Education Courses Don’t Help
I would like to add some data to the debate on the relative importance of training in “how to teach” versus knowledge of the subject. I am a retired physics professor here. For years we have been fighting with the school of education about the requirements for teaching certification. The state of Indiana gave them authority to make rules for certification, and for years they have been requiring 60 credits of education courses. Compare this with about 40 physics credits, which a physics major takes (out of 120 total in 4 years)! Recently, under lots of pressure, they relaxed the rules, so that a science graduate can get a teaching certificate by taking education courses full time for one year, including summer! (The so-called fast track, 30 education credits!) During that year, it is almost impossible to take a job. Very few of our students are willing to put up with this. Such a system has worked only when the student wanted to be a high school teacher from the first day in college and started taking education courses right away. It is hard to believe that, by taking some education theory courses, a bad physics teacher would suddenly become a good one. I came to know about one case recently where a biology major, who had barely taken two physics courses, was assigned physics teaching. This person had difficulty with inclined planes!
Also, I am surprised at the letter from Rick Moyer
in the January APS News
, which asserts that “...in most schools that there are too few students taking physics to justify full-time physics teachers.” But an article in the February 2006 Physics Today
by Jack Hehn and Michael Neuschatz showed that “fully one-third of recent high-school graduates have taken physics.” A suburban school, with which I am familiar, has about 600‑700 students (out of a total of 3500) taking physics courses each semester. Quite a few of these are in AP classes. A student responded to my question about the reason for taking physics with “Physics looks good on my transcript! Competition for getting into good colleges is very stiff!”
But whatever the reason for taking physics, we have to provide good physics teachers in high schools. At least around here (and perhaps in the whole Midwest) there is a shortage of qualified high school physics teachers. In spite of this, it is unlikely that Prof. Ketterle (Zero Gravity, APS News, November 2007
), with his current qualifications, would be hired by Indiana high schools!! Kashyap Vasavada Indianapolis IN