Project Status: April 2013

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

Upcoming Events

Distance Education and On-line Learning Workshop, College Park, MD, June 1-2

In conjunction with the 2013 Department Chairs Conference, APS is putting together a workshop on Distance Education and On-line Learning, to be held at the American Center for Physics June 1 and 2. Participants will have the opportunity to work with leading experts on MOOCs, the flipped classroom, and online homework, in addition to hearing about the challenges and opportunities afforded by recent innovations. The full agenda is available on the Distance Education and On-line Learning web page.

AAPT 2013 Summer Meeting, July 12-17

AAPT’s 2013 Summer Meeting will be held in Portland, OR from July 13-17. The project will host two daylong gatherings in conjunction with the AAPT meeting. On July 12, there is a day of events to provide new Teachers-in-Residence (TIRs) the opportunity to meet one another, meet former TIRs, and meet PhysTEC personnel. Visiting Master Teachers (VMTs) from the six PhysTEC Noyce Scholarship sites will also participate in all aspects of this meeting and contributing their own insights and expertise to the various components of the meeting. On July 13 is the biannual Leadership Committee Meeting for site leaders at all currently funded sites, including PIs from the newly awarded sites.

The AAPT meeting features two sessions highlighting aspects of the PhysTEC project:

  • Teacher recruitment: Getting Physics Majors to Consider Teaching and Teacher reparation Program; Chuhee Kwon, organizer; Wednesday July 17 1:00-1:30pm
  • Teachers in Residence and Master Teachers in Teacher Preparation; contributions from Kevin Dwyer, Marc Reif, Michael Ponnambalam, Kelli Gamaz Warble, David Jones, B. Lippitt, Lisa Rainey, Penni Wallace; Monday July 15, 8am-9:20am

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

Further information about the meeting can be found on the AAPT 2013 Summer Meeting web page.

LA Workshop in Boulder, CO, October 27-29

The PhysTEC project will co-sponsor its fifth workshop focusing on the University of Colorado’s Learning Assistant program October 27-29, 2013 in Boulder, CO. The Learning Assistant 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. For further information, please go to the 2013 Colorado Learning Assistant Workshop web page.

2014 PhysTEC Annual Conference, May 19-20

The 2014 PhysTEC Conference will be in Austin, TX from May 19-20 in conjunction with the UTeach Conference. Additional information will be available on the conference web page in the coming months.

Science Education News

Learning Assistant Alliance

The Learning Assistant Alliance is a collection of people from Learning Assistant (LA) programs around the country who are sharing resources, information and experiences to further the objectives of transforming large-enrollment courses and recruiting future K-12 math, science and engineering teachers through the use of LAs. The Learning Assistant Alliance is conducting a census of Learning Assistant programs across the country. Your responses to a brief survey will be helpful in directing the activities of the alliance and may be useful in seeking funding for alliance activities. To participate please visit the Learning Assistant Alliance website.

APS Response to Next Generation Science Standards

Two draft versions of the Next Generation Science Standards have been released for public comment in the past year, and the final version is now available. The APS Committee on Education supported the formation of review panels for both of the draft documents, and these experts then provided substantial written feedback to the NGSS writing team. Many of the concerns expressed by the reviewers were addressed between the drafts and the final revision, but it is not clear how teachers will be prepared to teach to the new standards without substantial professional development work. With the integration of engineering performance expectations across all grades, and an implicit expectation that all students will learn some physics, there is an opportunity for real change in STEM education nationally. APS and AAPT will be preparing a joint response to the final version of the NGSS in the coming weeks.

AAPT Response to Next Generation Science Standards

AAPT’s response to the second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was based on the discussions at a meeting on January 28, 2013 of experienced high school physics teachers and representatives from the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Physics, the National Society of Black Physicists, and the American Institutes of Research. Although the discussants and AAPT strongly support the national science standards effort, the group found the current draft lacking in clarity and scientific correctness in several sections. The group’s report provided many suggestions for improving the performance expectations articulated in the January 2013 NGSS draft. A summary of the group’s report is available on the AAPT website. The final version of the NGSS was released during the second week of April 2013, see the link above for the full document.

