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The Forum on Education will sponsor a variety of interesting sessions during the March and April 2014 national meetings. Below you will find a brief summary of the sessions sponsored during the meetings. Hopefully, many of our members — and future members — will find the time to participate in these stimulating talks and participate in lively discussion after the talks.
One of the sessions during the March meeting is a continuation and expansion of the 2nd Graduate Education Conference. After an overview of the previous conference, talks will tackle such issues as access to graduate schools for diverse students, the varying curricula and exam structures among graduate schools, the varying admissions processes, as well as non-academic careers.
In the past many sessions dealt with pipeline issues — how do we get students interest in STEM, specifically physics? This time we will sponsor a session that will deal with the 'leaky' pipeline we face in physics. Why do students start out as physics majors, but do not graduate? What are the influences on students' experiences at critical transition points where they can either begin to feel more or less part of the physics community, such as their freshman year in college or the transition to physics graduate school? These talks will help us understand what is most critical at these junctures from a variety of perspectives (including those of related disciplines) as well as providing some practical strategies.
Also at the Denver meeting we have a PER-related session on research-based assessments. These assessments have been created and validated for many physics topics, and for student abilities and beliefs, but it is often unclear how to best use these assessments and interpret the results. In this session we discuss the creation, research validation and best uses for these types of assessments. We will highlight research-based assessments for upper division courses, assessments of student scientific abilities and new online guides to assessment as well as a national database of research-based assessment results and an accompanying data explorer. We also discuss research on how faculty and institutions differ in their views of best practices for assessing students. This session is aimed at helping instructors access and use research-based assessments most effectively.
Our final sponsored session in March will be the inaugural Jonathan Reichert and Barbara Wolff-Reichert Award for Excellence in Advanced Laboratory Instruction. The award winner, Gabe Spalding from Illinois Wesleyan University, will present in this session that overall focuses on how we can prepare students for the transition from instructional to research lab.
We will host five invited sessions during the April meeting in Savannah, GA.
One session will deal with Makerspaces and open innovation laboratories for independent, undergraduate research, which have become quite popular lately. These are also often a place where students can be introduced to and gain first-hand experience in entrepreneurship.
Another session in the April meeting will deal with Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These courses are providing students with new opportunities to acquire a basic knowledge of physics. While the quality, extent, and longevity of the impacts of these courses remains unclear, it is undeniable that we in physics community should be aware of and understand the benefits and risks associated with this transformative method of instruction.
We will host two sessions in Savannah in conjunction with the AAPT. One session deals with Physics in the Life Sciences, and we have a great cohort of speakers lined up. The other AAPT session is entitled: “Readying Physics Departments to Engage in Teacher Preparation and Course Transformation.”
Finally, the Forum will host a session celebrating the winners of the 2013 Excellence in Physics Education Award: David Hestenes and Jane Jackson (both from ASU), and the American Modeling Teachers Association (AMTA).
Lastly, I would encourage everybody to stop by during the business meeting to chat with members of your executive committee. If you have a time conflict, you will have another opportunity, as we will co-host an evening reception together with Committee on the Status of Women in Physics (CSWP)and Committee On Minorities (COM).
Michael Fauerbach is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Florida Gulf Coast University. He is the Chair-Elect of the Forum on Education.
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.