William Woods University is partnering with the University of Missouri to better prepare the state’s ninth-grade science teachers to teach physics.
Dr. Dennis Nickelson, assistant professor of mathematics and physics at William Woods, will represent WWU as one of the senior personnel in the project, which is called “A TIME for Freshman Physics in Missouri.”
Nickelson will be an instructor during the Summer Academy, working directly with 20-25 teachers. In addition, he will work in ninth-grade classrooms during the academic year to coach and mentor participant teachers as they teach the curriculum to their students.
He is also on the curriculum revision team, to reevaluate and revise the curriculum written for “A Time for Physics First.”
“The old project was designed more as a professional development work and written for the consumption of ninth-grade teachers,” Nickelson said. “The curriculum work we are doing now will revise the old pieces so that they can go more directly to the classroom for consumption of ninth- grade students.”
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project is designed to build leadership skills in ninth-grade science teachers. The project plans to do this with a research-based professional development, including comprehensive physics content, pedagogy, research and evaluation.
Each summer for three years, participating teachers will attend a Summer Academy to build and expand their physics content level. Extensive academic year support will also be provided to teachers involved, which will provide helpful tips and information, follow-up sessions and trained mentors.
According to Meera Chandrasekhar, MU professor of physics and the principal investigator in the project, the goal of the program is to increase the proficiency of students in science, increase MAP scores and increase student interest and success in science and engineering degrees.
Nickelson added, “The purpose of the program is to increase the number of qualified teachers of physics in the state of Missouri and to improve the quality of science instruction. It is important that students be involved in active classrooms and curricula that challenge them and allow them to learn to their potential. Physics teachers need to be equipped with the knowledge of content and teaching skills, based on solid research, to accomplish these goals.”
The project plans to recruit approximately 80 Missouri ninth-grade teachers through fall 2009.