STEM PATHWAYS & LITERACY IN MATH AND SCIENCE: HIGH SCHOOL PHYSICS IS CRUCIAL
by Jane Jackson (email@example.com), Co-Director, Modeling Instruction Program
Department of Physics, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. Oct. 2012
SUMMARY: High school physics is the chief pathway to college STEM majors. Active learning physics, such as Modeling Instruction, strengthens that pathway and also produces world-class scientific and mathematical literacy. Yet Federal funding for physics teacher professional development is sparse, and it threatens to end in the ESEA reauthorization. Continued Federal funding is crucial for the STEM workforce, global competitiveness, and a literate citizenry.
Research points to high school physics as the chief STEM pathway. A student who takes “reform” (i.e., active learning) high school physics is three times more likely to earn a STEM degree than a student whose last high school science course was chemistry.
1) A student who completes a physics course in high school is twice as likely to earn a STEM bachelor's degree as a student whose highest science course is chemistry (Tyson et al., 2007).
2) “Reform” (active learning) high school physics programs almost double again the number of students who intend to major in STEM, compared to conventional lecture-based high school physics (TIMSS, 2000). (Active learning programs are minds-on and usually hands-on.)
On TIMSS science & math literacy tests, reform physics programs score highest in the world!
These findings are strong evidence that K-12 policy should target professional development (PD) funding for high school physics teachers. PD should be research-validated, university-based, and intensive (90 contact hours); it should focus on physics content and how to teach the content effectively. It should be primarily face-to-face and in summer. Statewide & regional programs are needed. Other benefits of such PD are teacher retention and higher student enrollments.
* Most physics teacher PD is funded by Federal Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) grants administered by Boards of Regents from ESEA Title IIA funds to states. In the ESEA reauthorization, the U.S. Department of Education intends for the ITQ program to die. Instead it should be strengthened, with priority for high school science teachers.
* The only other existing Federal PD program is the ESEA Title IIB Math-Science Partnerships. In most states, restrictive regulations preclude statewide projects. (They are needed to enroll enough physics teachers.) North Carolina is an enlightened exception. Federal policy should require statewide and regional high school projects.
* NSF summer institutes for teachers need to be re-instated, with research-validated professional development.
For actions, see http://modeling.asu.edu/modeling/ConvincingDocuments.html.
Will Tyson, Reginald Lee, Kathryn M. Borman and Mary Ann Hanson (2007). Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Pathways: High School Science and Math Coursework and Postsecondary Degree Attainment, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 243-270.
TIMSS Physics Achievement Comparison Study, by Eugenio Gonzalez (April 2000). Conducted for the National Science Foundation by TIMSS International Study Center, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA. http://modeling.asu.edu/Evaluations/TIMSS_NSFphysicsStudy99.pdf .
DISCUSSION OF REFERENCES:
1) Tyson et al. (University of South Florida):
The relevant quote is: “Students in the Physics I category obtain STEM degrees at 18.7% … Physics course-taking is a primary factor in STEM attainment… only 8.8% of students who took Chemistry I, but not Physics I completed a STEM bachelor’s degree.”
This research used data collected by the Florida Department of Education K–20 Education Data Warehouse. Florida is the fourth most populous state and has maintained statewide records since 1995, so the study is probably a reliable nationwide indicator.
2) TIMSS Physics Achievement Comparison Study:
Modeling Instruction was one of six NSF-funded high school physics “reform” programs evaluated by TIMSS (Gonzalez 2000). The report documents that the reform programs greatly increase the percentage of students pursuing STEM careers. In particular, 40% of 12th grade students in reform programs intended to major in physics, math, engineering or computer information sciences in college, compared to 25% in non-reform programs (Table 15).
TIMSS scores have not been made public, but were released to the respective Principal Investigators. Consequently, we can report that the highest score was made by a Modeling class, and it is comparable to the highest score in the entire international TIMSS study. Of the six reform programs, Modeling Instruction has grown the most by far -- to 10% of the nations’ physics teachers; and it has expanded to chemistry and physical science, and recently to biology.
WHY THE NEED IS URGENT:
1. High school physical sciences are crucial to the nation’s economic development, and they are central to addressing societal challenges. At its heart, global warming is a physics problem.
2. Physical sciences are essential to produce a scientifically and mathematically literate citizenry.
3. High school physics is the hardest core subject to staff and has the greatest teacher turnover. Out-of-field teaching predominates in schools of all socioeconomic strata. Teachers are isolated. Yet they are committed and enthusiastic to learn deep content and effective teaching methods.
5. To attain expertise takes 10 years of deliberate practice, research of K.Anders Ericsson shows.
6. Teachers need strong partnerships with local university science departments for professional development (PD)/graduate credit, since higher education is the next step for their students.
7. Teachers need tuition scholarships, for they cannot afford tuition. Typical salary is $36,000.
8. University PD programs need stable long-term funding, for continuity of staff & PD services.
ENDEAVORS OF THE MODELING INSTRUCTION PROGRAM: http://modeling.asu.edu
1. Modeling Workshops at ASU each summer for 100 teachers of physics, chemistry, & physical science. Research-validated; student learning gains are double those of lecture instruction.
2. Modeling Workshops in 32 states; 50/summer. Total 5000 teachers of 1.5 million students.
3. Arithmetic: Cognitive Instruction in Math Modeling makes math make sense! Grades 3-9.
Data on successes, & link to YouTube videos, at http://modeling.asu.edu/CIMM.html
4. American Modeling Teachers Assn., an affiliate of American Assn. of Physics Teachers & partner in 100Kin10 initiative. Colleen Megowan, Executive Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org