2006 Area Committee Reports (Page 2)

Professional Concerns
Research in Physics Education
Science Education for the Public
Space Science and Astronomy
Teacher Preparation (Temporary)
Women in Physics

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2006 Committee on Professional Concerns

The Committee’s primary goal for the past year has been to find a proactive way to serve the members of our organization better.

The committee decided to cosponsor and facilitate cracker-barrels (CBs) on the “Professional Concerns of...” the various subsets of the AAPT community. The intent of the PCC is that these CBs be solution-focused not just open-ended opportunities for complaining. The committee cosponsored one of these CBs at WM06 (Anchorage) and four more at SM06 (Syracuse); certainly common areas of complaint were identified but more importantly, solutions were shared, ad hoc committees were formed, and action plans were created. Typically, Committee Chairs associated with the group were present; they took notes to monitor follow-through and collected information for future use by their committees. These CBs have proven more popular than we ever imagined with most groups requesting the CBs be held at least annually. Much has been accomplished and many positive results have come from these CBs; I found it personally satisfying when real life solutions to long-standing issues were shared member to member.

In addition to the “Professional Concerns of...” CBs the PCC sponsored:
  • Session T03: The SENCER Project and Civic Engagement in the Physics Curriculum at WM06 (Anchorage). It appears there was only one participant. We intend to advertise this session better for future meetings.
  • Session AJ: Applications of Physics in Medicine at SM06 (Syracuse). There were three knowledgeable and interesting speakers and the session was well attended.
Recommendations for the Board
  • As the result of a discussion on dealing w/being graded by students, we recommend that the board offer or promote faculty-teaching awards that are voted on by students at their fifth-year reunion.
  • After discussing how to attract more university faculty to AAPT we recommend that the board seek NSF funding to cover awards to be given to REU and RET mentors so they can present at AAPT national meetings.
  • Other recommendations for the board were discussed at the various CBs. It was left to the committee responsible for that group to contact the board.
The PCC will continue sponsoring the CBs and to mine them for session ideas for future meetings. We conducted two CBs WM07 (Seattle). We are scheduled to conduct nine CBs at SM07 (Greensboro) and five more CBs at WM08 (Baltimore) plus a panel discussion and two tutorials. In addition, we are in the process of rewriting our mission statement.

The PCC wishes to thank Lila Adair and Harvey Leff for their invaluable support of the committee’s new CB approach to addressing professional concerns.

—Dean Hudek, Chair

Review Board Response
The initiative by this committee to develop a series of cracker-barrel sessions at national meetings in cooperation with other area committees appears to have been well received by AAPT members and area committees. This initiative reflects good collaboration among our committees with our members as beneficiaries of this effort.

The suggestion that AAPT encourage faculty teaching awards based on alumni feedback would be an interesting new effort for the organization. This idea needs more discussion by the committee with some attention being paid to any existing efforts at universities to obtain alumni feedback on the quality of their teaching and educational experiences.

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2006 Committee on Research in Physics Education

Only a few years ago, the Physics Education Research (PER) community was small enough to make decisions by having a few dozen people sit in a room together and talk. The community has outgrown this homey approach to decision making—not only in its size, but also in its intellectual and institutional diversity, as well as in the complexity and significance of the decisions it makes. This year, the first Physics Education Research Leadership and Organizing Council (PERLOC) was elected in response to the need for a representative leadership group for the PER community. PERLOC’s constituency is the Physics Education Research Topical Group (PERTG) of AAPT, the first such topical group within this organization. PERLOC has six elected members (Noah Finkelstein, Stephen Kanim, Lillian McDermott, Valerie Otero, E. F. Redish, and Michael Wittmann) plus the chair of the AAPT Committee on Research in Physics Education, who is a voting member ex officio. PERLOC is enjoined to undertake whatever leadership and organizing activities are pressing for the community. Among the most pressing of these are the organization of the annual Physics Education Research Conference (PERC) and the publication of a newsletter informing the community of events and news relevant to PER. PERLOC invites members of the community to identify other important issues, and is developing channels to facilitate communication between PERLOC and the members of PERTG. PERLOC does not replace the AAPT Committee on Research in Physics Education (RiPE), whose members are appointed by AAPT. PERLOC and RiPE work closely together on matters significant to the AAPT PER community.

