations with an interest in physics teacher education participated in the conference. The meeting overlapped one day with the annual UTeach conference, and a joint plenary session with Nobel Prize winner Carl Wieman was held. A link to the video, as well as presentation materials, are available on the conference website. Fifteen PhysTEC attendees stayed on for the UTeach conference, which also facilitated productive communication between the two groups.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the American Chemical Society both had a strong presence this year, as they have in the past. The conference evaluation showed that Dr. Weiman's talk was the most popular event at the meeting, and the over all rating of all events was positive. Conference attendees were very enthusiastic about the networking and professional development opportunities at PhysTEC 2011 and many plan to attend the next meeting in Ontario, California in February 2012.

PhysTEC Site Selection

The project announced in May that it would fund four new sites: Boston University; California State University, San Marcos; State University of New York, Geneseo; and Virginia Tech. The four awardees will join the eighteen other institutions that have already received money from the project since it began in 2001.

The winning institutions were selected during a two-stage review process that began with a record pool of 70 applicants, which were evaluated based on their capacity for large increases in the number of physics teachers graduating from their programs, as well as strong departmental and institutional support for teacher preparation efforts. The review panel included representatives of APS and AAPT, as well as external reviewers.

Funding for the awardees will begin in Fall 2011 and will last for three years. Sites are in the process of completing their MOUs and hiring TIRs for the upcoming academic year.

TIR/VMT/Teacher Gathering

The fourth annual PhysTEC Teacher and TIR gathering took place on Saturday, July 30, in Omaha, NE prior to the AAPT Summer Meeting. Organized by Jon Anderson, PhysTEC TIR/Teacher Coordinator, the one-day meeting provides an opportunity for participants to discuss best practices, successes and challenges. Steve Iona, University of Colorado at Boulder, gave a talk on PER and Pedagogy and Andy Rundquist, Hamline University, presented a Flipped Classroom workshop.

Site Leader Meeting

The PhysTEC new and current site leaders met for a full day at the PhysTEC Conference in May to discuss progress, best practices and, in the case of newly funded sites, how to get started. 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. New sites discussed their plans for getting their programs going, and planned research projects. Project leaders also emphasized the importance of teacher tracking and data collection.

PhysTEC at AAPT Summer Meeting

PhysTEC was featured at the APS Education, Diversity and Careers booth at the AAPT Summer Meeting in Omaha, NE. The main purpose of the booth is to promote department projects. PhysTEC's presence helps promote the project to the physics community and recruit new members; however it also serves as a hub of networking and community building among existing Member Institutions.

Project Updates

Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics

The full report of the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics is expected to be available by the end of this year. A pre-release of the Executive Summary was distributed at the PhysTEC Conference in May. 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.

Teacher Preparation Book

We anticipate that the book Teacher Education in Physics: Research, Curriculum, and Practice will be published this fall. Five original papers have been written for the book and they have all now been published either in the American Journal of Physics or in Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research. Six additional papers previously published in those journals will also be reprinted in the book. All original and reprinted papers will be prefaced by 1-2 page summaries as an aid to the reader. A short review paper has been written by the Editor to provide an overview of research on U.S. physics teacher education and to place in perspective the papers that appear in the book.

The two most recently published papers are:

Michael E. Loverude, Barbara L. Gonzalez, and Roger Nanes, "Inquiry-based course in physics and chemistry for preservice K-8 teachers," Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research 7, 010106 (2011).

John R. Thompson, Warren M. Christensen, and Michael C. Wittmann, "Preparing future teachers to anticipate student difficulties in physics in a graduate-level course in physics, pedagogy and education research," Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research 7, 010108 (2011).

New Member Institutions

The PhysTEC Coalition now has 235 members. The newest members are:

  • Bowdoin College
  • California State University, East Bay
  • McKendree University
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Salisbury University
  • University of Central Arkansas
  • Western Washington University

Visit for more information about these and other coalition members.


Jacob Clark Blickenstaff has joined the APS 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.