Project Status: March 2012

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

Upcoming Events

APS April Meeting
The 2012 April meeting will be held March 31-April 3 in Atlanta, Georgia and celebrates 100 Years of Cosmic Ray Physics. The meeting features a number of sessions related to physics teacher preparation including:

SPIN-UP Workshop
AAPT, in cooperation with APS and AIP, invites faculty teams from physics departments to attend a May 4-6, 2012 workshop in Austin, Texas. The goal of the SPIN-UP Regional Workshop program is to enable physics departments in a wide variety of institutions to build the departmental infrastructure that will produce long-term improvements in undergraduate physics programs and to enhance both the number of students studying physics and the quality of student learning. Visit the workshop website or contact Ruth Howes for more information.

Building a Thriving Undergraduate Physics Program Workshop
The American Physical Society in conjunction with the American Association of Physics Teachers will be holding a workshop June 10-12, 2012 at the American Center for Physics in College Park, MD to assist departments in developing strategies for increasing the number of physics majors and improving the vitality of undergraduate physics programs.

APS encourages institutions to come as teams of two or more to help develop effective, workable plans that can be implemented on their campuses. Plenary speakers Carl Wieman, Office of Science and Technology Policy and S. James Gates Jr., University of Maryland, will contribute their insights on these topics as well.

The workshop will follow the Physics Department Chairs Conference, which takes place June 8-10 in the same location. For more information and to register, visit the workshop webpage or contact Peter Muhoro.

PhysTEC Events at AAPT Summer Meeting
AAPT's 2012 Summer meeting will be held in Philadelphia, PA from July 28-August 1.

The project will be hosting a day-long gathering for PhysTEC Teachers In Residence and Visiting Master Teachers on July 27 in conjunction with the AAPT Summer Meeting. The gathering will feature discussion, sharing of ideas and experiences, and professional development sessions.

The meeting will also feature a number of sessions related to physics teacher preparation:

  • Preparing Teachers to Serve Underrepresented Minorities, Peter Muhoro, organizer
  • Assessing Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Teacher Preparation, Paula Heron & Stamatis Vokos, organizers
  • Continuing Teacher Preparation: In-service Professional Development, Steven Maier, organizer

The PhysTEC project will also be featured at the APS Education & Diversity department's exhibit booth. Stop by and say hello.

SAVE THE DATE: 2013 PhysTEC Conference
The 2013 PhysTEC Conference will be held in Baltimore, MD on March 16-17, 2013. This year's conference will be a satellite conference of the 2013 APS March Meeting, which will also be held in Baltimore, March 18-22.

Teacher Education News

New AIP Report on High School Physics Teacher Preparation
The AIP Statistical Research Center has published a new report, "focus on High School Physics Teacher Preparation." One of the most interesting findings is that teachers who took a course in teaching physics were more likely to use interactive methods of instruction as opposed to lecture:

"Teachers who had taken a course in teaching physics were more likely to rely on participatory activities as compared to the traditional lecture. These activities include asking their students to work together more, having students discuss ideas in small groups, and presenting "findings" to the class. Teachers who reported having taken a course in physics teaching were also more likely to ask their classes to solve or discuss problems qualitatively and have their students use activity-based, guided-inquiry curricular materials."

This report is available to download.

AAEE Report - Physics tops list of teacher shortage areas
The latest (2010) report by the American Association of Employment in Education (AAEE) finds that physics tops a list of 63 education disciplines for teacher demand. The top five shortage areas as ranked by colleges/universities and school districts are:

Top Five Disciplines needed
From a training viewpoint, colleges and universities report the highest demand for their candidates in these five disciplines:

  1. Physics teachers (#35),
  2. Teachers for those with severe/profound disabilities (#47),
  3. Math teachers (#30),
  4. Chemistry teachers (#32), and
  5. Teachers for students with emotional/behavioral disabilities (#42)

From a school district perspective, the top five areas of need are:

  1. Speech pathologists (discipline #63),
  2. Teachers for the hearing impaired (#43),
  3. Those who teach the visually impaired (#48),
  4. Physics teachers (#35), and
  5. Teachers for those with severe/profound disabilities (#47)

Past Educator Supply & Demand Research reports can be viewed here.

Panel Debates How to Measure Quality in Teacher Training
Educators, union leaders, accreditors, and Education Department officials met in Washington for a series of panel discussions addressing how to define and measure "quality" in teacher preparation. Although most panelists agree that some colleges fail to prepare teachers for the classroom, the criteria to determine which schools meet this definition is still a source of contention.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, secretary of education Arne Duncan has accused many teachers' colleges of doing "a mediocre job of preparing teachers for 'the realities of the 21st century classroom,'" and has suggested that teacher-training programs be held accountable for how well their graduates' elementary- and secondary-school students perform on standardized tests. Panelists will meet again in April before voting on a final package of rules.

