While physics departments should take a leading role in any program that prepares physics teachers, programs benefit from being a part of an institution that strongly supports teacher education, STEM education, and sometimes even STEM teacher education specifically.
For example, teacher education might be recognized as part of the mission of the university or the College of Arts and Sciences, or it might be actively promoted by the administration.
Support for teacher education should also come from education departments and faculty, department heads, college deans, and upper-level university administration.
Thriving programs have successfully garnered these types of benefits:
- institutional climate and administrative support for teacher education
- institutional rewards for leadership in physics teacher education
- resources needed to run effectively
Strategies for Developing Institutional Commitment
The first step we recommend in each of these areas is to complete the PTEPA Rubric. That will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses, as well as what types of strategies are relevant for your institution.
Institutional Climate and Support
Know where and how to get support. This is the first step to building institutional commitment. Download these tips from John and Gay Stewart on how to get started.
Create a compelling case for teacher preparation. Real stories and compelling data are often key to making the case. Engaging anecdotes can help, especially when coupled with concrete evidence for the efficacy of new programs and reforms.
Ensure the department rewards physics teacher preparation activities. It is vital that physics departments create space and time for faculty to pursue teacher preparation activities. Such activities should be considered favorably, and preferably included in departmental policy, when faculty come up for tenure and promotion.
Make teacher preparation part of the physics department’s mission. Most physics departments in the United States see their mission as conducting physics research and educating students; outreach and other service activities are significantly lower priorities. However, it is important for department leaders to be reminded that the preparation of future physics majors depends largely on having qualified high school physics teachers. For the sake of educating future physicists, it is imperative that physics departments also invest in educating future physics teachers.
Secure in-house funding for teacher preparation activities. University presidents, provosts, deans, and department chairs must provide funding for teacher preparation efforts. Providing qualified teachers is a way for universities to serve their communities and demonstrate public engagement, which is often included in universities' mission statements. Preparing just a few more physics teachers each year would make your institution a national leader!
Make Use of Professional Society Support
APS, AAPT, and AIP, as well as most other professional physics societies, have expressed strong support for physics teacher education efforts. If your department has not signed onto the Joint Statement on the Education of Future Teachers, that is a good first step in starting the discussion.
Further Reading for Developing Institutional Commitment
- PhysTEC Sustainability Study (Scherr, Plisch, and Goertzen, 2014 and 2017)
- Recruiting and Educating Future Physics Teachers (Sandifer and Brewe, 2015)
- Standard 1: Institutional Commitment of the PTEPA Rubric
- Joint Statement on the Education of Future Teachers (endorsed by AIP, APS, and AAPT)