Project Status: December 2011

This report contains the latest news and updates on the PhysTEC project.

Upcoming Events

CalTeach/MSTI Conference
The CalTeach/MSTI Conference will be held in Ontario, California on February 2, 2012. Math and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI) at the California State University (CSU) and CalTeach at the University of California (UC) will come together for the first time for a series of workshops and panel discussions on topics including physics and chemistry teacher preparation and an overview of California PhysTEC programs. This conference is open to members of CSU and UC. Registration is now open.

2012 PhysTEC Conference
The 2012 PhysTEC Conference will be held in Ontario, California on February 3 and 4, 2012, with the theme of "New Paradigms for Physics Teacher Education." Plenary speakers include Phil DiStefano (University of Colorado Boulder), Mary Kirchhoff (American Chemical Society), and Fred Goldberg (San Diego State University). The 2012 Conference will be held in conjunction with the AAPT Winter Meeting. Registration is now open.

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

Monday, February 6

  • Task Force on Teacher Preparation in Physics (8:00-10:00 am)
  • Integrating Math & Science to Prepare Pre-College Teachers (8:00-10:00 am)
  • Committee on Teacher Preparation (11:45-1:15 am)
  • Methods of Teacher Evaluation (12:45-2:45 pm)
  • AP Physics B: The New Curricula and Assessments (6:00-7:30 pm)
  • Teaching Methods for Physics Teacher Preparation (6:00-7:30 pm)

Tuesday, February 7

  • Supporting Emergency Professional Development: Career Changers and Non-Physicists as Teachers (8:00-9:30 am)

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. In previous years, the RFP was issued for a March 23 submission date. We have not heard anything to indicate that things will be different this year.

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) offers an annual Future Teacher Scholarship of $2,000 to future teachers who are SPS members. The application deadline is February 15, 2012. Additional physics scholarships for teachers are also available.

APLU Math Teacher Education Partnership
The Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership is a new initiative under APLU's Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI) to prepare high-quality secondary mathematics teachers who are ready to teach the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. The MTE-Partnership-comprised of colleges and universities, middle and high schools, and other organizations-will work to redesign math teacher preparation programs. The partnership is now accepting applications demonstrating commitment to redesigning math education programs for secondary school teachers from teams comprised of higher education institutions and K-12 entities. Applications are due January 31, 2012. However, assessment of completed applications may begin before the due date.

APLU Higher Education and Common Core State Standards
The Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI) published a discussion paper on the impact of Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards on teacher preparation at higher education institutions. New higher standards for K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math education raises concerns about teacher workforce-preparedness to teach to these higher standards. The paper discusses the roles that K-12 schools, state education departments, higher education institutions, and the private sector will have in implementing the new standards.

DOE Calls for Accountability of Teacher Training Programs
The Department of Education called for new regulations will essentially tie student scores on standardized tests to their teachers' federally financed teacher-preparation program. Previously, data collected on teacher preparation focused on teacher rather than student performance. Teachers' colleges and groups will likely argue that student test scores depend on a multitude of factors. The call for accountability reflects previous criticisms made by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan concerning states' weak teacher-education programs, licensing exams, and failure to monitor teacher outcomes. The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article on the topic.

PhysTEC Supported Sites

PhysTEC Sites Begin
The four newest PhysTEC Supported Sites, Boston University; California State University, San Marcos; The State University of New York, Geneseo; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University began project activities in Fall 2011.

The PhysTEC project at Boston University will build on the existing collaboration between the School of Education and the Department of Physics, exemplified by the long-standing Project ITOP (Improving the Teaching of Physics) and the Immersion in Science Program. ITOP consists of 10 two-credit graduate courses aimed at in-service physics teachers, currently in its seventh year of operation. The Immersion in Science Program aims to help elementary and middle-school teachers become much more confident in teaching and doing science in their own classrooms. Novel efforts include the introduction of learning assistants and a new track to earn both a physics degree and teaching licensure in four years.

