I would like to take this opportunity to use the Chair's column to
bring Forum on Education members up to date on three issues that are
under discussion by the Forum Executive Committee and to encourage
comments by members on these issues.
1. APS Award in Physics Education
Of the thirty-some awards and prizes presented by the APS, none is
specifically made to recognize accomplishments in physics education.
To many individuals it is contradictory for the APS to promote programs
in physics education and to encourage its members to participate in
such programs but not to reward such efforts with an annual award prize
that is on a par with those made for accomplishments in research. On
the other hand, it seems difficult to craft an award that is differentiated
from similar awards that are made by the AAPT. Both the Forum on Education
and the Committee on Education have discussed this issue for the past
two years with no agreement on award guidelines that would be unique
to APS nor on how to fund such an award.
Recently an alternative suggestion was proposed - to make an annual
APS award for accomplishments in physics education by a physics department,
rather than by an individual. This proposal is certainly unique to
APS, but it offers a new set of problems, especially that of making
an appropriate template for judging departmental programs that can
provide a fair and equitable competition among departments despite
their size or level of funding. Moreover, as the experiences of the
National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics have demonstrated, evaluation
of a department's undergraduate programs requires a site visit and
on-site discussions with faculty, staff, and students.
This topic continues to be under discussion by FEd and COE. The COE
has appointed a committee to prepare a draft of an award document for
the April 2003 COE meeting. FEd Chair-elect Wolfgang Christian is serving
on this committee. If you have comments on this subject, please send
them to Wolfgang (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. Joint APS/AAPT Sessions at Meetings
Given that one of the missions of the Forum is to bridge the gap between
APS and AAPT, we have been discussing actions that the Forum can take
to promote interactions between the two societies. One means would
be to encourage joint sponsorship of programs at meetings - APS sessions
at AAPT meetings and AAPT sessions at APS meetings. This seems especially
appropriate given the demise of the joint annual meetings of APS and
AAPT. Implementing this suggestion would require volunteers to help
organize these programs. Ideas for sessions appropriate to the various
meetings would also be welcomed. Please respond to me (email@example.com)
If you would be willing to volunteer or if you have a suggestion for
a session topic.
Along these same lines, we want to encourage attendance by members
of each society at the other's meetings. To that end, APS has approved
a plan for the coming April meeting that will permit AAPT members (who
are not members of APS) to receive a special badge at the meeting that
will allow them to attend the four FEd-sponsored education sessions
at the April meeting. A corresponding policy to allow APS members to
attend sessions at the January AAPT meeting (Austin, TX) is under consideration
by the AAPT Executive Board.
3. Teacher certification
From time to time, we become aware of attempts to weaken state requirements
for the certification of K-12 teachers, especially regarding science
and math qualifications. Often this knowledge is forwarded to the APS
Education Office too late in the process for us to have any significant
influence. We would like to establish a national “early warning
network” to provide a timely advance notice of impending state
reviews of teacher certification standards. The plan would be to invite
a few key leaders in these states to a workshop on how to mobilize
state support for strengthening the standards for science teaching.
The FEd database can be used to identify individuals in each state
who have an interest in K-12 education and thus who might be counted
on to become involved in this effort.
This topic will be on the table for discussion at the next meeting
of the Executive Committee. If you have suggestions for implementing
this program, please forward them to Karen Cummings (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or Rick Robinett (email@example.com).
Ken Krane, Professor of Physics at Oregon State University, is Chair
of the Forum on Education. He has previously held a number of positions
in both APS and AAPT.