U.S. Education Department Plans Study of Teacher Training
The U.S. Education Department is proposing to study which aspects of clinical teacher training lead to higher average test scores among the teachers' students. In the study, students will be randomly assigned to a pair of teachers in the same school and grade level, one of whom will have experienced the type of clinical practice of interest while the other will not have experienced the feature. The study will compare average test scores from these students. The study was announced as the debate on how to measure quality in teacher training continues (see "Panel" above).

National Governors Association Issues Key Report on STEM Education
The National Governors Association issued a report titled Building a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education Agenda in December focusing on strengthening STEM education. The U.S. has experienced slowed growth in postsecondary degrees awarded in STEM fields over the past decade as other countries are experiencing rapid growth in their STEM talent pools. The report lists six key steps that states are or should be taking across the entire K-postsecondary education continuum:

  • Adopt rigorous math and science standards and improved assessments;
  • Place and retain more qualified teachers in the classroom;
  • Provide more rigorous preparation for STEM students;
  • Use informal learning to expand math and science beyond the classroom;
  • Enhance the quality and supply of STEM teachers; and
  • Establish goals for postsecondary institutions to meet STEM job needs

In addition to pinpointing strengths and weaknesses, the report also provides concrete examples of model programs in a number of areas, including STEM schools, informal programs, teacher training, and career pathways.

PhysTEC Supported Sites

PhysTEC Site Applications: Update
Thirty-five initial proposals were submitted for comprehensive and targeted sites in response to the latest RFP. A panel reviewed the initial proposals, and invited a dozen to submit full proposals, which were due January 4. Pending the recommendations of a second panel composed of internal and external reviewers, and visits to selected potential sites, the project anticipates awarding about 3 comprehensive and 3 targeted sites. Announcement of new sites will be in April. A future solicitation for PhysTEC sites is anticipated in Fall 2012.

Site Visit: California State University, San Marcos
On February 1, 2012, PhysTEC co-director Monica Plisch visited CSU-San Marcos, a targeted site in its first year of funding, where things are off to a good start. Ongoing projects include efforts to build a community of in-service physics teachers (NorCoPE), create a physics education option for future teachers, and streamline the application process for the credential program. A major component of the PhysTEC project at CSU-San Marcos is strengthening its relationship with Palomar College, a local community college. With committed staff invested in teacher education at both campuses, efforts to develop programs across campuses are already underway, including the expansion of the LA program to include two LAs at Palomar.

Site Visit: California State University, Long Beach
On February 8, 2012, Monica Plisch, Theodore Hodapp, and Mel Sabella (Chicago State University) visited CSU-Long Beach following the Winter 2012 AAPT meeting. CSU-Long Beach is unusual for having two part-time TIRs, both of whom are very capable, and a highly successful pedagogical content knowledge course in physics instruction that students describe as invaluable. An LA pedagogy course has provided a great opportunity to present alternatives-including high school teaching-to getting a Ph.D. in physics.

PhysTEC Noyce Program
The selection committee awarded 4 additional scholarships for the 2012-2013 academic year from a pool of 9 applicants. Photos and bios of the new scholars will be posted on the website within the next month.

The PhysTEC Noyce program is now entering its fourth year of funding. Since 2009, the program has funded 22 students, 11 of whom received two years of support. Six of these scholars are now certified physics teachers and are teaching in high needs schools. An additional six scholars expect to begin teaching within the next 6 months.

The program funded scholar Brittany Johnson to attend the Summer 2011 Noyce REU in PER at the University of Washington where she conducted an analysis of introductory physics students' understanding of statics principles. Brittany presented a poster on her research at the 2012 AAPT Winter Meeting in Ontario, CA. Applications have been received for the Summer 2012 REU program, and decisions on those awards will be made by the end of March.

The national Noyce conference will be held May 23-25 in Washington, DC. Jon Anderson, PhysTEC Teacher in Residence Coordinator, will join a team from Seattle Pacific University in submitting a workshop proposal for this conference. Visiting Master Teacher B Lippitt and scholar Heidi Rowles will represent SPU in this effort.

More information on the PhysTEC Noyce program.

PhysTEC Faculty Receive Awards
Noah Finkelstein, site leader of University of Colorado at Boulder's PhysTEC project from 2004-2008, was recently named Presidential Teaching Scholar for "effective and exemplary teaching, creative work, scholarship, and research." He is the fourth physics professor to receive the honor, joining Professors Steven Pollock and Carl Wieman, and Professor Emeritus John Taylor as Presidential Teaching Scholars in physics. Finkelstein was also recently p romoted to full professor.

