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By Bushraa Khatib
The Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) will award new funding to seven universities to develop their physics teacher education programs. The newly selected sites are Arizona State University; California Polytechnic University-Pomona; Central Washington University; James Madison University; University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa; University of Missouri-Columbia; and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The latest round of awards brings the number of funded PhysTEC sites across the US to 27.
The PhysTEC project, a partnership between APS and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), strives to improve and promote the education of future physics teachers. The project does this in part by selecting colleges and universities to develop their physics teacher preparation programs into national models with substantial project support. PhysTEC-supported sites have collectively more than doubled the number of physics teachers they graduate. The project has also built a broad coalition of 258 institutions committed to improving physics teacher preparation.
Bob Hilborn, Associate Executive Officer of AAPT, notes that the joint APS/AAPT project has already made significant progress towards increasing the number of physics majors interested in high school teaching. “This year’s solicitation for PhysTEC funding resulted in a set of strong proposals from a broad spectrum of colleges and universities,” he added.
The new features that this year’s funded sites bring to the PhysTEC program were emphasized by Theodore Hodapp, APS Director of Education and Diversity. “Several sites intend to focus on the synergy between in-service and pre-service efforts, an interaction that PhysTEC is eager to develop,” he says.
PhysTEC students at the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa will gain early teaching experiences through the school’s partnership with Alabama Science in Motion (ASIM), a statewide program that provides high-tech laboratory equipment and experiences to poorly supplied science classrooms, as well as professional development for secondary science teachers.
The University of Missouri-Columbia proposes a host of efforts to establish a professional community of physics teachers that engages future teachers on campus and new teachers in nearby schools. Projects include a living-learning community for freshman students and mentoring from exemplary high school teachers.
“A number of this year’s universities are adding to already robust undergraduate physics programs,” said Monica Plisch, APS Associate Director of Education and Diversity. “These institutions are in an excellent position to develop their teacher preparation programs.”
California Polytechnic University-Pomona, James Madison University, and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse are all ranked by the American Institute of Physics in the top ten percent of bachelor’s-only departments in terms of the number of bachelor’s physics degrees awarded; University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is one of the top 10 such universities.
Plisch also noted that two of the awarded universities plan to build on their connections with community colleges. Central Washington University aims to streamline the pathway for future physics teachers who begin their education at a community college and transfer to the university. The university plans to work with community colleges to develop an advising template for a more efficient associate degree in math-physics teaching that would eventually be implemented in all community colleges in the state.
Similarly, Arizona State University intends to tap into the Maricopa County Community College District–which has the largest enrollment of any community college system in the US with over 260,000 students–to disseminate information on its physics education program and expand its recruitment course for potential science teachers. The course gives students interested in science teaching the opportunity to teach 5th and 6th grade students in high-need schools.
Project funding for these institutions begins this summer and lasts for three years. The project will solicit another round of proposals in Fall 2012 for sites to begin funding in the 2013-2014 academic year.
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Editor: Alan Chodos