Report from the Chair of the APS Committee on Education

Peter Collings

The Committee on Education of the APS serves in an advisory role for the President, Executive Board, and APS Council for matters of physics education. It can suggest or supervise initiatives related to physics education, especially those that improve the cooperation between the educational community and other parts of the physics community. The Committee on Education and the Forum work together, with the Committee directing its attention toward policy and the Forum concentrating on activities designed for APS members. The Forum Past Chair, Chair, and Chair-Elect are members of the Committee on Education.

The Committee on Education has taken a couple of steps that are bound to be of interest to Forum members. The first has to do with the importance of a research experience in the undergraduate physics curriculum. While some time ago such experiences were rare, now a large number of physics majors have the opportunity to perform research. The benefits of such research experiences have been measured, and the Committee is convinced that the benefits can be so large that undergraduate research should be given a high priority across the nation. To that end, the Committee on Education adopted the following statement.

The Committee on Education of the American Physical Society calls upon this nation's physics and astronomy departments to provide, as an element of best practice, all undergraduate physics and astronomy majors a significant research experience.

The Committee put a substantial rationale together to further elaborate on the statement. This rationale can found on the APS undergraduate education page.

A second step taken by the Committee concerns the publication of the results of physics education research (PER) in APS journals. Already APS publishes papers in Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research, which is sponsored jointly by the APS, AAPT, and Forum. This highly respected journal provides an excellent opportunity for physics education researchers to communicate the results of their work. So established and so important is some of this work that the question arises whether on rare occasions a PER manuscript might be significant enough for more widespread and more rapid dissemination. The journals Science and Nature have published such articles, and the Committee conferred with the APS Editor-in Chief, Gene Sprouse, about the possibility of publishing a PER article in Physical Review Letters (PRL). The consensus was that it might be possible for an article describing the results of physics education research to reach the level of significance and importance required for publication in PRL. As a result, the Committee on Education adopted the following statement.

Research involving physics and education can rise to the level of importance expected for Physical Review Letters. The Committee on Education urges that such Letters be considered for review, and its members are willing to assist PRL editors in rendering preliminary judgment and identifying reviewers.

Since none of the PRL editors have been assigned the area of physics education research, PER manuscripts submitted to PRL should be sent to the APS Editor-in Chief.

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 APS Committee on Education and Chair 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 APS.