Program Description

The mission of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) Program is to improve the teaching and learning of physics and physical science for all K-12 teachers and students in the United States. AAPT/PTRA is recognized as the leading in-service physics and physical science professional development program for grades K-12 and received the American Physical Society’s 2011 Excellence in Education Award for “providing peer-led professional development for 25 years to more than 5000 physics and physical science teachers nationwide.”

AAPT/PTRA maintains a network of experienced master-teacher leaders who attend yearly institutes in order to stay current on standards, technology, and the latest physics education research. The infrastructure developed over the past 30 years promotes strong partnerships with universities, colleges, businesses, informal science institutions, and K-12 schools across the country. The PTRA program is currently working with several organizations to promote authentic STEM experiences, which support the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Since 2003 data have been collected on both teachers and students of teachers attending the AAPT/PTRA institutes. The data indicate that teachers attending institutes had significant gains in their understanding of STEM content, implemented changes in teaching strategies, and integrated more technology in the classroom. In addition, students of teachers attending the institutes had greater gains in achievement.

Program Impact and Reach

Since its founding in 1985, the AAPT/PTRA program has provided high-quality peer-led professional development for over 6000 teachers throughout the U.S. Between 2011 and 2014 alone, there have been over 950 teachers (grades 3-12) who have attended one- or two-week institutes led by PTRAs. These teachers each work with 100-150 students on average each year, so since 2011 the program has impacted more than 100,000 students.

Corporate Partner Collaborations

Collaborations with corporate funders can provide several advantages that state or government partnerships cannot. In particular, corporate partners provide valuable expertise in the business world to advise educators on real world applications for the content they and their students are learning. Corporate funders can also provide financial support for the next generation of master-teacher leaders who are trained to provide peer-led professional development to their colleagues across the country. In addition, corporate partners can help educators with the ever-increasing expense of equipment and technology. As an example, we note that one corporate partner purchased $12,000 in technology for teachers in 2003. Eleven years later, some of this equipment is still in use by several teachers in small rural communities in West Texas. In fact, just last summer a retiring teacher who had some of the equipment shipped her equipment back to a PTRA with the stipulation that it be used to help another teacher who needed the probes and technology.


“Vernier Software & Technology has partnered with AAPT/PTRA for over two decades, providing professional development for teachers of physics and physical science across the United States. Vernier has provided financial support, equipment, curriculum, and consulting for PTRA institutes and workshops. The partnership has increased the impact of PTRA by raising the number of teachers that have access to technology and quality professional development on the use of that technology in the classroom. In return, Vernier continues to benefit from the expanding pool of expert users of its equipment, acting as ambassadors for the brand.” John E Gastineau, Ph.D., Staff Scientist and Partner, Vernier Software & Technology

“The [AAPT/PTRA] program fundamentally changed the way I teach. It allowed me not only to improve my teaching and delivery of difficult material but also gave me the opportunity to become a leader in my sphere of influence. It also afforded me the opportunity to work with other teachers on research and practical classroom applications. I am so excited to be using daily the ideas and pedagogy I learned through the [AAPT/PTRA] program. Thanks!” Doug Reed, Pulaski Academy, Arkansas

“[AAPT/PTRA] increased my understanding of physics by providing rigorous activities that explained physics concepts more in depth. I attended the Workshops for four years and have changed my classroom to incorporate higher level questioning, use of whiteboards for each students to participate in the lesson, the use of technology in my classroom, and lessons that are student centered instead of teacher centered. I have taught for 25 years and I believe that [AAPT/PTRA] prepared me to meet new demands of 21st Century teaching more than any other workshop that I have attended.” Gwen Hunter, Chaffin Junior High, Arkansas 


For a historical look at the PTRA timeline, see attached document.PTRA History