Making a Good Physics Teacher



Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), in partnership with Eisenhower High School (EHS), is leading an innovative approach to train more physics teachers. The partnership has developed a special training program to help teachers – those currently teaching science and those interested in teaching science – to gain a deeper knowledge of physics. The program is structured such that teachers who have some elements of physics or physical (composite) science in their degree or in their current job but may lack the formal or recent qualifications in the subject, can benefit from the experience. The program should help people with the qualities to become good physics teachers to go beyond “text book physics” and apply their understanding of the world around them.

There is a dire need for more physics teachers in our schools to help students develop their understanding of physics and prepare them for adult and university life. There are not enough university students studying physics to develop into the teachers the State of Texas and the U.S. need. This process ends up in a somewhat self-perpetuating vicious cycle – fewer specialist physics teachers could mean that even fewer pupils will be persuaded to take up physics resulting in fewer physics graduates leading to a smaller pool of teacher trainees.

Our analysis based on our own teaching and assessment, coupled with the experience gained through our participation in the Texas A&M University Systems’ Regent’s Initiative for Excellence in Education, showed that physics for the most part is taught in a traditional manner, meaning that it is centered on the process of transmission of knowledge and naively assumes student comprehension of physics concepts. On the other hand, attempts at science education through constructivism have been salient. These attempts were focused on construction of knowledge by individuals (teachers or students) and not on transmission of knowledge.

The current program attempts to change this scenario by providing a unique learning and practicing environment that integrates theory, modeling, computer simulation and hands-on construction. It is based on a strong and committed collaboration between the PVAMU Physics Faculty and the EHS Faculty that should lead to a continual learning and educational process on the part of both institutions. Training will be carried out at both campuses throughout the year.

For more information, please contact A. Anil Kumar, Head, Department of Physics.