Defining excellence in physics teacher preparation programs: The PTEPA (#AAPTSm17)

by Stephanie Chasteen on July 26, 2017

A big challenge in physics is preparing adequate numbers of well-prepared future physics teachers.  There is a huge dearth of qualified physics teachers at the high school level, and some physics departments have taken it upon themselves to try to address this gap.  Some are very successful.  How do they do it?

I’ve been working on a project for the past year to develop a rubric to define what thriving physics teacher programs do, commissioned by the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) of the American Physical Society.  Today I gave a talk on the progress on that work.

My slides are below.

The need for such a rubric is evidenced by the fact that departments often ask for guidance in how to improve the number of physics teacher candidates that they produce.  PhysTEC has developed a list of Key Components to guide programs, but this isn’t very systematic.  We need to more clearly define what is meant by excellence in physics teacher preparation.  We are tackling this by developing a rubric, the Physics Teacher Education Program Assessment, or PTEPA.  The PTEPA lists the practices used by those programs which produce the most physics teachers, so it describes what thriving programs do.  This will be useful in self-study for sites, justifying funding from internal or external sources, and for research purposes.

The PTEPA has 7 standards:

  1. Institutional commitment
  2. Leadership and Collaboration
  3. Strong Physics program
  4. Physics pedagogical knowledge
  5. Recruitment
  6. Mentoring
  7. Assessment

Each Standard represents an area in which each program should have some activity. The Standards include several Components.   For example, Recruiting has the components “recruitment pool,” “early teaching experiences,” “streamlined and flexible program options”.  An example component (“Early Teaching Experiences”) of the Recruiting Standard is shown below.  You can see there are several items, each of which addresses a single dimension of teacher preparation programs.  Each has a Basic, Benchmark, and Exemplary level, to show the level to which a particular program achieves that item.  And items can be “essential” or “enabling” depending on how consistently we see them across sites.

The big challenges have been:

  • Programs achieve excellence in many ways and we do not want to be prescriptive.
  • Defining scale points that are valid and reliable is very hard.
  • Figuring out how to score an institution without “bean-counting” to excellence.

I welcome feedback, including beta-testers, for the rubric, in the future.  Right now we are still developing the final rubric, and it will be released in a report in February 2018.

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