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Beth Lindsey, Penn State Greater Allegheny
In June of 2013, 60 members of the Physics Education Research (PER) community gathered at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, for the 5th biennial “Foundations and Frontiers in Physics Education Research” (FFPER) conference. First held in 2005, and modeled after the Gordon Conferences, this meeting is a “venue for specialists who are active researchers in the field of physics education.” Talks at the conference are all in a plenary format, typically addressing the speaker’s take on the major accomplishments of the field of PER (Foundations) or describing possibly promising research directions (Frontiers). This year, the plenaries included talks by Steve Kanim (New Mexico State University), David Meltzer (Arizona State University), Laurence Viennot (Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7), Noah Podolefsky (University of Colorado-Boulder), Eleanor Sayre (Kansas State University), Steve Pollock (University of Colorado-Boulder), Suzanne Brahmia (Rutgers University), Mila Kryjevskaia (North Dakota State University), and Charles Henderson (Western Michigan University). The plenary sessions are followed by coffee breaks and discussion sessions in which attendees engage deeply with the speakers and with each other.
Afternoons at the conference are spent in smaller sessions. In the past, these sessions have taken the form of Working Groups (addressing current issues in PER as identified by the conference organizers) and Targeted Sessions (exploring specific research topics). This year, the working groups were self-organizing: Conference attendees identified topics of mutual interest and formed collaborative groups to discuss or otherwise engage with these issues. One working group this year addressed some of the goals and possible activities for the new APS Topical Group in Physics Education Research. Another addressed Diversity issues in physics and in PER. Both of these working groups produced reports that are included in this newsletter.
Another novel feature of the 2013 conference was the Graduate Research Symposium. Modeled after graduate schools in Europe, the symposium gave graduate students the opportunity to share their research with one another and with faculty mentors. In this newsletter, Abigail Daane and Paula Heron share their experiences of the symposium from the perspective of graduate student and faculty mentor, respectively.
The FFPER continues to exist and flourish in part because of the financial support of the Forum on Education, and I believe that I speak for all of the conference attendees in my gratitude for that support. As a member of the PER community, I value the FFPER as a space in which to immerse myself in current research and to form connections and collaborations with other members of the community.
Beth Lindsey is an Assistant Professor of Physics at Penn State Greater Allegheny, outside of Pittsburgh. She conducts research in Physics Education, with a particular emphasis on student understanding of energy at the introductory level.
Disclaimer – The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.