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As the FEd's summer newsletter editor, I am quite excited to present two articles in this to you concerning the establishment of a PER topical group in the APS. While attending the 2011 Winter AAPT meeting, another graduate student claimed that 'I was silly for being suckered into editing the FEd's newsletter because no one reads it.' Later in that day, I was rewarded with a gentleman quoting from an article submitted to the newsletter a few years prior when the topic of a PER topical group in the APS arose during an open meeting. And now, a year later, I am certain the PER community will be reading about this new topical group that is forming.
As a PhD candidate studying physics education, I am quite excited that this new topical group is forming. While studying physics as an undergraduate, I went from an environment that used PER backed curriculum and methodologies; as a graduate student, I was forced to teach laboratories that were cookbook in style and there was no changing this. As an act of desperation for my own sanity, I decided that I wanted to understand better about how learning occurs and how this applies to physics education. So, once I finished my masters degree in physics, I went to my school's department of curriculum and instruction and combined classes there with physics classes to create my PhD degree plan.
The sad fact about this story is that I had to go outside the physics department, with great resistance, to learn about physics education. I was met with comments about how it 'was not a real field,' or how 'there is no science in education.' The most disheartening thing about these types of comments was how it seemed that these professors were dismissing a whole group of their peers in one broad stroke. While looking at the other science departments on campus, there were science educators in their field hired to help make the department better prepare their students; not in physics. What I hope is that departments around the country that have a similar attitude towards PER will begin to see it as its own field. I am hopeful that this topical group may be a step towards that.
University of Dallas