|The Forum has made excellent progress in furthering the mission laid out in its charter: to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge regarding the inter-relation of physics, physicists and education" and to involve our members in activities related to physics education. Our members are from industrial, academic, research, and policy communities, and distributed fairly uniformly across the other topical divisions of the APS, showing that across the discipline, we realize the importance of education! |
The FEd's new initiative to sponsor an annual session at a national meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) kicks off with an invited session organized by the Division of Physics of Beams (DPB) at the 2004 AAPT summer meeting in Sacramento CA. This session, held on August 2, will present a wide-ranging comprehensive picture of different aspects of beam physics and accelerators and their applications to a diverse range of research areas. Free education materials will be provided. Outstanding experts in the field will give the five talks: Eighty Years of Particle Accelerators. (Andrew M. Sessler, Center for Beam Physics, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory); Modern Accelerators: How they are built, why they are built and their future (Alvin V. Tollestrup, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory); Medical Applications of Accelerators (Arlene J. Lennox, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory); Accelerators to make Electricity-- An Overview of Heavy-Ion-Driven Fusion (C.M. Celata, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Heavy Ion Fusion Virtual National Laboratory); Accelerator Mass Spectrometry: Isotopic Science Tools from Archaeology to Zoology (Jay C. Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.) The talks will be followed by a reception sponsored by the APS Forum on Education
If your division would like to participate in a future year, please contact me.
When I was first elected as a FEd Executive Committee Member-at-Large, I made a number of statements about what I thought we needed to do to strengthen physics in this country. I have been involved in a number of projects to address these needs (see my related article in this issue). The idea of these projects has been that a small number of institutions would put in a lot of work, so that other institutions could adopt ideas, methods or materials once the bugs were worked out. Everything eventually has to be fine-tuned to work locally, but it is a lot easier to fix something than to start from scratch. Basically physics is something everybody needs to know something about; we complain about the quality of the students who come into our classrooms, but we don't take every opportunity we can to improve the preparation of the teachers who send us those students. No matter how good the science methods class is that future teachers take, it is hard to believe it could undo the damage done in many institutions where the classes for non-majors are poor cousins to the classes for "our" students. As Rush Holt said a few years ago when he was the FEd Chair, developing a more "student-centered" learning tradition can only help physics as a discipline. He also admitted the changes might be difficult for us to accept and to implement.
As States work on mandated achievement testing, there need to be physics experts on the panels. If we want what was proposed in the APS Statement on Student Assessment and Science (passed by the Council back in 2001) to happen, we have to be willing to build a few bridges: Science must be included in any mandated program of educational assessment. Science, well learned, is a requirement for the workforce of the 21st Century as well as for informed citizenship. Further, it is well documented that assessment influences what is taught, both in terms of hours spent and in the nature of classroom activity. Any testing or assessment should be designed so that it not only encourages time spent on science but also motivates teaching methods that recognize that science is more than a body of facts. Students must also learn the methods of observation and experimentation and the modes of thinking that are used to discover and test scientific knowledge.
If the tests were actually to be so designed, the teachers would have to be well prepared, which means we would get more students interested in science in our classes.
Gay B. Stewart, FEd Chair, is Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She is Site Director of the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC), Director of the University's Physics Department Preparing Future Faculty Program and Co-director of the Arkansas Precision Education Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone (479) 575-2408.