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The impact of A TIME for Physics First in Missouri

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Only 40% of graduating US high school seniors take physics. Yet physics, as a fundamental science, is required for all college science and engineering majors. In parallel, there is a shortage of trained high school physics teachers. While the ideal solution is for every student to have access to a trained physics teacher, a more reachable solution is to train 9th grade science teachers to teach a conceptual physics course, and to have all students take that course.

The goal of A TIME for Physics First in Missouri (NSF DUE 0928924) is to train science teachers to teach a yearlong physics course in 9th grade. Sixtyfive teachers from 36 Missouri districts (urban, suburban and rural) attended professional development in physics content and pedagogy over three years, along with leadership training, mentoring, and learning communities. The curriculum developed by the project is currently available in digital format (Exploring Physics Curriculum App).

The App combines hands-on learning with the essential features of inquiry and modeling pedagogies. The digital format includes animations, simulations, and videos. Teacher support is integrated into the App. Students can use the App as a workbook, textbook and lab book. They can enter data as text, drawings, graphs or equations, and submit work electronically to the teacher.

As a result, student enrollment in physics has increased dramatically in Missouri. Between 2006 and 2014 the number of 9th grade students taking physics has increased from ~300 to 17,000, of whom 13,000 are in schools that participated in the project.