The University of Washington Physics Department is the home of the legendary physics education researcher, Lillian McDermott, and the gold standard in professional development for physical science teachers, the “NSF Summer Institute in Physics and Physical Science for Inservice K-12 Teachers.” This summer, the institute will be held June 28 through July 30.
State governments and the National Science Foundation have spent millions of dollars developing programs to compete with the McDermott program, but it’s never been clear to me why. I’m aware of one new program – the development of which was supported by NSF and state dollars – which attempted to reinvent the McDermott wheel and ended up with a square instead. Even the physics was wrong in some cases. Why do we waste tax dollars on such projects?
Here are some excerpts from the description of the program from its web site. Read it and then try to answer the question, “Why don’t we just do this in Florida?”:
The Physics Education Group in the Physics Department at the University of Washington offers an intensive five-week summer program in physics and physical science for inservice teachers. Directed by Dr. Lillian C. McDermott, Professor of Physics, the Summer Institute is supported by the National Science Foundation. The program is tuition-free and carries ten upper-division credits in physics. Teachers may participate for up to three years. Participants receive a stipend. Funds may be available to help defray lodging costs for out-of-area participants. Transportation, meals, and other incidentals are the responsibility of the participant.
The curriculum for the course, Physics by Inquiry (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), has been especially developed by the Physics Education Group to be used in classes for precollege teachers. The curriculum is designed to strengthen subject matter background. The development of fundamental concepts and reasoning skills is emphasized. The hands-on, inquiry-oriented method of instruction used in the Institute helps prepare teachers to teach science as a process of inquiry. The course meets the needs of teachers with varying levels of preparation in science and mathematics.
The Summer Institute is divided into two sections, one for elementary and middle school teachers who have little or no background in physics, and one for middle and high school teachers of physics, physical science, and mathematics. The subject matter for the Summer Institute is selected from such topics as properties of matter, electric circuits, heat and temperature, light and optics, kinematics and dynamics, and observational astronomy.
The 2010 Summer Institute is scheduled for June 28-July 30. Classes typically meet from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Monday-Friday, with the final exam tentatively scheduled for Friday, July 30. The Summer Institute is a full-time, five-week commitment.
Teachers from the greater Seattle area are expected to participate in a tuition-free Continuation Course that meets Thursday evenings during the academic year. The after-school class is designed to help teachers apply in their classrooms what they have learned during the summer.
The Summer Institute is tuition-free. Participants pay for books and supplies. A stipend of $1,500 is offered upon completion of the Summer Institute.
Funding may be available to help defray the cost of lodging for out-of-state participants, usually in a dormitory on campus. Transportation and meals are the responsibility of the participant.
The institute is open to full-time practicing teachers, grades K-12. Although a physics background is not necessary for the elementary-middle school section of the Summer Institute, strong arithmetic skills are required.
The institute is a full-time, five-week commitment. Classes typically meet from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Monday-Friday. Attendance is required during class hours. Homework and papers are assigned, and two exams are given. These components of the course provide an opportunity for you to synthesize and articulate your understanding of the concepts developed during the Institute. Papers will be based on your work in class and should not require outside research. During exams you will be able to refer to Physics by Inquiry and your notebook.
High school teachers will be enrolled in Physics 407 (5 credits), Physics 427 (3 credits), and Physics 401 (2 credits). All may be used in partial fulfillment of requirements for endorsement to teach high school physics.
Elementary and middle school teachers will be enrolled in Physics 405 (5 credits), Physics 427 (3 credits), and Physics 401 (2 credits).
These courses are upper-division courses. If the participant is enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Washington, the credits may be applied to graduate study.
Teachers from the greater Seattle area are expected, when possible, to participate in a Continuation Course that meets 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. on Thursdays during the academic year. The Continuation Course is designed to help teachers apply in their classrooms what they have learned during the summer.
The Continuation Course carries two upper-division physics credits each quarter, is tuition-free, and is accompanied by a stipend of $125/quarter.