In 2006, RiPE-sponsored sessions at national meetings presented new techniques in quantitative assessment, explored the application of cognitive models to instructional development, and compared theoretical perspectives in physics education research. Workshops included long-running, consistently popular workshops on which the AAPT community has come to depend as well as new workshops introducing the community to innovative topics, techniques, and instructional environments. Workshops and invited sessions are among the PER community’s primary venues for communication and dissemination, and one of RiPE’s most difficult challenges is the demand for and capacity to deliver more high-quality workshops than we are currently allotted to present. Organizers have been experimenting with new formats to try to work within the present constraints; for example, two organizers volunteered to try offering their workshops as special-format “invited sessions” during the 2007 Summer Meeting (Greensboro) rather than as official workshops. We hope to work with AAPT as workshop and invited session allotments are re-valuated for the future.

The 2006 PERC, held this summer in Syracuse, had as its theme “Discipline-Based Education Research in Other STEM Disciplines” and featured keynote speakers in chemistry, biology, math, astronomy, and geoscience. Organizers Steve Kanim, Michael Loverude, Chandralekha Singh, and Rebecca Lindell sustained the innovative session formats explored in previous years, including targeted poster sessions and roundtable discussions. In other conference news, the second Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research (FFPER) conference is planned for the summer of 2007. The week-long residential meeting, endorsed by RiPE, AAPT, PERLOC, and the APS Forum on Education, provides a unique forum for examining and articulating the current state of the field, exploring future directions, and discussing ways to pursue the most promising avenues for future research. Organizers Michael Wittmann, Paula Heron, and Rachel Scherr hope that plenary speakers this year will include international physics education researchers in addition to those from North America.

Publication venues in PER continue to grow. The AIP publication of the Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference has greatly increased access to past manuscripts as well as current ones. The new Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research has published 20 articles in three online volumes since its inception in 2005; 14 of these were published in 2006, out of 38 manuscripts received (a 37% acceptance rate). The editors continue to welcome submission of high-quality manuscripts as the journal becomes more established.

Amidst new forms of self-governance, new and continuing conferences, emerging publication venues, and continued growth, the PER community continues to enjoy a productive and convivial relationship with AAPT. We look forward to continuing this productivity as AAPT strives to become the leading voice in physics education.

—Rachel Scherr, Chair

Review Board Response

The Committee on Research in Physics Education (RiPE) is part of the larger PER community, which has grown impressively in recent years. This has given rise to the formation of a topical group (PERTG) and the election of a Physics Education Research Leadership and Organizing council (PERLOC). It is clear that PERLOC is a much needed stronger and more representative leadership group than RiPE can be. It is not entirely clear what RiPE's involvement, if any, will be with the PERC and the corresponding newsletter. PER is an important, indeed essential, element of AAPT and is fulfilling its mission well by organizing and implementing a variety of high quality activities.

RiPE's mission statement calls for it to "encourage and follow research on the teaching and learning of physics and related topics" and it did this admirably in 2006.

Through its workshops and sessions at national meetings, it has addressed in part RiPE’s goals to:
  • Help keep the AAPT membership and the broader science teaching community aware of new and current understanding of how and why students learn, and ways of improving instruction, including the appropriate use of new tools and technologies"
  • "Encourage both the use of the outcomes of research and the doing of formal and informal research in the physics classroom and laboratory"
  • "Encourage recognition of research in physics education as a valid area of inquiry within physics departments"
Recommendations for the Future
  • The Review Committee recommends that RiPE continue to do more of the good things it has been doing.
  • Additionally, it is recommended that RiPE consider a collaborative effort with the Committee on Educational Technology to deliver a pilot workshop via the Internet. If successful, this could substantially increase the number of potential teachers who learn how PER can help them.
  • We recommend that RiPE consider planning a special issue of Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research that focuses on selected papers presented at the PERC. Such an issue of this online journal could be publicized in AAPT NEWS and perhaps in the APS Forum on Education Newsletter. This could dramatically expand the audience that reads about PER.
  • The goals of RiPE would be well served by an active RiPE website, but the report does not contain mention of one. We recommend that RiPE consider the establishment of a website devoted to PER. Perhaps this could be done through ComPADRE, which has the ability to handle large collections of documents.

