Philosophy of Physics Teacher Preparation

Physics Teacher Education Program

Illinois State University


The departmental faculty's philosophy of preparation for high school physics teachers is rooted in two fundamental beliefs. It is our belief that prospective teachers must be prepared with a certain minimum of declarative and procedural knowledge. It is also our belief that prospective teachers must possess dispositions that will allow them to think and operate scientifically and to deal effectively with the changes of an uncertain future.

We believe that basic physics knowledge is central to the education of future physics teachers. However, there is also an interest in teaching procedures, conceptual principles, and theories of physics along with its subject matter. Future physics teachers must demonstrate a mastery of essential content matter and skills, and embrace healthy scientific attitudes -- objectivity, intellectual honesty, skepticism, and curiosity. Education of prospective physics teachers is therefore seen as absolute. To the extent that our program requires prospective teachers to learn requisite content it is Essentialist in nature.

We believe that if teachers are to be prepared for the future, they must have an education that is both participatory and emergent. Future physics teachers are seen as active learners who should practice and promote the intellectual and technical skills necessary to live in an evolving democratic society. Emphasis is placed on how to think, not merely what to think. To this end future physics teachers are seen as guides to knowledge, and not merely purveyors. Education of prospective physics teachers is therefore seen as preparatory. To the extent that this program prepares physics teachers to deal effectively with the changes of the future it is Progressivist in nature.

Our philosophy of preparation requires that students demonstrate and/or articulate their knowledge, skills, and dispositions as they relate to state and national standards and the University's conceptual framework. To this end authentic performance-based assessments are employed to ensure adequate preparation. In the physics teacher education program, performance-based assessment is seen as a systematic approach of information gathering designed to determine both the knowledge and skills students demonstrate in creating the evidence of what they are able to do. While traditional paper and pencil tests might answer the question, "Does the teacher candidate know how to do it?", performance-based assessment answers the questions, "Can the teacher candidate do it?" and "How well does (s)he do it?" Authentic performance-based assessment uses performance tasks that are directly related to the outcomes of teacher preparation. Not only does a teacher candidate demonstrate the use of skill or knowledge to perform certain tasks, (s)he demonstrates the ability to perform tasks commonly encountered in authentic teaching situations.

It is our belief that student best learn how to teach by participating student-centered activities that model appropriate strategies. To this end students frequently encounter through two years of pedagogical preparation model high school lessons. In addition, it is our belief that students learn best when they have a chance to correct errors and remediate deficiencies. To this "assessment as learning" has become the policy in each of the six pedagogically-oriented physics courses. Students are shown their errors, and are given an opportunity to improve their performance or submission after given corrective feedback.

It is our intention to prepare physics teachers with an attitude. Attitudes give rise to decisions and actions. What teachers do as they present their lessons is rooted deeply in their attitudes about issues that concern them, their students, and society -- balancing declarative knowledge with procedural knowledge, balancing expository teaching with inquiry learning, balancing depth of coverage with breadth of content, emphasizing learning over teaching, and knowing what values and knowledge are worth learning in light of national and state standards, and the needs of the student, the profession, and society. The aim of imparting such attitudes is to improve the educational process, to enhance the achievement of the learner, to produce better and more productive citizens, and to improve society. Illinois State University has a historic and enduring commitment to educate teachers who will be responsive to the moral and intellectual demands a democratic society places upon them.


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