Supported Site University of Minnesota: Involvement of The School of Physics and Astronomy in Physics Education

The School of Physics and Astronomy (SPA) of the University of Minnesota is actively engaged in physics education in several different areas. We are committed to the idea that physics education is a critical component of our teaching and endorse the goals of the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PTEC).

SPA engages in physics education and teacher training through a number of different programs. We have developed a special undergraduate major emphasis, "Physics with a Teaching Emphasis" for students who are interested in teaching secondary school physics, which offers a versatile broad-based education. It is particularly useful to students who are planning on teaching in Minnesota, as it has been optimized to fit well with the new state licensure procedures. We also conduct an extensive teaching assistant orientation and support program in cooperation with our College of Education and the Teaching and Learning Center to prepare our graduate students to teach undergraduates and to prepare for becoming faculty in the future.  

The School also worked with faculty in the College of Education to develop and pilot and laboratory-based, active learning physics course for pre-service elementary education majors based on the Constructing Physics Education (CPU) modules. Initially it was taught jointly by a physics faculty and an education faculty as a 2 quarter course. Now it is taught by physics faculty as a one semester course. During the past two years, we participated in the piloting of the "Physics for Elementary Teaching" (PET) curriculum and workshops on the curriculum. SPA also has an active research program in Physics Education which has resulted in PhDs for people who are now on the faculty at other institutions.

In association with our NSF-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), we have also run a Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program. This program puts high school physics teachers with faculty to participate in research. The School also participates in a similar program (Quark-Net) that involves teachers in high energy physics research at Fermilab and the Soudan Underground Physics facility.

The School of Physics and Astronomy also has an active and successful outreach program, "The Physics Force," which performs large-scale physics circus shows at schools and public auditoriums. The effort primarily focuses on Minnesota, but performances have also been done at APS, AAPT, Disney's Epcot Center. Newton's Apple television show and on German television. There are two teams that do performances and they reach more than 35,000 people per year, showing that physics is interesting, fun and understandable.

The School of Physics and Astronomy is committed to improving education in physics at every level and especially recognizes the importance of research physicists interacting with teachers.