AAPT Committee on Physics in Undergraduate Education

2004 Annual Report

The central mission of the committee is to enhance the quality of, and student enjoyment of, physics learning throughout the undergraduate years. During the year 2004, we pursued this goal through two main channels -- (1) the organization of interesting and productive sessions and workshops at the national meetings, and (2) preparation of a full draft version of a new document entitled "'Guidelines for Self-Study and External Evaluation of Undergraduate Physics Programs." This new version of such guidelines was prepared in collaboration with the Committee on Professional Concerns, with Ruth Howes as the primary representative of that Committee.

In arranging presentations or workshops at national meetings, we have paid attention to spanning the full range of the undergraduate curriculum -- from the introductory course throughout the four years of undergraduate work. Coverage has often been achieved through co-sponsorship with other Area Committees -- for sessions such as "Einstein's Miracle Year" or "Mentoring Undergraduates in Research", and workshops with titles such as "Reaching, Teaching and Keeping Under-represented Groups in Physics," "Exploring contemporary physics in introductory University Physics" or "Teaching QM with Physlets and Open Source Physics."

Topics which remain of importance to us, but not yet in a form ready for widespread illumination concern (1) the usefulness of the physics component of the Graduate Record Exam, (2) The effects of the ABET guidelines on physics teaching, and (3) paying serious attention to the resistance to change of the introductory course syllabus -- we used the phrase "The Frozen Curriculum."

The Committee had full attendance at its meeting in Sacramento, as well as one "alumnus" and five actively participating visitors. Several members of our committee supported Ruth Howes in preparation of the current draft version of "Guidelines." The team was able to draw importantly on the report of the SPIN-UP project. We hope this report will make its way through various oversight groups into full distribution during the year 2005.

Our service to the large fraction of AAPT members who do not attend national meetings appeared this year in the form of the "Guidelines." Another avenue, largely unexplored, would be active interaction with the regional Sections.

Submitted by D. F. Holcomb, Chair

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Last updated 08/30/2005 CPUE Minutes 2 January 27, 2004