Resources for Physics Teachers

The “Resources for Physics Teachers” document resulted from a joint effort between AAPT and APS personnel. It is intended primarily for new and early career physics teachers that have graduated from a PhysTEC affiliated institution and is a concise “cheat sheet” of information. This one-page document includes information about professional societies, professional development opportunities, job opportunity listings, and general resources that will be useful to new physics teachers. Because the categories are clearly indicated and website links are provided, it serves as a starting point for additional investigation into the category/topic of interest and consequently, veteran teachers may also find it useful. The document may be viewed on the PTEC website.

PAIR (Physics and Instructional Resources) Project

The Physics and Instructional Resources pilot program teaming high school physics teachers with physicists will come to an end with the close of the academic year. The PAIR project has provided nearly $25,000 in classroom supplies and materials support to 21 teachers in particular need of physics professional development. Interim reports from the teams were submitted in January, and it is clear that students and teachers are excited about the opportunity to meet and work with physicists. Many teachers reported that the chance to talk about physics teaching with a physics expert was invaluable. Three of the PAIR teachers attended the International Conference on Teacher Scientist Partnerships held in Boston February 13 and 14, 2013. Jacob Clark Blickenstaff, the APS staff member in charge of PAIR also presented at the conference.

Project Updates

New Funded Sites

The new 2013 PhysTEC sites have been announced from the 13 institutions that were invited to submit full proposals. New comprehensive sites (up to $300K over three years) are University Central Florida, University of Cincinnati and Georgia State University. Comprehensive sites are expected to implement the PhysTEC key components and show a substantial increase in physics teachers. North Carolina State University has also been named as a new PhysTEC Targeted Site. Targeted sites are an opportunity to explore innovative models for improving physics teacher education.

2013 Annual PhysTEC Conference

The 2013 PhysTEC Conference was held in the Baltimore, MD on March 15-17 in conjunction with the APS March Meeting. The theme was Preparing the Next Generation of Physics Teachers. The 120 attendees present at the conference were pleased with the quality of the conference sessions and provided excellent remarks on evaluations for the overall conference. The conference featured plenaries relating to physics teacher education by Richard Steinberg and Michael Marder and plenary by Catherine Good on stereotype threat in the classroom. Again, the American Chemical Society had a strong presence at this year’s conference; there were four sessions relating to Chemistry. The closing plenary featured a panel discussion on the Next Generation Science Standards relating to physics and chemistry teacher education led by Noah Finkelstein. Presentations are available on the PhysTEC 2013 Conference web page.

Learning Assistant Video Project

The PhysTEC Learning Assistant Video Project has been completed by Rachel Scherr and Renee Michelle Goertzen. The project consists of videos themed to match topics in Colorado University’s LA pedagogy course. The videos are designed to facilitate discussion amount LAs and faculty around common teaching situations in the context of educational reform. The learning videos can be accessed on the PTEC website.

Colorado Learning Assistant Workshop

October 28-30, 2012 the PhysTEC project co-sponsored its fourth workshop focusing on the University of Colorado’s Learning Assistant program. The Learning Assistant 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 featured presentations by Steven Pollock, Noah Finkelstein, and Valerie Otero of CU Boulder and presentations can be found on the PTEC website.

Task Force Report (T-TEP)

The full report of the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics (T-TEP) is now available. A free PDF copy can be downloaded from the PTEC website. A printed copy of the report will be sent to all physics departments, Coalition members, and others. Except for a few excellent programs, T-TEP found that nationally, physics teacher preparation is inefficient, incoherent, and unprepared to deal with the current and future needs of the nation's students. An innovative national program is needed to develop new resources, expertise, and capacity in order to meet current and future national needs. Toward this end, T-TEP recommends establishing regional centers in physics education. These centers would be the main regional producers of well-qualified physics teachers and would be a nexus for scholarly work on physics education. In addition, the centers would help veteran science teachers at all levels deepen their knowledge and skills.

