FEd Fall 2002 Newsletter - Chair's Column

Fall 2002



Previous Newsletters

Current Issue

Contact the Editor

Chair's Column

Ken Krane

I would like to take this opportunity to use the Chair's column to bring Forum on Education members up to date on three issues that are under discussion by the Forum Executive Committee and to encourage comments by members on these issues.

1. APS Award in Physics Education

Of the thirty-some awards and prizes presented by the APS, none is specifically made to recognize accomplishments in physics education. To many individuals it is contradictory for the APS to promote programs in physics education and to encourage its members to participate in such programs but not to reward such efforts with an annual award prize that is on a par with those made for accomplishments in research. On the other hand, it seems difficult to craft an award that is differentiated from similar awards that are made by the AAPT. Both the Forum on Education and the Committee on Education have discussed this issue for the past two years with no agreement on award guidelines that would be unique to APS nor on how to fund such an award.

Recently an alternative suggestion was proposed - to make an annual APS award for accomplishments in physics education by a physics department, rather than by an individual. This proposal is certainly unique to APS, but it offers a new set of problems, especially that of making an appropriate template for judging departmental programs that can provide a fair and equitable competition among departments despite their size or level of funding. Moreover, as the experiences of the National Task Force on Undergraduate Physics have demonstrated, evaluation of a department's undergraduate programs requires a site visit and on-site discussions with faculty, staff, and students.

This topic continues to be under discussion by FEd and COE. The COE has appointed a committee to prepare a draft of an award document for the April 2003 COE meeting. FEd Chair-elect Wolfgang Christian is serving on this committee. If you have comments on this subject, please send them to Wolfgang (wochristian@davidson.edu).

2. Joint APS/AAPT Sessions at Meetings

Given that one of the missions of the Forum is to bridge the gap between APS and AAPT, we have been discussing actions that the Forum can take to promote interactions between the two societies. One means would be to encourage joint sponsorship of programs at meetings - APS sessions at AAPT meetings and AAPT sessions at APS meetings. This seems especially appropriate given the demise of the joint annual meetings of APS and AAPT. Implementing this suggestion would require volunteers to help organize these programs. Ideas for sessions appropriate to the various meetings would also be welcomed. Please respond to me (kranek@physics.orst.edu) If you would be willing to volunteer or if you have a suggestion for a session topic.

Along these same lines, we want to encourage attendance by members of each society at the other's meetings. To that end, APS has approved a plan for the coming April meeting that will permit AAPT members (who are not members of APS) to receive a special badge at the meeting that will allow them to attend the four FEd-sponsored education sessions at the April meeting. A corresponding policy to allow APS members to attend sessions at the January AAPT meeting (Austin, TX) is under consideration by the AAPT Executive Board.

3. Teacher certification

From time to time, we become aware of attempts to weaken state requirements for the certification of K-12 teachers, especially regarding science and math qualifications. Often this knowledge is forwarded to the APS Education Office too late in the process for us to have any significant influence. We would like to establish a national “early warning network” to provide a timely advance notice of impending state reviews of teacher certification standards. The plan would be to invite a few key leaders in these states to a workshop on how to mobilize state support for strengthening the standards for science teaching. The FEd database can be used to identify individuals in each state who have an interest in K-12 education and thus who might be counted on to become involved in this effort.

This topic will be on the table for discussion at the next meeting of the Executive Committee. If you have suggestions for implementing this program, please forward them to Karen Cummings (cummingsk2@southernct.edu) or Rick Robinett (rick@phys.psu.edu).

Ken Krane, Professor of Physics at Oregon State University, is Chair of the Forum on Education. He has previously held a number of positions in both APS and AAPT.