APS News

Over 300 Universities Endorse Joint Statement on Education

By Calla Cofield

Over 300 physics departments have endorsed the physics societies’ Joint Statement on the Education of Future Physics Teachers. This new milestone represents nearly half of the physics departments in the U.S. The statement encourages physical science and engineering departments to “take an active role in improving the pre-service training of K-12 physics and science teachers.” APS has been seeking endorsements directly from physics department heads since 2003.  

“Good science and mathematics education will help create a scientifically literate public, capable of making informed decisions on public policy involving scientific matters. A strong K-12 physics education is also the first step in producing the next generation of researchers, innovators, and technical workers,” says the Joint Statement.

In 1999, the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), and APS jointly created the statement to address the national need for improved K-12 physics education and the responsibility of undergraduate physics departments to train future teachers. Many physics departments are not currently involved in future teacher education.  

“It’s not a new problem; it’s something people keep rediscovering,” says APS Executive Officer Judy Franz, referring to the lack of attention given to teacher education programs within physics departments. “Since we issued the statement there’s been a dramatic increase in universities’ awareness of this issue,” she says. The endorsement of the statement requires no formal commitment by the departments, but is an acknowledgement that they do have a responsibility for future physics teachers. Franz says, “Now the next step is to sustain and act on that responsibility. This is important.”

To address the need for improved physics teacher preparation, AIP, APS, and AAPT initiated the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) project in 2001. “The PhysTEC project has been successful at helping institutions develop sustainable programs in teacher education while recognizing the significant faculty workload in research and teaching.” said APS Director of Education and Diversity, Ted Hodapp. “With the dramatic shortages of qualified physics teachers, the community must act collectively to take responsibility in this important area.”  More information on PhysTEC.  

Full statement and list of departments that have endorsed the statement

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff