FEd Fall 2001 Newsletter - Member Survey

Spring 2001



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Results of the Member Survey

Ken Lyons, Web Page Administrator >

A member survey was initiated in October on our website. The survey is intended to be an ongoing effort. Members can still access it, and the response records can be modified at any time. Now is a good time to review the results received to date.

At this writing, we have 697 responses, 530 from members. The survey drew nearly as large a web response as our election did last year. The respondents come from 26 countries, and 48 of the 50 states. In this article, I will give numbers from the total responses with the member response in parenthesis, unless otherwise stated.

One of the issues of immediate interest is delivery of the Newsletter. Of the respondents, 413 (404) said that they "always" or "frequently" read the Newsletter. Overall 45% (56%) of the respondents stated a preference for a paper copy. Of the ones stating a preference, the ones who read the Newsletter more frequently tend to prefer paper copies:

Frequency of reading the Newsletter Always Frequently Rarely Never
% preferring paper copy 76% 66% 41% 38%

The significance of the last column is unclear, but there appears to be a strong case for providing both modes of access. Those who pay close attention to FEd matters tend to prefer having the paper copy. But the roughly 15% of the members who "rarely" look at it, might pay more attention when it's available on the web. Presuming that this preference carries over to other members who have yet to fill out the survey (about 85% of our membership), this could mean that the web presence is quite important for these less-involved members. Yet, at the same time, the members who strongly support our activities favor the paper copy quite heavily, so doing away with it entirely may not be the best idea. Our current experiment along those lines is proceeding, so we shall see what future member feedback tells us.

It is interesting to note that among our 45 responding foreign members, fully 80% said that they always or frequently read the Newsletter, and, of those, 72% said that they prefer paper. So even our foreign members, who presumably have a harder time receiving the paper copy, prefer it to web access.

Another area of interest in the survey results has to do with the interests and concerns of our members. I've been able to look over the results and organize them according to the "votes" that various items received. I should hasten to add that this isn't really a voting procedure! If a small group is interested in an item, they can still have an impact, when they get involved. But the survey provides us with some idea of what is important to the members, as well as information as to whom to contact when opportunities for involvement arise. For example, only 27% of our members indicated an interest in political action, but that group could make a big difference if they act in a concerted manner.

In the tables below I'll report only member responses.

What are members interested in or concerned about? The ones receiving the highest responses follow:

Member concerns and interests  top 7

Undergraduate curriculum 427
High school curriculum 273
Professional development of current teachers 255
Graduate level physics education 220
Science content standards 204
Local alliances between teachers and physicists 202
Science teaching standards 183

Among the activities in which our members are involved either as volunteers or professionally, the following areas drew the heaviest responses:

Member Involvement  top 10

Undergraduate curriculum 397
Mentoring undergraduate research 382
Education of K-12 teachers 276
Science Fairs 260
Local high schools 239
Develop demo equipment 221
Weekend or summer science programs 205
APS/AAPT committees 182
Education research 182
Development of funding for student research 168

It appears that a good fraction of the respondents combined the volunteer and professional activities in that section of the questionnaire, so
I don't think we can separate the two categories very easily.

The good news, I think, is that we have a large number of members who are interested and involved in important issues regarding education. The challenge is to find ways to tap into that pool. There is a wealth of information in this survey, and as we go forward it should enable the Executive Committee to target approaches to members based on their interests in various areas. This capability will be important in fulfilling our charter goal of facilitating the involvement of our members in activities that benefit physics education at all levels.

Ken Lyons, a long-time contributor to the Forum, is a physicist at AT&T Research in Florham Park, New Jersey