Project Status: August 2009

Here is the latest news on the PhysTEC and PTEC projects.

Upcoming Events

2010 PTEC Conference

The 2010 PTEC Conference will be held jointly with the APS/AAPT/National Society of Black Physicists/National Society of Hispanic Physicists meeting in Washington, DC on February 12 and 13, 2010. More information will be available soon on the PTEC website.

Project News

New PhysTEC funding

The project recently received a five-year, $6.5 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue work on PhysTEC. The new award will provide funding for eighteen new sites to join the fourteen that have already received funding from the project. In addition to funding nine more traditional sites, the new award will allow the project to provide smaller grants to nine "pilot" sites to implement experimental and innovative programs such as part-time Teachers In Residence (TIR), four-year physics education degree tracks, and partnerships with two-year colleges. Through these pilot awards, project leaders hope to develop models that are effective at smaller institutions. The project also hopes to provide funding for PhysTEC sites to improve elementary teacher education by implementing research-based curricula in the physical science courses preservice teachers take.

The new funding will also support research projects aimed at determining the impact PhysTEC teachers are having in the classroom, assessing the sustainability of reforms instituted at PhysTEC sites, and identifying best practices in physics teacher preparation programs around the country. In addition, the award will support the continued development of PTEC as well as ongoing dissemination and outreach efforts, including conferences, workshops, publications, and activities at APS and AAPT meetings.

Noyce supplemental funding

The PhysTEC Noyce Scholarship program recently received $150k from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to supplement the initial $750k awarded in 2008. The program, which gives scholarships to future physics teachers at PhysTEC sites, will use part of the supplement to enable PhysTEC Noyce sites to hire part-time Teachers In Residence, who will help recruit and mentor future teachers. The part-time TIR model is based on a pilot program at Seattle Pacific University, one of the six PhysTEC Noyce sites. The project will also provide professional development and physics education research opportunities for PhysTEC Noyce teachers, create a video designed to recruit physics teachers, and support learning communities among PhysTEC Noyce Scholars.

New Request for Proposals planned

The project is planning to release a Request for Proposals for PhysTEC sites this fall. At least three comprehensive site grants and three pilot site grants will be awarded in each of the next three years. The comprehensive site selection process will be similar to the 2006 RFP-the project will solicit two-page pre-proposals to be due mid-November, and then invit a limited number of these to submit full NSF-style proposals. A panel will review these early in 2010. Work at the selected sites would begin in summer 2010.

PhysTEC teacher/TIR gathering

Five PhysTEC teachers and six TIRs attended the second annual summer gathering, held on the Friday before the AAPT Summer Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The first part of the day was spent together and included a discussion of assessment, a short workshop on the online teaching tool Diagnoser, and a panel discussion on issues faced by the new teachers. During the second half of the day, the teachers attended a workshop on pedagogical content knowledge led by Eugenia Etkina of Rutgers, and the TIRs focused on issues of importance to the 2009-2010 TIRs as they begin their role in the project. Both teachers and TIRs gave positive feedback on the program. One teacher, who is beginning teaching this year at a school in North Carolina, said, "It was a great opportunity to bounce ideas off other people before actually trying them in the classroom."

PhysTEC site leader meeting

As in the past, the summer PhysTEC site leader meeting was held on the Saturday of the AAPT Summer Meeting. The leaders of the current sites-Cornell, Florida International, Minnesota, and North Carolina-gave updates on their programs and shared ideas and strategies. A significant amount of time was devoted to teacher tracking and program assessment, and also to Learning Assistant programs, which each site has implemented in some form. Because these four sites are entering their final year of project funding, sustainability of project efforts was another major theme of conversation.

AAPT Summer Meeting

The project was involved in a number of activities at the AAPT meeting. As in the past, project consultant Paul Hickman organized a session of talks by project TIRs, which included one invited talk and five contributed talks. The presentations are available on the PTEC website. Also as in past meetings, the PTEC booth was featured in the exhibition hall, with a dynamic new look. A number of potential PTEC members signed up to receive more information.

PTEC.org redesign

PTEC.org is getting a redesign, with the goal of improving both the site's look and its usability. Surveys have shown that the three most-used areas of the site are PTEC member profiles, PTEC conference information, and the digital library of teacher preparation materials. The redesign will highlight this content.

PhysTEC Panel at Noyce PI Conference

At the NSF Noyce PI conference July 1-3, the PhysTEC Noyce project was invited to give a plenary panel on recruiting teachers. The panel included PhysTEC faculty Laird Kramer (Florida International) and Valerie Otero (Colorado), TIR Jon Anderson (Minnesota), and students from Colorado and Arkansas. Monica Plisch moderated the panel and began with statistics on the need for more qualified physics teachers. Discussion topics included the role of master teachers, early teaching experiences, learning assistants programs, and influencing faculty attitudes about teaching. After the panel, NSF rotator Bert Holmes, a chemistry faculty member at UNC Asheville, expressed interest in meeting with PhysTEC leadership to discuss forming a similar effort for chemistry teachers. An initial meeting occurred in early August, and discussions are ongoing with other interested parties including the American Chemical Society.

Project People

Bo Hammer, Associate Executive Officer for AAPT, recently joined the project as co-Principal Investigator. Bo comes to AAPT from his position as Vice President of the Franklin Institute Science Museum's Benjamin Franklin Center. Bo will be taking the lead on a number of PhysTEC initiatives, including managing the Teacher in Residence and teacher tracking components of the project, and developing professional development opportunities for PhysTEC teachers.

Monica Plisch, Assistant Director of Education at APS, has also transitioned into the co-PI role. Former co-PIs Warren Hein and Jack Hehn will remain Senior Advisors to the project.

The project has also contracted with John Rice of CommonSense Communications to develop a marketing campaign to promote physics teaching to undergraduates. Rice has had previous success helping UTeach replication site Louisiana State University recruit student into its teacher preparation program.

Project Updates

Annual report update

All active sites have sent in annual reports for 2008-2009, which are currently in the review process. It is anticipated that they will be posted on PhysTEC.org within the next month.

National Task force on Teacher Education in Physics update

The Task force on Teacher Education in Physics (T-TEP) met for a second face-to-face meeting in Houston, TX on 10-12 June. To date the task force has visited 10 institutions and plans 2 more visits this fall. The June meeting helped better define the goals of the final report and produced a draft outline. Throughout the summer the data collection subcommittee has been gathering data on teacher education with the help of AIP Statistical Research Center and has preliminary results. The task force set an ambitious goal of crafting the final report this fall along with various stages of review by members of the community. The plan is still to release the report at the February 2010 PTEC meeting and to hold a symposium during the joint AAPT/APS meeting a few days later. The group intends to send hard copies to all physics and education departments throughout the United States shortly thereafter.

Teacher Preparation Book update

Comments from the Editors and Editorial Board of the forthcoming Teacher Education Book were sent to all prospective authors on July 10. These authors had submitted a total of 18 revised prospectuses for consideration by the editors of the teacher preparation book. Most were encouraged to submit a full manuscript either to the American Journal of Physics or to Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research. The deadline for submission of those manuscripts was set at November 10, 2009. When the manuscripts are received by the journals they will undergo the normal journal review process, as well as further review by the book editors.

New PTEC Members

PTEC now has 139 members. New PTEC members from this past quarter include:

University of Montana
North Georgia College and State University
University of Maryland, College Park