Chronology Current Month Current Thread Current Date
[Year List] [Month List (current year)] [Date Index] [Thread Index] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Prev] [Date Next]

Re: [Phys-l] Physics First Revisited

I would offer an additional concern--certainly becoming one in times of tight budgets and serious staffing limitations. Just who should be responsible for the preparation of elementary (science) teachers. Is it the science departments with more (in depth) content knowledge or the education departments with more (in depth) methodology knowledge or is science education so unique that we need science education departments. In simple staffing terms, should university level science faculty (physicists, chemists, biologists) be responsible for the elementary teacher preparation in science. Fully responsible, partly responsible, or leave it to the education departments. This becomes a critical question when it becomes difficult or impossible to cover all the traditional courses (science majors, engineering majors, pre-meds, general education students) with the available faculty. Put another way--should the science departments be hiring faculty (with the proper background in educational theory, child psychology, classroom management, AND the science itself) to teach courses specifically for education majors (especially el-ed) or should the education departments be hiring such people. Of course, the other question is, where do such people come from? One answer there might be from PER (Physics Education Research) programs, but I have questions about that.

PER--is this really a sustainable (even desirable) sub-area in graduate physics programs. Is PHYSICS educational research unique enough from SCIENCE educational research and from EDUCATION research to be sustained as a separate entity. When does specialization become too specialized. Should there be programs in Physics Educational Research, Chemistry Educational Research, Biology Education Research, Psychology Educational Research, History Educational Research, etc.? I don't know..but it seems too extensive, too specialized at first glance when you list out all disciplines and ask if each is unique enough to support separate programs. PER may have led the way, but perhaps it is time to fold PER into something more general--Science Educational Research for example--or even fold it back into general Educational Research. Again, just a question.


Richard W. Tarara
Professor of Physics
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN
Free Physics Software
PC & Mac

----- Original Message ----- From: "Edmiston, Mike" <>
To: "Forum for Physics Educators" <>
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 9:38 AM
Subject: Re: [Phys-l] Physics First Revisited

R. McDermott said his daughter is not finding it easy to become employed
as a K-6 science teacher. Current administrators and teachers at those
levels seem to be stuck on strong math and English but not science.

Exactly. That's what I'm talking about. Our physical science battle is
not at the ninth-grade level. The battle is already lost by then. This
is going to be a difficult thing to change. The math and English
programs already have all the momentum, and they will fight any
intrusion of science if time spent on science comes at the expense of
time spent on math and English.

This is indeed a chicken and egg problem because this attitude will not
change unless we get teachers and administrators into the schools who
see science on par with math and English. Yet how do we hatch these
science-conscious teachers and administrators in the first place, and
then how do we get them into the schools, when the eggs are being laid
by a non-science-conscious educational system?

Those of us at the college level can try to assure our
science-teacher-preparation programs retain strong content knowledge and
strong lab experience (if we currently have it), or that we implement
strong content knowledge and strong lab experience (if we currently
don't have it). This is a difficult battle. Your are up against
education departments that don't want the intrusion, and you are up
against an administration that does not want to see enrollments drop
because the curriculum is perceived as too demanding.

Those of you at the high-school level can notice students who really do
like science, and may want teach, to pursue a career in elementary
teaching or middle-school teaching with specialization in science. You
may find this difficult because you might be more proud to see your good
science students go on to careers in medicine or research etc. Don't
succumb to that. Becoming a well prepared and dedicated teacher is one
of the loftiest goals a person can pursue.

Also, take any opportunity you can to encourage your school system to
hire teachers who really do have a good preparation in science, and
really do seem to like science... especially physical science and not
just biology.

Also, take any opportunity you can to help existing elementary and
middle-school teachers realize they need to teach physical science, they
need to teach it well, and yes they can do it and you will help them.

Michael D. Edmiston, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry and Physics
Bluffton University
Bluffton, OH 45817
Forum for Physics Educators