FEd Summer 2001 Newsletter - A Model Physics Teacher Education Program At Illinois State University

Summer 2001



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A Model Physics Teacher Education Program At Illinois State University

Carl J. Wenning

The Illinois State University Department of Physics has been working since 1994 to develop and implement a model bachelors-level physics teacher education program. During this past academic year, the final pieces of the program were put into place. Seven years ago the ISU Physics Department had one established pedagogically-oriented physics education course, and had just introduced a second. There were only four majors in the physics teacher education sequence at that time. Now, in 2001, there are six pedagogically-oriented physics education courses, with 22 physics teacher education majors and 6 minors. Next year?s graduating class of physics teacher education majors will total five; two minors will also graduate after taking the full sequence of physics teacher education courses. This compares quite favorably with most physics teacher education programs.

The Physics Teacher Education program at Illinois State University prepares students to teach physics and at least one other subject at the high school level. This program provides a thorough study of representative fields of physics, plus training in astronomy, chemistry, and mathematics. The required program of study integrates a minimum physical science concentration of 48 semester hours with a professional education sequence of 22 semester hours and the University's general education requirement of 45 semester hours. All physics teacher education majors are required by state law to complete requirements for a second area of endorsement. Students are advised to take courses adequate to ensure broad-field preparation in science. To this end they are encouraged to take an eight-semester-hour, two-course sequence in biology. If students do not take this sequence, they most typically satisfy the requirement by taking an organic chemistry course. Using the broad-field preparation approach, students earn 56 semester hours in science; using the dual endorsement route, students earn 53 semester hours in science. A total of 115 clock hours of clinical experiences in area high schools are associated with required professional studies and pedagogically-oriented physics courses. Teacher education majors must complete not less than ten full weeks of student teaching in physics.

The program of study for physics teacher education majors at Illinois State University calls for two full academic years of preparation. Six courses constituting twelve semester hours of course work serve as the basis for preparation. Each of the courses may be described briefly as follows:

PHY 209 - Introduction to Teaching High School Physics (1 semester hour) This course provides 25 clock hours of pre-professional observations and activities within area high schools. It is structured as a weekly seminar in which students exchange information and share reflections derived from their clinical observations that are based upon professional teaching standards. Students take this course during the autumn semester of the junior year.

PHY 302 - Computer Applications in High School Physics (1 semester hour) This laboratory course assists prospective physics teachers to develop a working familiarity with the large number of computer applications and devices that might be encountered in secondary school physics classrooms. Students complete projects associated with generic instructional hardware and software, physics simulations, and CBL and MBL technology. Students learn detailed procedures for experimentation, and complete a capstone experimental project. This course may be taken during the autumn of the junior or senior years.

PHY 310 - Readings for Teaching High School Physics (3 semester hours) This course provides essential preparation for teaching high school physics that centers around developing scientific literacy in students. It provides students with philosophical and pedagogical background in the teaching of physics. Students learn physics and about the nature of science by participation in model inquiry-oriented lessons. Students take this course during the spring semester of the junior year.

PHY 311 - Teaching High School Physics (3 semester hours) This course is designed to bridge the gap between educational theory and practice. It provides students with a chance to apply their knowledge of physics, adolescent psychology, and pedagogical theory to teaching high school physics. Students continue to learn basic physics through participation in inquiry-oriented lessons. Students also learn about resources and special considerations relating to physics teaching. Students take this course during the autumn of the senior year.

PHY 312 - Physics Teaching from the Historical Perspective (3 semester hours) This course provides an overview of the development of classical scientific thought relating to physical phenomena with applications to pedagogy. Intense focus is placed on historically-oriented inquiry teaching, demonstrations, laboratory activities, and discussion leadership. Students take this course prior to but during the same semester as student teaching that occurs during the spring semester of the senior year.

PHY 353 - Student Teaching Seminar (1 semester hour) This seminar course begins by providing pre-student-teaching clinical experiences at future student teaching sites thereby ensuring a smooth transition as students become student teachers. Biweekly meetings during student teaching provide candidates with an opportunity to share experiences and reflections. Activities culminate in the creation of professional teaching portfolios. Students take this course during the spring semester of the senior year.

All physics education courses in the program of study tend to be student-centered, and are closely aligned with local, state, and national teaching and science teacher preparation standards. All assessments are performance-based. Illinois State University is fully accredited by NCATE as a teacher education institution. The physics teacher education program is fully accredited under NSTA guidelines for the preparation of science teachers. INTASC standards as well as teacher education?s conceptual framework - Realizing the Democratic Ideal - form the basis of much of the program?s clinical experience work.

Illinois State University's physics teaching sequence is coordinated by one staff member who is dedicated full-time to developing and teaching physics education courses, supervising student teachers, and advising majors. A program overview including teaching philosophy, student knowledge base, plans of study, course syllabi, assignments, performance-based assessments, grading rubrics, and clinical experiences are available online at www.phy.ilstu.edu . It is expected that physics teacher education faculty everywhere will find the resources available through this web site quite useful. Specific questions about the program or its materials may be addressed to Carl J. Wenning, program coordinator, at wenning@phy.ilstu.edu .

Carl J. Wenning is Lecturer in Physics and Coordinator of the Physics Teacher Education Program at Illinois State University. He can be reached at Campus Box 4560, Normal, IL 61790-4560.