California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM) is notable for its status as both an Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI), and also for its relationship with nearby Palomar Community College (Palomar). PhysTEC project activities will build on CSUSM's existing strengths to create a Physics Education program, coordinate recruiting efforts, and launch interaction with local high schools and teachers.

Notable PhysTEC goals for The State University of New York, Geneseo (SUNY Geneseo) include contributing to the development of a five-year bachelor's/master's program leading to a B.A., M.Ed., and initial Adolescence (AD) certification in science, and hiring a part-time TIR for the targeted PhysTEC site. The TIR will work with teams of physics teacher candidates to build and present inexpensive physics demonstrations, in an effort to provide teacher candidates with early teaching experiences and increase interactions with local high schools.

Virginia Tech's vision is to establish a vibrant hub for physics teacher education in Virginia, with significant impact on neighboring states and the nation. Some of the PhysTEC project aims include transforming pilot sections of calculus-based introductory physics courses and introducing Learning Assistants, with the goal of graduating 6-8 highly qualified physics teachers per year by 2017.

PhysTEC Site Applications: Webinar
The deadline for initial proposals was October 26. Thirty-five proposals were submitted for comprehensive and targeted sites. A panel reviewed the initial proposals, and invited a dozen to submit full proposals due January 4. The project anticipates awarding about 3 comprehensive and 3 targeted new sites. Announcement of new sites typically happens in April. A future solicitation for PhysTEC sites is anticipated in Fall 2012.

On October 5, the project held a webinar for faculty who were interested in applying for PhysTEC funding. The webinar consisted of presentation by Project Director Theodore Hodapp, who provided information on how to create a strong proposal, followed by a question-and-answer session. The webinar is archived on the PhysTEC website.

Site Visit: Virginia Tech
On October 19, 2011 the PhysTEC team of Monica Plisch and Bob Hilborn conducted the first site visit to Virginia Tech. Although the PhysTEC program has been in place only 2 months, there has already been a lot of progress on program objectives. Students have noted more positive attitudes toward teaching in the physics department, and more students are considering physics education than in previous years. The physics department began teaching introductory physics in a newly renovated SCALE-UP classroom. The course is being taught for physics majors and currently has a graduate TA, although future plans for the course include extending the course to non-majors and incorporating LAs. Outreach opportunities provide early teaching experiences including an enriched outreach course, and mentoring local high school students in a robotics program. TIR Alma Robinson has been teaching introductory physics and advising both physics students and the SPS chapter. The physics department has also been collaborating with the School of Education to provide TA support for physics M.Ed. students.

Site Visit: Towson
The PhysTEC team of Ted Hodapp, Monica Plisch, Jacob Clark Blickenstaff, and Bushraa Khatib conducted a second site visit to Towson University on October 24, 2011. Notable updates include increased physics enrollment as a result of active recruiting, and the launching of the physics department's Professional Science Masters program in applied physics. Teacher-in-Residence Jim Selway has been making impressive progress with the project, using his approachability and 38 years of teaching experience to provide students and teachers with a valuable career resource. Selway has made an impact on the department through positive interactions with virtually all the physics faculty in the department, and they often come to him for help with improving demos and labs. Through his interactions, physics faculty have begun actively looking for potential teachers among their students, and there is now someone for students to talk to if they want to pursue things further. Selway has also led professional development activities based on Physics by Inquiry materials.

Monthly Site Leader Video Conferences
Every month, PhysTEC hosts videoconferences with all site leaders and members of the PhysTEC Project Management Team (PMT). These videoconferences are an opportunity for site leaders to offer updates on how the project is going, stay in touch with the PMT, and keep tabs on what other sites have been doing with the project. In the first videoconference for the fall semester, new sites introduced themselves, gave an overview of goals and challenges, and were introduced to the project administration side of PhysTEC. More recent video conferences focused on project updates, teacher tracking, publication possibilities, baseline data collection, and recruiting strategies. The videoconferences will continue through the spring semester.