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2006 Committee on Science Education for the Public

The Committee on Science Education for the Public (CSEP) is committed to conveying physics concepts and the importance of science instruction to the general public. Committee members have been active in 2006 in follow-up and continuing activities associated with the World Year of Physics (WYP). Our primary method for achieving our goal is to provide AAPT members and the physics community information and support through workshops and sessions organized by committee members. To this end, the CSEP has organized sessions, workshops, and cracker-barrels to address societal issues, and to support science outreach efforts and science education for the general public.

Events focusing on societal issues include the ever-popular sessions and cracker-barrels on "Physics and Society Education," as well as sessions on "Physics and Art/Art and Physics," and "Energy and the Environment." Workshops on societal issues include "The Population Game," based on the problems associated with the exponential growth of the human population, and a workshop on the "Science of Information Technology." Events focusing on science outreach and public education include cracker-barrels on "Contemplating a Physics on the Road Handbook" and "WYP Outreach Retrospective." Workshops focusing on science outreach and public education include "Civic Engagement and Service Learning," "Make Your Own Haunted Physics Lab," "Physics and Toys II," "Energy Momentum," "Electricity and Magnetism," "Fluid Instabilities in the Kitchen and in the Ocean," "Physics on the Road," and "Not Your Usual PowerPoint"—a how-to workshop on presentations. CSEP members were also involved in the public physics demonstration show at the 2006 Summer Meeting (Syracuse).

In addition to direct service to the AAPT membership, the CSEP has committed to providing the physics community with resources to support physics outreach. The CSEP is in the process of developing a Wikipedia "How-To Guide for Physics Outreach," hosted on COMPADRE.
—Steve Shropshire, Chair

Review Board Response

Although the greater part of this committee's efforts has focused on sessions and workshops, it must be noted that this is really a two-pronged effort, one prong focusing on outreach to educate the public, the other devoted to educating students on the interaction of physics and society. This leads to two strands of workshops and sessions that enrich our national meetings. The most prominent 2006 accomplishment of the Committee on Science Education for the Public in addition to sessions and workshops was its working to develop a "How-to Guide for Physics Outreach" on ComPADRE, and this is highly commended by the Review Board. At the same time, the Physics on the Road handbook, previously considered as a project to be funded, now seems to be shifted to the status of "contemplation"; is there a retrenchment in the thinking about this project?

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2006 Committee on Space Science and Astronomy

The Committee on Space Science and Astronomy (CSSA) has been fortunate to have a high degree of interest and support in recent years, and 2006 was no exception. Workshops and sessions for both meetings were well attended, and more sessions and workshops were proposed than could be accommodated by the committee. Regular sessions such as "Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science" and "Innovations in Teaching Astronomy" continue to be popular offerings.

A sample of CSSA sponsored or co-sponsored workshops offered in 2006 includes topics on analyzing supernovae remnants (Donna Young, Chandra X-Ray Observatory); using technology to effectively teach astronomy (Kevin Lee, University of Nebraska); and teaching cosmic evolution using Voyages Through Time (Mary Kadooka, University of Hawaii). Sample sessions include the aforementioned Frontiers and Innovations, as well as “Conceptual Understanding of Astronomical Phenomena” (Presider Rebecca Lindell, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville). There were also a number of cracker-barrel and town hall meetings held to encourage the continued interactions of astronomy education researchers and astronomy instructors.

The 2007 Winter Meeting (Seattle), to be held in conjunction with the American Astronomical Society, will be an especially exciting one for the CSSA. We will be sponsoring or co-sponsoring a session in nearly every time slot throughout the meeting. We are pleased to report that interest in space science and astronomy remains strong among the AAPT membership and that astronomical subjects continue to be recognized as a way of teaching physics concepts in an exciting context.

—Janelle M. Bailey, Chair

Review Board Response

The Committee on Space Science and Astronomy (CSSA) was very active in 2006, and its work was of high quality. Much of the Committee's efforts focused on sessions and workshops at national meetings. We encourage the CSSA to seek ways to reach out to AAPT members and potential members who do not attend national meetings.

The CSSA's mission statement cites the objective, "To strengthen and maintain contacts with national organizations concerned with space science and astronomy and the teaching thereof." Although no evidence of work with other such organizations was presented for year 2006, the joint 2007 Winter Meeting with AAS provided a good opportunity for interactions with AAS.