Effective Practices in Preservice Physics Teacher Education Publication

Manuscript proposals were solicited in summer 2012 for Effective Practices in Preservice Physics Teacher Education, a peer-reviewed book co-edited by Dr. Cody Sandifer (Towson University) and Dr. Eric Brewe (Florida International University) and sponsored by the Physics Teacher Education Coalition, the American Physical Society, and the American Association of Physics Teachers. In response to the solicitation, twenty-eight manuscript proposals were submitted to the contributed sections of the book, and five manuscript proposals were submitted to the invited sections of the book. The contributed proposals were reviewed by March 26, 2013, and authors were contacted by April 1, 2013, as to whether they should submit a full manuscript based on the proposal. The editors recommended that 19 of the 28 contributed proposals be encouraged to submit full manuscripts, with full manuscripts being due September 1, 2013. Each contributed proposal had two initial reviewers: one co-editor and one member of the editorial board. Decisions on whether to encourage or discourage the submission of a full manuscript were based on the reviewers’ recommendations. If the two reviewers were not in agreement, the other co-editor served as a third reviewer.

AAPT 2013 Winter Meeting

AAPT’s 2013 Winter Meeting was held in New Orleans, LA from January 5-9, 2013. The AAPT meeting featured a PhysTEC co-sponsored session “Building Institutional Connections with a Learning Assistants Program,” presented by Ed Price and Charles J. De Leone from California State University-San Marcos. The session described the expansion of CSULB’s LA program to the nearby Palomar Community College in order to advance course transformation and teacher recruiting at both institutions. The project was also the feature of posters presented by PhysTEC the funded sites of California State University Long Beach and Virginia Tech.

Site Visits

Towson University is in its third year of PhysTEC funding and has a thriving physics department with 110 majors. The department also houses science education faculty who are leading the PhysTEC effort. There are several physics teachers in the pipeline and the program is increasing the number of graduates prepared to teach physics. Physics faculty appreciate the Learning Assistant program and the Teacher in Residence, and perceive many benefits to improving undergraduate education include the education of future teachers. Towson is currently adopting the UTeach program, and PhysTEC leaders are working to integrate PhysTEC activities with the new certification program. In addition, Towson is preparing for sustainability and the department is planning to continue funding LAs. One TIR will continue on as a volunteer to the department, and the presence of master teachers through the UTeach program will also provide an important link to expert science and math teachers.

Boston University
BU has made progress in recruiting future teachers; there are five students planning, or strongly considering becoming future teachers. The active LA program and the Noyce scholarship program are helping to spark and confirm students’ interest in teaching. Students consider the LA experience a “phenomenal” program. The physics chair is committed to establishing a track for future teachers. A goal is to integrate ITOP courses into the physics education track, which would provide physics specific pedagogy and networking opportunities for future teachers. In their second year of funding, BU is also considering methods for sustainability: the university has committed funds for the TIR three years post-PhysTEC and there is discussion about making the funding for the LA program a permanent line item for the university.

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
In the first year of PhysTEC funding, the University of Alabama has had some success in recruiting physics teachers. The TIR reported four students in the pipeline and several others who were interested. The president of UA expressed support for the PhysTEC program, and asked for recommendations from the project management team. These included establishing an experimental dual certification program (rather than all sciences), as well as increasing studio classroom space for introductory physics courses. UA is a host institution for Alabama Science in Motion, which provides equipment, training and classroom expertise to in-service science teachers, including physics. The TIR is teaching ASIM courses for future teachers and which also provide opportunities for students to visit local high school classrooms. The physics chair and dean of arts & sciences are considering the hire of a PER specialist to who would play an integral role in sustaining the PhysTEC program.

