Professional Development Needs of

Arizona high school chemistry and physics teachers


High school physics and chemistry are high need subject areas, with a shortage of teachers. Only a quarter of Arizona physics teachers and half of chemistry teachers have a degree in their field. The problem will worsen in metropolitan Phoenix and Pinal County due to rapidly increasing population. How will they teach challenging courses if they don’t know their subject well?


At the request of Governor Janet Napolitano's former Education Policy Advisor, in summers 2006 and 2007 the ASU Modeling Instruction Program staff conducted a survey of 80 Arizona chemistry and physics (and a few mathematics) teachers who were taking three-week Modeling Workshop graduate courses at ASU.


The survey showed that chemistry and physics teachers cannot financially afford the professional development they want and need.  Also, most teachers responded that lifelong professional development is extremely important to them and their career, but what their schools and districts offer lacks in content and relevance to their classes. 


When asked what they want for professional development, their most common answers were improving their content knowledge with effective pedagogy, use of technology, useful hands-on instructional materials, and quality instructors who use the materials and can provide support for classroom implementation. Their chief reason for taking professional development is to be a better teacher; their second reason is to learn new content knowledge.


Overwhelmingly they indicated that three-week summer modeling workshops are their preferred type of professional development. A distant second in choice are summer one-week refresher modeling workshops. Third are short content courses in summer. Summer research at university or at a business are #4 and 5, respectively. Few want Saturday or weekday workshops in the academic year, or distant learning. They wrote that ASU Modeling Workshops provide content knowledge and practice with useful instructional materials, as well as quality instructors who teach high school using these methods and materials and who provide a support network. Example responses are, “It is exactly what I need” and “the only useful professional development I have ever had”. 


When asked how much they can pay for high quality professional development, the vast majority can afford nothing or up to $150 for a three-week summer course.  Obviously, this is due to family expenses and very low teacher salaries.  Teachers wrote, “I’d have to choose between feeding my children and taking classes” and “I lose money taking classes instead of working in the summer; to me these classes are worth it, but I could not pay the tuition.”


In summary, physics and chemistry teachers greatly value professional development and want to grow professionally as teachers; however districts and schools do not provide what they need: physics and chemistry content, useful instructional materials, quality instruction, and support for implementing materials. ASU Modeling Workshops provide the top choice for professional development among Arizona high school chemistry and physics teachers. The problem is: they can’t afford tuition!  Permanent sources of funds are needed.


(Specific survey results are available from





retention and tuition; interest in MNS degree


compiled by Jane Jackson. Aug. 2007




Each summer, all teachers in ASU modeling workshops and other MNS courses are surveyed about their interest in returning the next summer, and their interest in the MNS degree. Of the 100 Arizona teachers enrolled in summer 2006, 75 returned the survey. The median number of years teaching of the 100 Arizona teachers is five. Responses were as follows.


1) How likely is it, that you'll take a course here next summer, if tuition is free or low?

     very likely or likely: 73

     maybe: 2

     not likely: 0


2) How likely is it, that you'll take a course here next summer, if tuition is $1000/course?

    very likely or likely: 11

                  (note: 8  of these teachers are in the MNS DEGREE program,

                  one is a preservice teacher and must take another 'Methods" course,

                  one teaches at a private school which can probably pay her tuition)

    maybe: 8

    not likely: 48

    no answer: 8


3) How interested are you, in pursuing the MNS degree in physics?

    very interested or interested: 9

    somewhat/maybe: 12


Teachers who are very interested or interested in the MNS degree teach mainly these subjects:

    physics: 4

    physical science: 2

    chemistry: 1

    earth science: 1

 4 females, 5 males.


Teachers who are somewhat interested in the MNS degree teach mainly these subjects:

    chemistry: 5

    middle school science: 3

    math: 2

    physics: 1

    physical science: 1

7 females, 5 males





I am already in the [MNS degree] program.  With the high tuition it makes finishing difficult, it depends on my financial situation at the end of the year.  If I am taking classes, I can't teach summer school to make extra money.  My husband is in pharmacy school and making ends meet is tough.  I am thankful that the program has been here and helped me along the way.  Without it I would never had been able to take as many courses as I have.


I could not afford to pay tuition of $1000, so I would not be able to participate if I had to pay that much.


I will be pretty unlikely to come to the workshops with tuition that high.  I have maxed out my transferrable credits for the MNS [degree] program so must consider that my next step.  I cannot even think about applying though until next summer at the earliest.


1) I would not be able to afford to pay any tuition at this point. So I would not be able to attend.

2) I am still debating on whether or not I want to pursue a master's of anything right now.


I probably would not be able to take a class if I had to pay full tuition. I have not thought about getting a masters in physics, but I would like to continue taking more classes.