Another mission statement goal is "To provide AAPT members with a perspective on current space science and astronomy research through 'Frontiers in Space Science and Astronomy' sessions. The CSSA's work arranging sessions and workshops at national meetings was excellent and well received. The CSSA is commended for these activities.

A third goal is "To promote excellence in teaching astronomy by: (a) Sponsoring hands-on workshops that introduce the latest in computer software and observational techniques taught in labs; (b) Holding sessions that provide information on resources for teaching materials; on successful and unsuccessful curricula developments; on research in teaching; and on the interrelationships between astronomy and other disciplines; and (c) Working with sister committees to promote areas of joint interest." The CSSA sponsored an exciting array of workshops at national meetings and also cracker-barrel sessions to promote discussions among interested faculty. The CSSA's efforts to address items (a) and (b) are praiseworthy. No evidence was provided to support item (c).

Recommendations for the Future
  • While its work arranging sessions, workshops, and crackerbarrel sessions at national meetings has been excellent, the CSSA should seek ways in which it can serve the many AAPT members who do not attend all national meetings regularly.
  • The CSSA's interactions with "national organizations concerned with space science and astronomy and the teaching thereof" should not be limited to joint meetings with AAS. The CSSA is encouraged to seek ways to more consistently address this element of its mission statement.
  • It would be good if the CSSA "work(ed) with sister committees to promote areas of joint interest."

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2006 Committee on Teacher Preparation

The Committee on Teacher Preparation had open meetings at the 2006 Winter Meeting (Anchorage) and Summer Meeting (Syracuse). Attendance at the meetings (Anch., 27; Syra., 40+) included most committee members, and new faces and friends of the committee. Meetings began and ended as scheduled. Agendas were distributed before each meeting and informal meeting minutes afterward through our listserv.

Attendance at our sponsored sessions has been encouraging with strong response to our calls for papers and posters. We continue to collaborate with other committees (HS, PREHS, UGED & RIPE) to showcase teacher preparation and to provide a strong and varied program for AAPT meetings. After a successful pilot in Syracuse we continue to offer poster sessions that consist of a single invited talk, introduction of posters, conversations with poster presenters and a summative discussion all in one room. These sessions will move to invited posters in the same format for the 2007 Summer Meeting (Greensboro).

In Anchorage we cosponsored four workshops and one session, "Reducing Teacher Isolation: Induction and Mentoring." Sessions in Syracuse included, "Innovations in Physics Teacher Preparation" and "Engaging the Community in the Preparation of Teachers of Physics." Two new workshops, which will be repeated at future meetings, were also offered.

Several committee members and friends have been working under the leadership of Pat Callahan with the High School Committee to revise the AAPT document, “The Role, Education and Qualifications of the High School Physics Teacher.” The committee's connection to the PhysTEC project and PTEC, now numbering over 50 institutions, remains very strong. Several committee members were presenters at local section meetings, the 2006 PTEC conference at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and the NSTA National Conference in Anaheim, CA.

We are pleased that the AAPT Board looked favorably at the committee’s request for the establishment and support of a Joint (AAPT, AIP, APS) National Task Force the Physical Science Preparation of K-12 Teachers. A small planning group met at the winter meeting in Seattle to refine the scope of work and to develop a timeline and process to identify the Task Force members.

Finally, we continue the effort to keep committee members and “friends” of the committee informed by posting: current articles and reports, reminders of deadlines and the "minutes" of the committee meetings to the ctp-l listserv. More than 350 “friends” of the committee have joined the active list that now includes our colleagues in PTEC. Many thoughtful and interesting discussions have taken place with over 600 messages posted this year.

—Paul Hickman, Chair

Review Board Response

Under organized and experienced leadership, this committee has evinced many areas of strength —in attendance at its meetings, membership and activity of its listserv; joint efforts with other AAPT committees; and interest in joint efforts with sister organizations; as well as the more customary provision for sessions and workshops at national meetings. The richness and diversity of the outreach of the Committee on Teacher Preparation holds this committee up as a symbol of what a committee can be as part of a more active and coherent AAPT. This merits the highest commendation from the Review Board.

