APS News

December 2018 (Volume 27, Number 11)

What Works in Physics Teaching?

By Leah Poffenberger

In October, APS received a $10 million grant for the Inclusive Graduate Education Network, in collaboration with other scientific societies including the American Chemical Society and the American Geophysical Union (see APS News, October 2018). Now another APS collaboration, this time with the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), aimed at improving undergraduate physics education has received substantial support from the National Science Foundation.

“Physics programs are all required to undergo external review—often because of requirements of their school’s accreditation. APS would like to use this process to improve student learning,” said Theodore Hodapp, Director of Project Development at APS. “We’re creating a guide to be a place to shop for ideas on how to improve the health of a program or solve common problems.”

The Effective Practices for Physics Programs (EP3) project has secured a 5-year $2.2 million grant from NSF to produce a guide of effective educational practices for use by physics departments across the country. The resulting EP3 Guide will collect experiences from the broader physics community to enrich undergraduate education with proven methods of education and assessment.

"The purpose of the EP3 Project and the Guide it is creating is to gather research-based knowledge, tools, and information in one place and in an easily accessible format to assist department chairs and other program leaders to meet challenges physics departments face,” said David Craig, EP3 Project Co-Chair and Physics Professor at Le Moyne College in New York and at Oregon State University. “Whether the task is increasing the number of physics majors, improving departmental climate and inclusivity, implementing effective learning assessment, introducing research-based pedagogical practices into physics classrooms, or preparing for program review, the EP3 Guide will synthesize the research and collective experience of the physics community and help make that up-to-date know-how readily available as part of the toolkit of every physics department in the US.”

The effort to create the EP3 Guide originated in 2016 with the Best Practices in Undergraduate Physics Programs Task Force that began developing a self-assessment guide for undergraduate physics programs under the oversight of the APS Committee on Education. The EP3 Guide will include both metrics for physics departments to evaluate themselves and a set of effective practices based on the latest education research. This guide aims to address specific challenges within physics as a whole that may not be considered by individual, independent departments, such as diversity issues and under-production of qualified physics teachers.

“We believe this project has the potential to transform how physics departments engage students in their education,” said Michael Jackson, EP3 Project Co-Chair and Dean of the College of Science and Technology at Millersville University. “The EP3 guide will assist departments in the ongoing review and improvement of their individual programs within the context, and constraints, of their local environment. This guide will gather practices from a range of resources and national reports, deemed effective by the disciplinary community and informed through current research, into one location so that department chairpersons and other program leaders can readily identify initiatives they would like to pursue along with strategies for their implementation.”

For more information see the EP3 website at the Effective Practices page.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik

December 2018 (Volume 27, Number 11)

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Articles in this Issue
Plan S Tries to Flip the Open Access Switch
APS Membership Unit Profile: The Division of Biological Physics
Applied Physics with Fundamental Foundations
Argonne National Laboratory Named APS Historic Site
What Works in Physics Teaching?
First Recipients of the Irwin Oppenheim Award
Toast with Jam and Quantum Mechanics
Dramatic Drops and Fascinating Flows: the 2018 Gallery of Fluid Motion
International News
This Month in Physics History
Profiles in Versatility
The APS Office of Government Affairs
FYI: Science Policy News From AIP
The Back Page