2011 Committee on Physics in Undergraduate Education

1. Goals
a. Current Year: Goals for 2011:
The goals of CPUE in 2011 were to organize sessions and workshops at national AAPT meetings, to discuss AAPT organizational initiatives and statements and provide feedback to the AAPT Executive Board, and to start or renew initiatives in the area of undergraduate assessment and program guidelines.
b. Next Year: Goals for 2012 and beyond:
We will implement plans for the Ontario and Philadelphia meetings. We will work with a team of people on the Project Kaleidoscope Mobilizing Disciplinary Societies project to implement sessions and workshops that highlight work done to incorporate real-world problems, specifically environmental problems, into undergraduate physics courses. We will help form a task force to study the creation and assessment tools to help physics departments identify learning outcomes and assess student learning in response to increasing demands for assessment. We will continue to work on the Proposal for an Upper-Level Undergraduate Curriculum Task Force submitted to CPUE by Ernie Behringer in 2007-2008. We will continue to provide outstanding sessions and workshops for IPLS courses, which remain a popular topic in undergraduate physics education.
c. Long Range: Long-range goals:
It is essential for CPUE to work with AAPT in the creation of learning objectives, student learning outcomes, and assessment tools for physics courses and physics major programs. This is approximately a 3-5 year goal.

2. Activities/Accomplishments in 2010
a. Committee Meetings/Communications (Type: In Person) --

CPUE met in Jacksonville and in Omaha.

In Jacksonville, there was initial discussion about the Project Kaleidoscope Mobilizing Disciplinary Societies which is bringing professional societies together to incorporate real world problems into science courses, namely environmental issues. Ideas discussed at the meeting included spreading the word about work already being done by AAPT members in this area, having a theme issue in AJP, and increasing the number of workshops by experts in this field. Another discussion centered on thawing the syllabus and it was decided to have an invited/contributed session in Ontario, CA highlighting Six Ideas that Shaped Physics by Thomas Moore and Matter and Interactions by Ruth Chabay and Bruce Sherwood. These non-traditional books have stood the test of time and are both in their 3rd edition. They are being adopted by more and more schools for calculus-based physics and seem to be the first truly innovative introductory textbooks to have significant numbers of adoptions. One person at the meeting reported changing the syllabus for an IPLS course and growing the course from 3 to 65 students.

In Omaha, the committee planned sessions and workshops for future meetings. Beyond suggestions from everyone in attendance, we were intentional about planning a crackerbarrel on standard assessment for college physics, another session on IPLS, another session on computational physics, and a session on environmental physics to support the PKAL project.

b. Committee Meetings/Communications (Type: Email) --
Communication via email during 2011 centered on the proposed statement, The American Association of Physics Teachers urges that every physics and astronomy department provide its majors and potential majors with appropriate instruction in computational physics. Three CPUE members voted to agree with the statement. Others did not respond. There were zero no votes. A few members of this committee (and others who are contributors to the committee) had reservations about too many statements. There might be a more appropriate way to distribute the proposed statement on computation. For example, there was discussion about the broader need for recommendations regarding a standard program in physics. Everyone agreed that it would be a major undertaking that is also worthwhile.

c. Sessions/Workshops --

In Jacksonville, the committee sponsored sessions in IPLS (Introductory Physics for Life Sciences), assessment in undergraduate physics courses, computational physics, and the new AP exam, in addition to ongoing sessions on topics such as diversity, graduate student education, international physics education, and SPS. Note that the topics of IPLS, assessment, and computational physics fit broader goals of AAPT and the physics education community in general. These three topics (IPLS, assessment, and computational physics) were a significant part of our agenda in 2011 and were well represented in workshops and sessions.

In Omaha, there were a number of truly outstanding sessions. The Spacetime Physics session, honoring the work of Edwin Taylor, had three outstanding invited presentations and high attendance. There was a palpable feeling of expectation and appreciation in the room.  Attendance at the Omaha IPLS session, organized for the 5th time by Juan Burciaga, was standing-room-only with well over 100 in attendance. In fact, many people were sitting on the floor. This popular session continues to be very well attended, showing that it is a hot topic that college-level physics teachers across the country are very interested in. The Physics of Sports session was also well attended and included the first AAPT presentation by Al Nathan, the oft-quoted guru of the physics of baseball. I sincerely hope that CPUE will bring him back for a workshop and another talk. Finally, Assessment Beyond Conceptual Inventories had a packed audience. This session in particular helped meet CPUE's goal to further the communication on assessment in college physics courses and programs. Also in Omaha, the committee responded to the QUESTIONNAIRE REGARDING AREA COMMITTEE SECTION OF STRATEGIC PLAN and sent feedback to David Cook.

d. Other Activities --

CPUE discussed and provided feedback on the AAPT statement The American Association of Physics Teachers urges that every physics and astronomy department provide its majors and potential majors with appropriate instruction in computational physics. The larger recommendation of our committee is that AAPT should adopt general program guidelines instead of providing statements encouraging programs to have undergraduate research and computational physics, for example.

Current and former CPUE members Mary Lowe, Juan Burciaga, and Aaron Titus participated on a team of people who are implementing the PKAL Mobilizing Disciplinary Societies project. Mary organized an invited session for Ontario for the purpose of supporting the PKAL initiative.

CPUE renewed discussion of a Proposal for an Upper-Level Undergraduate Curriculum Task Force originally submitted by Ernie Behringer, 2007-2008 CPUE Chair. CPUE sees the immediate need for AAPT-supported assessment tools, program goals and objectives, and learning outcomes. Legislators, the public, parents, college students and accrediting bodies are asking colleges to provide evidence of student learning. Department Chairs are looking to AAPT for help in the area of assessment, goals and objectives, and learning outcomes.

3. Recommendations
a. AAPT should make it a high priority during the next 3-5 years to provide program guidelines and assessment tools for college teachers and Department Chairs. The excellent Guidelines for Self-Study and External Evaluation of Undergraduate Physics Programs provides the right questions to ask, but teachers and Chairs also need guidance regarding learning outcomes, goals, and assessment.

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Last updated 05/5/2011