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2006 Committee on Women in Physics

The year 2006 has been a year of renewal and strengthening of the Committee on Women in Physics. We began the year in Anchorage, Alaska, with a small but dedicated turnout. Sessions such as “Gender Issues in Science Education,” “Contributions of Women in Physics in Alaska,” and speaker DeeDee Jonrowe, a former and current Iditarod competitor (who, by the way, finished fourth in March 2006) drew much interest and conversation. We were able to discuss, in length, issues of importance in physics education and to our committee. Conditions for teaching in Alaska are truly unique in the American educational system, where distances between towns is vast and the term rural means "no road" and "off the electrical grid." Planning for our 25th Anniversary celebration at the 2006 Summer Meeting (Syracuse) was finalized, and action items for our committee (setting up a new web page, reviving the listserv, and strengthening ties with other women in science organizations) were identified.

Early in the year our listserv was reactivated, providing broader dissemination of committee information and activities, and inclusion of more friends in our discussion process. We now have nearly 50 members on our list, and hope to improve the activity and discussion within the list over the next few years.

The Syracuse meeting was well-attended and brought issues of women in physics into the spotlight with our 25th Anniversary celebration. In keeping with our goals of strengthening ties with other societies, an informational table was set up that highlighted the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics’ poster display of "Women Doing Physics," and displayed brochures from other women’s groups, most notably the Society of Women Engineers and the Association for Women in Science. Long-time friend and former member of the committee, Betty Preece, spearheaded this effort. Our invited session, “Celebrating Women’s Leadership,” brought together Judy Franz, Karen Johnston, and Ruth Howes to talk about their leadership experiences and how we can promote women into leadership positions in the future. This was a well-attended session with a lively and lengthy discussion afterward. In addition, Jocelyn Bell Burnell gave a wonderful plenary talk on her discovery of pulsars, leading to a Nobel Prize (though not awarded to her!), and was notably visible at many of our activities during the meeting.

Lauren Jones’ experience on the AP Physics Course Validation Panel came to an end this year and she presented a summary of their findings. The result of this work is that the College Board has come up with a list of “best practices” in teaching physics, as exemplified by several specific (unnamed) college physics courses, by which to compare high school AP physics courses. How they will use these findings remains to be seen.

This year comes to a close with a series of Letters to the Editor countering an earlier article in Physics Today magazine informing us (once again) of the low numbers of women in physics and engineering disciplines. These letters asked, "why should we care if more men choose physics as a career than women?" and asserted that "the playing field for women in physics has been level for quite some time now." Perhaps we still have work to do!

—Margaret P. Hill, Chair

Review Board Response

The Committee on Women in Physics (CWIP) was very active in 2006, and its work was of high quality. Its sessions at national meetings were excellent. The lecture by DeeDee Jonrowe at the Multicultural Luncheon in Anchorage was exceptional. The activities and energy of the CWIP deserve high praise, and the Committee is encouraged to work toward broadening its reach within AAPT.

To the extent that its sessions at national meetings and listserv achieve awareness of women's issues, the CWIP addresses its mission statement's goal to "seek more effective means of recruitment and retention of women in physics classes and physics-related careers." Yet, there are many more AAPT members and potential members who are unaware of the CWIP's activities because only 10-15% of AAPT members attend national meetings.

At present, the CWIP mission statement's goal "to seek methods of aiding women in physics in career development." is met to a degree by sessions at national meetings and the CWIP listserv.

The goal "communicate to the AAPT membership and to the community at large the findings of the Committee, through approved AAPT channels" is addressed in part by the CWIP's excellent sessions at national meetings. The listserv can in principle reach other members as well, though it is unclear that this is the case at present. More exposure would be good, as indicated above.

Recommendations for the Future
  • While its work arranging sessions at national meetings has been excellent, it would be good for CWIP to seek ways in which it can serve more AAPT members who do not attend national meetings regularly, and perhaps to even attract new members. In particular, the CWIP should seek ways to publicize its listserv to more members. While 50 subscribers is a good start, there is potential for considerable growth. The planned website enhancement should help in this regard. Perhaps the CWIP could submit news items for AAPT NEWS.
  • The CWIP is encouraged expand its efforts to "communicate to the AAPT membership and to the community at large the findings of the Committee, through approved AAPT channels." Presently available channels are AAPT.org, the journals (AJP and TPT) and the new magazine Interactions. Use of these channels was not evident in the 2006 Annual Report, so much opportunity exists.
  • The cited letters in Physics Today suggest that it might be good for the CWIP to coordinate a letter-writing campaign. Perhaps this should be an ongoing effort.
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