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The Alliance for Physics EXcellence (APEX)

APEX is comprised of three interrelated components (Figure 1):

Figure 1

The Alabama Physics Education Center (APEC): APEC is comprised of two components. The first component is the Physics Teacher Institute (PTI). PTI is a multi-year experience that offers participants a coherent program of study to deepen their physics Discipline Content Knowledge (DCK)[1], Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)[2] and increase their Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)[3,4], based on physics education research, and develop leadership skills using the American Association of Physics Teachers/ Physics Teaching Resource Agents (AAPT/PTRA[5]) Professional Development model. Teachers will be exposed to instructional strategies in DCK based on physics education research, and an approach based on the latest teaching methodologies that emphasize an integrated, three-dimensional model consisting of conceptual understanding[6,7] (CU), problem-solving methods[8,9] (PS), and hands-on exploration[10.11] (EX). PTI includes a pre-service element designed to inspire minority and female undergraduates to become tomorrow’s physics teachers. The second component of APEC is the Physics Resource Enhancement Program (PREP), a central clearinghouse for dissemination of best teaching practices. A Wiki[12] will facilitate communication among faculty, PTRA leaders, teachers and students by enabling sharing of questions, ideas, best practices, and lessons learned. Lecture podcasts[13] will allow retrieval of exemplary teaching methodologies. PREP will also supply physics laboratory equipment to local education agencies (LEAs) through AMSTI/ASIM).

The Physics Teaching Research Program (PTR) goals are to establish and sustain project outcomes in teaching and learning through development of a research priority, using a community of researchers focusing on physics education. Formal research verifies effective strategies and extends the knowledge base. Research on physics teaching and classroom action (practitioner) research will be essential elements of PTR. The PTR research team consists of educational researchers, along with STEM discipline faculty, with expertise and extensive experience in using quantitative and qualitative methodologies in investigating STEM teachers and students as well as other STEM faculty. The research program is organized around understanding immediate and long-term impacts of different components of PTI on pre- and in-service teachers, students, and administrators affected. Two broad research questions define the PTR research agenda: (1) How do we enable physics teachers to implement effective standards-based reform in their courses? and (2) What are the impacts on short- and long-term student outcomes of teacher professional development that focus on the implementation of reform in high school physics courses? The focus of PTR research will be on content-specific professional development effects of the Physics Teacher Institute (PTI) impact on physics teacher knowledge and abilities: Discipline Content Knowledge (DCK), Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), and Technology Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). Among the several elements of PTI, action research allows practitioners to deeply understand content and integrate best practices, as reported in the research 3 literature, learned in PTI. It also provides a means through which practitioners can expand their expertise through individualized professional development. Practitioners test new strategies in their own classrooms. The primary members of the research community involve: (1) physics education researchers, (2) physics faculty/researchers, (3) in-service physics teachers, serving as mentors who practice and model action research, (4) in-service teachers of physics who are developing skills in using action research as professional development, and (5) pre-service teachers in physics education who work with in-service teachers. Each group has a significant role, creating a strong foundation of research and practice, and contributing new knowledge to be disseminated nationwide.

The Physics Leadership Development Program (PLD) will provide opportunities for teachers, science curriculum coordinators, professional development coordinators, principals, and superintendents to understand the role of physics in developing the nation’s needed resources and providing necessary intellectual leadership to ensure the success of physics education in participating schools and districts. The success of any curriculum enrichment and professional development initiative is dependent upon the understanding and support of the intellectual leadership provided by all stakeholders. Specifically, PLD aims to involve teachers in every stage of policy-making affecting the physics curriculum.


  1. Williams, Douglas C., "Acquisition of Physics Content Knowledge and Scientific Inquiry Skills in a Robotics Summer Camp," Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Vol. 40, No. 2, P 201-216 (2008)
  2. Eugenia Etkina, “Pedagogical content knowledge and preparations of high school physics teacher," Physical Review Special Topics- Physics Education Research, 6, 20110 (2010).
  3. Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge," Teachers College Record. 108(6), 1017-1054 (2006)
  5. PTRA
  6. L. C. McDermott, “Research on conceptual understanding in mechanics,” Phys. Today, 37, Issue 7, 24-32 (1984)
  7. D. Huffman, “Effect of Explicit Problem Solving Instruction on High School Students’ Problem-Solving Performance and Conceptual Understanding of Physics,” Journal of Research in Scientific Education, Vol. 34, No. 6, 551–570 (1997)
  8. P. Hardiman, R. Dufresne and J. Mestre, “The relation between problem categorization and problem solving among experts and novices,” Memory and Cognition, Vol. 17, 627-638 (1989)
  9. F. Reif and J. Heller, “Knowledge Structure and Problem Solving in Physics,” Educational Psychologist, Vol. 17 No. 2, 102-27 (1982)
  10. B. Royuk, D. W. Brooks, “Cookbook procedures in MBL physics exercises,” Journal of Science Education and Technology, 12, 317-324 (2003)
  11. R. Wolff-Michael, “Experimenting in a constructivist high school physics laboratory,” Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Vol. 31, No. 2, 197–223 (1993)
  12. What is Wiki?
  13. R. Van Zanten, “The value of lecture podcasting for distance and on-campus students”. In Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Proceedings ascilite Melbourne (2008)