University of Missouri
UM is in their first year of funding and already have several future physics teachers in the pipeline. The PI, Karen King, estimates there will be about three PhysTEC graduates per year, which is a substantial increase prior to funding. Karen has helped to raise the visibility of the program with announcements in classes and referrals from other faculty and staff. She has also worked to improve advising for PhysTEC students. They have a LA program where LAs are placed in 9th grade physics first classrooms with teachers who have been through professional development with the Modeling curriculum. Several physics faculty have expressed interest in increasing the number of undergraduate majors. The department is starting to explore aspects of course reform with the introduction of flipped classrooms. The TIR has been a great support to the program by connecting LAs with classrooms, mentoring and recruiting students. The physics chair expressed strong interest in taking leadership to sustain physics teacher education at MU and in establishing a position for physics teacher education.

Arizona State University
Arizona State is in their first year of funding and already has success with recruiting teachers; six students are planning to become teachers and others who are interested. The TIR has recently begun to track and meet with all future teachers over the multiple campuses of ASU. ASU has developed a four-year teaching certification and physics Bachelor of Science degree program that is in its final stages of approval. A future goal is to create a physics Bachelors of Arts. These degree programs also include modeling workshops. The introductory physics sequence for majors is taught in a SCALE-UP format that is excellent preparation for future teachers. Further course reforms are underway to include Learning Assistants. The TIR is a tremendous asset and engaged in the Modeling Instruction program along with many other aspects of the PhysTEC program. The chair is committed to fund the TIR post-PhysTEC funding, and is supportive of course reform for classes for both physics classes and non-science majors.

New Physics Teacher Education Coalition Member Institutions

The PhysTEC Coalition now has 284 member institutions. The newest members are:

  • San Jose State University
  • Science Foundation Arizona
  • Tuskegee University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • East Stroudsburg University
  • Indiana University South Bend
  • University of Louisville
  • Coastal Carolina University
  • Union College
  • Smith College
  • SUNY Oneonta
  • Connecticut College
  • Skidmore College
  • Loyola University Chicago

People Update and Job Announcement

Renée Royal has joined the APS Department of Education and Diversity as the new PhysTEC Project Coordinator. Renée’s responsibilities are with the PhysTEC project and the Noyce scholarship program. She graduated from the University of North Carolina, Asheville, with a Bachelors of Science in physics with a minor in mathematics. After graduation, Renée completed a post baccalaureate fellowship in biophysics with the National Institutes of Health.

Renee Michelle Goertzen has joined the APS Department of Education and Diversity as the Education Programs Manager. Renee Michelle’s responsibilities will be split between the PhysTEC project and other APS education initiatives. She joins the APS staff with a strong background in physics education research. After earning bachelor degrees in both German literature and physics, Renee Michelle earned a PhD in Physics Education from the University of Maryland, College Park where she worked with Rachel Scherr and Edward Redish on “Investigating and accounting for Physics graduate students’ tutorial classroom practice.” Renee Michelle completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Florida International University where she contributed to the project for “Video Resources for LA Development” and taught introductory physics to science and engineering majors. At FIU Renee Michelle integrated Modeling Instruction curriculum, a pedagogy designed to help students build, validate, and deploy models. She has published on physics education and reform for undergraduates, physics teacher preparation, and Modeling pedagogy.

Jacob Clark Blickenstaff has moved with his family to Seattle, WA and beginning May 1st will no longer serve as the Teacher Education Programs Manager. He will continue to work on special projects with the APS until the end of the summer. Jacob joined the APS in June 2011. His time at APS has been spent working on the PhysTEC project and teacher professional development programs, which includes managing the PhysTEC Coalition, including the annual conference, directing the PhysTEC Noyce Scholarship, and designing and implementing the new Physics and Instructional Resources project (see the Education News section for a PAIR update). He will be missed and we wish Jacob the best in his new endeavors.