UC Selected as a National Site to Prepare Future Physics Teachers

The University of Cincinnati is one of three sites nationally to be selected as a top-awarded 2013 PhysTEC-funded institution.

UC will be awarded a $300,000 grant over three years to develop a national model to prepare highly qualified middle school and high school physics and physical science teachers – a partnership across the UC colleges of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services


, the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences


, and the College of Engineering and Applied Science



PhysTEC reports that two-thirds of the nation’s new physics teachers lack a college degree in physics, and that more than 90 percent of middle school physical science classes are taught by teachers without a physical science degree or certification. Yet, as students get to college, physics and physical science courses are either requirements or can support study in numerous fields including pharmacy, medicine, engineering, construction and industry, computer programming and even financial fields. An early jump on the subject in middle or high school would help students be even more prepared for physics courses on the college level.

The UC model will recruit students to earn a bachelor’s degree in either physics (A&S) or engineering (CEAS), plus teacher licensure (CECH). The program also will recruit students participating in the new, CEAS five-year ACCEND program that starts this fall, in which students can earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in education, plus teacher licensure. 

Kathy Koenig, a UC associate professor with a joint appointment between science education (CECH) and the Department of Physics (A&S), the principal investigator on the grant, adds that the partnership aims to provide student teaching experiences in high school classrooms as early as the teacher candidate’s freshman year in college. Continued mentoring after graduation is aimed at retaining new teachers as they begin their careers.

The program is in line with state emphasis on building competence and excellence in high-demand science, technology, engineering, math and medical (STEMM) fields.

“The study of physics exercises the math and reasoning skills in modern society,” says Kay Kinoshita, professor and head of the UC Physics Department. “Every high school student deserves access to a highly qualified teacher. This award is an exciting step toward making this a reality, and the UC Physics Department is proud to be a part of it.”

"The college (CEAS) is very excited to offer engineering and technology students the opportunity to become science teachers through the new ACCEND program and the PhysTEC grant,” says Eugene Rutz, manager of the CEAS ACCEND programs. “Many engineers were inspired to choose their profession by an outstanding physics teacher who instilled in the student a love of learning and the academic capabilities needed to succeed.  These programs provide our students a tangible way to make a huge difference in the lives of many other students."

The UC PhysTEC-funded partnership has developed the following goals to develop a state and national model for physics teacher preparation:

  • Increase UC’s number of physics teacher graduates in the field to five or more per year, during and beyond the length of the grant.
  • Improve the quality of physics instruction, including development of new physics courses, to provide models of best teaching practices for future teachers.
  • Create a community of local high school physics teachers that can work with the university in providing early field experiences for UC students and mentoring for recent teacher graduates.
  • Become a model of teacher preparation and best teaching practices.

The project also includes a UC teacher-in-residence program – a local, high school physics/physical science teacher on loan by their employer – to serve a year-long, full-time term in the partnership. The teacher in-residence will coordinate UC student field experiences in the high school classroom and develop physics courses specific to education majors. “If schools have a physics teacher, they’re likely the only physics teacher in their school, unlike math or English teachers. There’s also a high turnover rate for all new teachers. The teacher-in-residence will develop a network of physics teachers in the area who can become mentors for the new teachers, a support system to lower new teacher turnover,” says Koenig, a faculty member in the


to build literacy and communities in the STEMM fields.

The partnership also will be recruiting learning assistants – undergraduates that assist UC faculty in making large lecture courses more interactive – so potential future teachers can try out teaching before becoming part of UC’s teaching license program.

In addition to the $300,000 PhysTEC funding, UC will provide matching in-kind funding (covering dollars, equipment and staffing) to support the program. The UC Office of the Provost is providing $150,000 to continue support of the teacher-in-residence program over an additional three years, once the PhysTEC funding is completed.

The other two sites to receive maximum funding are University of Central Florida and Georgia State University.

Supported by the National Science Foundation, the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Institute of Physics – the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (


) is dedicated to increasing the number of highly qualified physics teachers by supporting the recruitment and retention of future teachers at colleges and universities.

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