High School Teacher Professional Development and Physics Teaching Resource Agents

AAPT initiated the Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) Program in 1985—with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) —with the mission of improving the teaching and learning of physics and physical science for all teachers and students in the United States.  AAPT/PTRA is the leading in-service physics professional development program for middle school and high school teachers.  It provides professional development on physics content, teaching techniques based on research in physics education, and integration of technology into the curriculum.  The program maintains a nationwide cadre of accomplished high school teacher-leaders who are trained and continually involved in professional development. These teacher-leaders are certified as PTRAs by AAPT to lead workshops throughout the country.

Since 1985, over 150 experienced PTRAs have participated in national leadership institutes in which they have developed their skills on a wide range of topics in order to assist their fellow physics teachers.  The program has involved more than 30 universities and college physics departments partnering with PTRA’s to provide the summer institutes and follow-up sessions.  This partnership is an important feature that ensures a high quality and sustainable environment for the PTRA workshops.  Physics department provide the infrastructure and faculty support for workshops and the PTRA’s provide peer mentoring and leadership in conducting the workshops.

The American Physical Society recognized the achievements of the AAPT/PTRA program with its Excellence in Physics Education Award in 2011.

In 2012, AAPT announced a new Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) initiative in response to the proposed Next Generation Science Standards. The AAPT Executive Board has constituted a new committee, the AAPT/PTRA Oversight Committee, to provide advice and guidance to the Executive Board in the planning and use of AAPT funding to support this new initiative as well as continuation of projects associated with the AAPT/PTRA program.  The AAPT/PTRA Oversight Committee will work with the Program Director and Executive Officer to develop plans for the use of AAPT funding and recommendations for the long-term governance and plans for the AAPT/PTRA program.  

The first set of members of the AAPT/PTRA Oversight Committee are recognized leaders in K-12 physics education.  Many have served as PTRAs in the past and others have extensive experience in providing professional development to teachers of physics.  Karen Jo Matsler served as the first Director of AAPT/PTRA.

AAPT celebrates the long and proud heritage of AAPT/PTRA and the roles that all current and past PTRAs have played in its success.  We plan to continue and extend this work for the next generation of teachers of physics.   We also are continuing to serve the needs of the current cadre of AAPT/PTRA’s to ensure that those teacher leaders are prepared to lead workshops as new standards are adopted and technology changes.  We anticipate exciting developments as the program grows into new areas and state-level PTRA activities continue to receive funding.   The following list highlights recent developments in the PTRA program. 

PTRA Summer Leadership Institute – Just before the 2013 AAPT Summer Meeting, 30 high school physics teachers and other physics educators will be meeting for three days in Portland, OR to be trained or update their training as PTRAs.   Three topics will be addressed in this training: engineering design and applications, integration of information technology and engineering (iOS devices, etc) to the current PTRA content workshops, and integration of literacy and math with a focus on the upper-elementary and middle-school physical science curriculum. This Institute resumes our training of physics teacher leaders after a one-year hiatus.  We anticipate further growth of the Summer Leadership Institute in future years.

PTRA Local Programs.  The PTRA network is also involved in a number of local teacher professional development efforts.  Some of these (Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, and Oklahoma) are funded by state Improving Teacher Quality and Math-Science Partnership grants to individual colleges and universities.  PTRAs are also providing professional development workshops for the University of Arkansas College Ready Mathematics and Physics Partnership and the Alabama Physics Excellence program (see http://apex.aamu.edu) , both funded by National Science Foundation Math-Science Partnership grants.

Expansion of the AAPT/PTRA Effort.  The 100Kin10.org STEM education consortium has granted AAPT funding for a meeting of representatives of the AAPT, the American Chemical Society, and the American Modeling Teachers Association to develop plans for professional development activities for physics and chemistry teachers.