Methods of Surveying Members of FEd and PER-TG on the Creation of an APS PER Topical Group

Eric Brewe, Noah Finkelstein, John Thompson

Determining the interest in creating a Physical Education Research Topical Group in APS
During the January 2011 American Association of Physics Teachers Physics Education Research Topical Group (AAPT PER-TG) Town Hall meeting, the notion of formalizing Physics Education Research as a research field within physics by creating an APS topical group was introduced. A companion article (cite) identifies the goals, benefits and expectations for a Topical Group with APS (GPER), as well as describing the relations with other bodies (AAPT PER-TG and the Forum on Education.) Following on that recommendation, a small group began to pursue the formation of a topical group. At least two criteria are required to form a topical group: 1) a petition with 'signatures' of 200 APS members, and 2) a statement of interest that includes justification of how the topical group will benefit the APS. These items are to be submitted to the APS Constitution & Bylaws Committee and the APS Council. In order to identify community interest and potential signatories in forming a Topical Group within APS, we developed two surveys. The results from these two surveys, one issued to Forum on Education members and another to the AAPT PER-TG members are clear: it is time to pursue a Physics Education Research Topical Group within APS.

Surveying FEd Members
The first survey consisted of six questions and was distributed to the approximately 5,000 members of the Forum on Education in May 2012. The design of the survey was straightforward, members were asked if they supported the creation of a topical group, then were asked if they would provide contact information to be contacted to sign a petition, finally all respondents were offered the opportunity to provide comments on the notion of the topical group. Overall, 358 members of the FEd responded to the survey, two were identified as also having taken the AAPT PER-TG survey and so were counted in that survey. Of the 356 respondents, 309 or 86.8% supported the creation of a topical group. Of these, 270 provided their names and email addresses to be contacted regarding the petition, which far exceeds the number of signatories to a petition to satisfy the requirements for a topical group. In addition, 253 respondents to the survey administered through the FEd indicated that they are interested in joining the topical group. Based on the results of the FEd survey, indications are strong that the topical group will meet the membership requirements within 18 months of formation. We also received 62 comments on the efforts to create a PER topical group, 39 were positive such as, "I think it is important to create this topical group, as it will legitimize PER as a valid area of research for physicists to consider." Another 10 responses encouraged the formation of the topical group to further clarify or maintain good relationships with FEd, "Essential to maintain good collaboration with FEd." Two responses were negative, and two more indicated that there are too many groups within APS already. The sentiment expressed in this survey was strongly positive.

Surveying AAPT PER-TG Members
In addition to surveying FEd members, we developed a survey that was distributed through the AAPT PER-TG listserv. The 153 respondents to this survey were approximately evenly distributed between APS members (74) and non-APS members (77). Seventyfour APS members responded to the AAPT PER-TG survey, prior to analysis people who responded to both surveys were removed. Of the 74 APS members who responded, 72 indicated that they would sign up for the topical group, 71 indicated that they would sign the petition, and 68 provided their name and email address. Between the two surveys, that means 338 members of APS have indicated that they would sign a petition and have provided contact information. In addition to APS members, 77 non-members responded. Of these, 58 indicated that the creation of a PER topical group would make them more likely to join the APS, and 71 of the 77 non-members indicated that an option for joint membership, which is currently not an option, would make them more likely to join.

Both surveys have indicated strong support for the creation of a PER topical group within APS. Further, there is evidence that the APS will benefit from additional membership as a result of the creation of a topical group. The feedback offered through these surveys shows both the areas of strength but also that clarifying the differences between the proposed topical group and the Forum on Education and the relationship with American Association of Physics Teachers are important in the formation of the topical group. A companion article in this newsletter clarifies the distinctions between GPER and the Forum on Education as well as to describes the relationship between the GPER and the AAPT PERTG and outlines the process for moving forward with the GPER.

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 the APS.