Edward Price, physics professor and PhysTEC site leader at California State University, San Marcos recently received the President's Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching Innovation & Excellence. Read the article.

Project Updates

PhysTEC Advisory Committee
The PhysTEC Advisory Committee met on January 22, 2012 to discuss project updates and future directions. The committee was very complimentary of the work that PhysTEC has done, noting its influence both at funded sites where work continues even after the end of funding and across the broader community of physicists and physics departments. The committee also noted that the program's model of reflection, iterative learning, and improvement strengthens the program. The committee discussed long-term goals and where the project might be headed in 5-7 years.

Regional Conference of MSTI and CalTeach
This year's PhysTEC conference was preceded by a day-long regional conference between 80 representatives from the Math and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI) at California State University (CSU) and CalTeach at University of California (UC). This was the first meeting of STEM education initiatives at the two major university systems in California, and provided a novel opportunity for education leaders to share ideas on recruitment, retention, and transforming the undergraduate education of future STEM teachers. It also introduced CSU and UC institutions to PhysTEC programs already underway in California and across the U.S. Presentations from the conference are available on the conference webpage.

2012 PhysTEC Conference
The 2012 PhysTEC Conference was held in Ontario, California on February 3-4, 2012 with the theme of New Paradigms for Physics Teacher Education. Many of the 124 participants were pleased with the quality of conference sessions, with several commenting that this was the best conference yet. The conference featured plenaries by Fred Goldberg and Phil DiStefano. The American Chemical Society had a strong presence at this year's conference. Mary Kirchhoff, Director of the ACS Education Division, delivered a plenary on CTEC, chemistry's parallel initiative on teacher education. Presentations are available on the PhysTEC conference website.

AAPT Winter Meeting
The PhysTEC project was featured at the APS Education & Diversity department's exhibit booth at the AAPT Winter Meeting in Ontario, California. The meeting also featured a number of sessions and meetings related to physics teacher preparation:

  • Task Force on Teacher Preparation in Physics
  • Integrating Math & Science to Prepare Pre-College Teachers
  • Committee on Teacher Preparation
  • Methods of Teacher Evaluation
  • AP Physics B: The New Curricula and Assessments
  • Teaching Methods for Physics Teacher Preparation
  • Supporting Emergency Professional Development: Career Changers and Non-Physicists as Teachers

PhysTEC and California State University recently submitted an application to100kin10, a multi-partner organization that aims to train 100,000 teachers over the next ten years. An article on the California Council on Science and Technology website featured the partnership between PhysTEC and CSU, highlighting its goals to address the severe shortage areas of math and science teachers in California, including of high school physics teachers. This dovetails with the 100Kin10 commitment by the project to expand PhysTEC to an additional 50 institutions over the next 10 years.

CTEC Update
The Chemistry Teacher Education Coalition continues to proceed. Chemistry was well represented at the PhysTEC annual meeting, with tracks that focused on issues endemic to Chemistry educators. In addition, Mary Kirchhoff, Director of Education for the American Chemical Society, presented the lunchtime plenary. We anticipate they will submit a grant proposal to fund CTEC sometime during this quarter.

Teacher Preparation Book
PhysTEC announces the publication of its first book dedicated to teacher education in physics, Teacher Education in Physics: Research, Curriculum, and Practice. A compendium of research articles on the preparation of physics and physical-science teachers, the book includes new reports that reflect cutting-edge research and practice, as well as reprints of previously published seminal papers. Edited by David Meltzer of Arizona State University and Peter Shaffer of University of Washington, the book features short one- to two-page summaries as well as the usual abstract for each article.

A free pdf version of the book is now available. Limited hardcopy versions of the book are also available by request.

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

AAPT's PER User's Guide: Evidence Based Resources for Teaching Physics
AAPT is proud to announce that a new web resource, the PER User's Guide, is now up and running. The site is a valuable resource for finding research-based curriculum materials addressing a wide variety of student audiences. The site provides a synthesis of decades of physics education research in a format that is easy for busy physics instructors to understand and apply. Some highlights of the site include Frequently Asked Questions about PER, Top 10 Results of PER that Every Physics Instructor Should Know and a Methods and Materials page, which lists dozens of PER-based teaching methods, curricula, and techniques, and allows users to filter these methods according to their individual learning environment and goals.

New Member Institutions
The PhysTEC Coalition now has 258 Member Institutions. New members include:

  • Nebraska Wesleyan University
  • Wittenberg University
  • University of Central Florida
  • Saint Michael's College
  • Mercer University

Learn more about these and other coalition members.