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Beth Lindsey, Penn State Greater Allegheny
In June of 2015, 60 members of the Physics Education Research (PER) community gathered at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, for the 6th 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, I was honored to be included among the plenary speakers. Other speakers were: Tim Stelzer (University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign), Homeyra Sadaghiani (Cal Poly Pomona), Warren Christensen (North Dakota State University), Shulamit Kapon (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology), Chandra Turpen (University of Maryland), and Rosemary Russ (University of Wisconsin – Madison). Valerie Otero provided an overview of the themes of the conference and closing remarks on the final day. 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. Conference attendees self-organize into groups that examine particular research interests (Targeted Sessions) or explore current issues in PER. This year, the Working Groups included one that attempted to identify a set of Grand Challenges for the field of PER, one examining how issues of race and ethnicity relate to our roles as educators and education researchers, and one that discussed the role, use and importance of theories in PER. The Targeted Sessions included a group that discussed teaching and research related to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Each of these groups has provided a short write-up of their discussion for this newsletter.
The FFPER conference 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.