Report from the Chair of the APS Committee on Education

Peter Collings

The Committee on Education (CoE) of the APS serves in an advisory role for the President, Executive Board, and APS Council regarding matters of physics education. It suggests and supervises initiatives that improve the cooperation between the educational community and other parts of the physics society. The Committee on Education and the Forum on Education work together, with the Committee directing its attention toward policy and the Forum concentrating on activities designed for APS members. The FEd Past Chair, Chair, and Chair-Elect are members of the Committee on Education.

One issue that CoE has been discussing is the preparation of and continuing support for physics teachers. The APS organizes Teachers’ Days at some of its meetings, inviting local teachers to participate in a program that takes place at the meeting site. While there is good evidence that such a program is an effective one-time activity, it suffers from a lack of follow-through. CoE has recommended to APS that future Teachers’ Days be organized by an educational institution with planning support from APS. The institution could then repeat these programs, hopefully establishing important connections to local physics teachers. Discussion is ongoing at APS about efforts to give this a try.

CoE has been following the work of the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics, which will issue a report in the near future. The findings of this task force will address the commitment to physics teacher preparation of physics departments, schools of education, academic institutions, professional societies, and funding agencies, as well as suggesting ways to increase the quality and capacity of programs for the professional development of physics teachers. CoE is working to ensure that this report will get widespread dissemination.

A successful Conference for Directors of Graduate Studies was held in 2008 and the findings of that conference can be downloaded from the graduate education page of the APS website. CoE has endorsed these findings and has also decided to initiate planning for a second conference in 2012. CoE members Chandralekha Singh (at the University of Pittsburgh) and Marvin Marshak (at the University of Minnesota) are leading the process. Organizing and Steering Committees are being formed and NSF is being approached in hopes of securing funding. APS is already running a listserver for Directors of Graduate Studies.

Peter Collings is the Morris L. Clothier Professor of Physics in the Swarthmore College Department of Physics & Astronomy. His research specialties are liquid crystals, light scattering, self-assembly of biologically important molecules, and supramolecular chemistry. He is Past-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.