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According to the Bylaws, the objective of the Forum on Education is the advancement and diffusion of knowledge regarding the inter-relation of physics, physicists, and education. In addition, the Forum provides opportunities for members to discuss and get involved with matters of physics education. From my perspective, the Forum does a good job on the “discussion” part by organizing high quality sessions at APS meetings and by producing an informative newsletter. But the Forum does not do as good a job on the “involvement” part. It is true that many APS members help organize sessions, a smaller number of APS members contribute to or help put together the Forum newsletter, but that’s about it. Therefore my priorities for the coming year are to maintain the quality of the sessions and newsletters, and to increase the involvement of APS members in physics education activities.
How might this be accomplished? We need to develop mechanisms to involve APS members in activities of any of the professional organizations that are concerned with physics education (APS, AAPT, AIP, SPS, etc.). This might be a simple program that links local APS members with schools using PhysicsQuest curricular materials. Involving APS members with local AAPT activities like section meetings or teacher continuing education workshops is another possibility. In a slightly different direction, the results of physics education research grow each year. Perhaps the Forum can help provide easy access for APS members to both PER materials and PER physicists, including information on PER physicists who work close to interested APS members.
Given the volunteer nature of the Forum, it is going to be impossible to make major headway on all of these endeavors in one year. But if a few can be started in a way that their effectiveness grows over time, the Forum will be closer to fulfilling its objective.
Peter Collings is the Morris L. Clothier Professor of Physics in the Swarthmore College Department of Physics and Astronomy. His research specialties are liquid crystals, light scattering, self-assembly of biologically important molecules, and supramolecular chemistry. He is Chair of the Forum on Education and the APS Committee on Education.