PhysTEC Noyce Application Online
Applications for the PhysTEC Noyce Scholarship are now being accepted for the 2012-2013 academic year. Scholarships are available to future physics teachers at any of the six PhysTEC Noyce sites, which include Ball State University, Cornell University, University of Arkansas, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Seattle Pacific University, and Western Michigan University. Students who have previously received one year of support are eligible to apply for a second scholarship. The deadline to apply is February 15, 2012.

Project Updates

PhysTEC Topical Workshop: Learning Assistants
On November 2-3, 2011 the project sponsored its third workshop focusing on the University of Colorado's Learning Assistant program (the first two took place in 2007 and 2010). 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 Assistants providing peer instruction in Tutorials, participated in the pedagogy class that first-year Learning Assistants take, and received copies of materials developed by CU-Boulder faculty and staff.

Around 40 faculty and staff representing 23 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 is available online. For more information and resources on the Colorado University LA program, visit the University of Colorado's LA Program website.

CTEC Planning Meeting
PhysTEC has been working with the American Chemical Society (ACS) to develop a complementary program in chemistry teacher education to that of PhysTEC. This past year Monica Plisch and Theodore Hodapp were co-PIs on an NSF planning grant to outline this idea. The workshop, held in June 2011, resulted in a decision to move forward to form a Chemistry Teacher Education Coalition (CTEC). On December 15-16, a second working meeting will be held to further develop these ideas, and form the structure of a proposed funding request to the NSF. Topics up for discussion include selection of sites, desired project outcomes, project data, building community, and a timeline for drafting and submitting a proposal. The PhysTEC project is very pleased to see CTEC being modeled after the successful structure of PhysTEC, and hopes to develop significant interconnections with this new project as it develops.

Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics
The full report of the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics is expected to be available early next 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
The book Teacher Education in Physics: Research, Curriculum, and Practice will be published by the end of 2011. Five original papers written for the book have 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 papers will be prefaced by short summaries. A short review paper written by the editor provides an overview of research on physics teacher education.

PhysTEC News
The Fall 2011 edition of PhysTEC News will come out shortly. This newsletter introduces the new funded sites Boston University, CSU San Marcos, SUNY Geneseo, and Virginia Tech. It also covers the formation of a Chemistry Teacher Education Coalition (CTEC) and gives updates on the PhysTEC conference, PhysTEC Noyce scholarship, and other topics on broader issues surrounding physics teacher preparation. PDF versions of the latest and previous editions of PhysTEC News are available online.

Website Merge
The project is phasing out the PTEC acronym, and subsuming all activities under the project name PhysTEC. The and websites will be merged-look for the rollout of the new in early 2012. PTEC members are now known as PhysTEC Member Institutions, and funded institutions are PhysTEC Supported Sites. PhysTEC also recognizes Endorsed Sites independently meeting the Key Components of a successful teacher preparation program.

New Member Institutions
The PhysTEC Coalition now has 253 Member Institutions. New members include:

  • Salisbury University
  • Bowdoin College
  • California State University, East Bay
  • McKendree University
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • University of Central Arkansas
  • Green River Community College
  • The College of New Jersey
  • West Chester University of Pennsylvania
  • Augusta State University
  • Siena College
  • University of North Florida
  • Clarion University
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Portland
  • North Dakota State University
  • San Francisco State University
  • Union University
  • University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
  • Florida Gulf Coast University
  • University of Florida
  • Youngstown State University
  • Manhattan College
  • Florida Atlantic University

Learn more about these and other coalition members.


In September, Robert (Bob) Hilborn joined AAPT as Associate Executive Officer, and will work to connect PhysTEC with AAPT's networks and resources. Prior to joining AAPT, Hilborn was a Professor of Physics and Head of the Science/Mathematics Education Department at the University of Texas at Dallas. He comes to AAPT with a long history of leadership in physics education, including a term as AAPT president in 1996-1997.

Bushraa Khatib joined the APS in September as Education & Diversity Programs Coordinator. Khatib's responsibilities will be split between the PhysTEC project, Minority Bridge Program, and Education & Diversity department. She graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore County with Bachelor's degrees in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and English Literature. Bushraa previously worked for the APS as a Science Writing Intern in the Education & Diversity department.