GPER 2018 Election Results

Scott V. Franklin, GPER Secretary/Treasurer

We are pleased to announce the results of the 2018 election to the GPER Executive Committee.

The new Vice-Chair is Dr. Leslie Atkins. Dr. Atkins is Associate Professor in both the Physics department and the department of Curriculum, Instruction and Foundational Studies specializing in Science Education at Boise State University. Her research focuses on fostering participation in the practices of science – particularly writing and design – and investigating how instruction can reduce barriers between classrooms and everyday life while her teaching primarily focuses on the preparation of future STEM teachers. She has served as a member and as chair of PER Leadership and Organizing Council (PERLOC) through AAPT, in addition to co-chairing the Physics Education Research Conference. Dr. Atkins will become Chair in 2020 and past-Chair in 2021.

The new Member-at-Large is Suzanne White Brahmia. Dr. White Brahmia is an Assistant Professor with the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington. Her doctoral work focused on mathematization in introductory physics - a dissertation topic that grew naturally out of her work with the Rutgers University Extended Analytical Physics program (which she Directed). Dr. White Brahmia served on the National Research Council committee that produced the 2013 report “Adapting to a Changing World -- Challenges and Opportunities in Undergraduate Physics Education”, served as the NJ College-Readiness Advisor to the Next Generation Science Standards; and co-organized the 2017 Physics Education Research Conference.

Of the 569 current GPER members, 145 (25.5%) voted in the election. Congratulations to these well-deserving candidates and a thank you to all who participated!

Announcing GPER’s 2018 APS Fellows

Andrew Heckler, Chair, Nominating Committee

We are pleased to announce Eric Brewe and Sarah (Sam) McKagan as newly awarded Fellows of the American Physical Society. Drs. Brewe and McKagan were nominated by GPER and recognized for their excellent contributions to Physics Education Research.

Eric Brewe has expanded our understanding of the physics classroom, through theoretical work, experimental work, and in practice. His highly original work includes the development and adaptation of the Modeling Instruction program to the university setting, the application of network analysis to investigate the role and importance of student networks, and was among the early researchers studying efficacy and identity in the physics classroom and addressing issues of equity in physics education. His contributions to Physics Education Research extend beyond these contributions: Dr. Brewe was also a founding member - and founding Chair - of the APS Topical Group in Physics Education Research (GPER). Through Dr. Brewe’s vision and leadership, PER was brought in to become a part of APS. In sum, the APS cited Eric Brewe: “For foundational research and development in introductory physics, pioneering work on student networks in education and contributions to the community advancing physics education research".

Sam McKagan has made unique and important contributions to physics education research both through research on physics learning and the principled development of dissemination modes by which educators may access and faithfully implement research-validated materials. Dr. McKagan has been a leader and pioneer in using research-based principles to develop effective, user friendly, and rigorous online curricular resources for K-12 and university level physics classrooms. She has led in the vision and the development of Physport, the influential, innovative, and highly effective curricular resource that is a shining example of how to transform powerful education research into concrete results in the classroom. The APS fellowship citation for Sam McKagan sums up her work: "For contributions to physics education research in energy and quantum mechanics, and for supporting excellence in physics teaching by pursuing scholary efforts on the adoption of effective practices, organizing research-based resources, and creating tools for communities of physics educators"

We offer a warm and well-deserved congratulations to Sam and Eric!

We also wish to thank those members of GPER who supplied support materials for all nominations, as well as those who served on the Fellowship Committee. We look forward to the opportunity to recognize others in the physics education research community in the coming years. If you know of an APS member meriting an APS fellowship for work in PER, please consider nominating them this year.

Highlights from 2018 APS April Meeting (Columbus, OH)

By John Thompson

The 2018 April meeting was held January 28-31 in Washington, DC, and was the third meeting with GPER-sponsored invited sessions. There were two invited PER sessions, both co-sponsored by the Topical Group on Physics Education Research (GPER) with the Forum on Education (FEd). Both sessions were well attended and had engaging presentations.

The first invited session, “The Cutting Edge of Physics Education Research,” included two talks (a third talk was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances):

  1. Jacqueline Chini (U Central Florida): Learning from Avatars: Developing Student-centered Teaching Skills in a Mixed-reality Simulator
  2. Rachel Scherr (Seattle Pacific U; 2017 GPER Fellow): Fixed and growth mindsets in physics graduate admissions

Jacqueline Chini’s talk, based on a paper in the “Preparing and Supporting University Physics Educators” Focused Collection in Phys. Rev. PER that was also highlighted with a synopsis in Physics, presented results from work on professional development of physics learning assistants (LAs) and calculus graduate teaching assistant (GTAs) related to buy-in and enjoyment of the simulation and translation of simulation experiences to the live classroom. Rachel Scherr’s talkwas based on a recent paper in Phys. Rev. PER with collaborators Monica Plisch, Kara Gray, Geoff Potvin, and Ted Hodapp. This talk explored results from interviews with physics graduate admissions committee chairs about admissions practices, and the coding of the statements according to either a fixed (i.e., innate talent) or growth (i.e., potential for growth) mindset, finding elements of both in most interviews.

The second invited session, “Physics Education Research: Network Analysis, Institutional Change, and Troubleshooting in Laboratories,” included three talks:

  • Justyna Zwolak (NIST): Educational commitment and attitudes: The Social Network Perspective
  • Dimitri Dounas-Frazer (CU Boulder): Student engagement in modeling and metacognition while troubleshooting a circuit
  • Charles Henderson (Western Michigan U, 2016 GPER Fellow): Integrated Elements of an Action Plan Leading to Institutional Change

Justyna Zwolak’s talk looked at the connections between in- and out-of-class student networks, students’ perception of the value of those networks, collaborative learning, and persistence in subsequent physics courses. Dimitri Dounas-Frazer described student behavior, reasoning, and interactions with peers and instructors while diagnosing and repairing circuits, and the role of metacognition in the process. Charles Henderson discussed how agents of instructional change tend to lack coherent strategies for change, and described ways and frameworks for change agents to develop systematic action plans for more sustainable change on a broader scale.

GPER also co-sponsored two contributed sessions at this meeting with the Forum on Education with 15 talks on topics including representation choices; synthesis problems; validity checks of expressions; graduate quantum mechanics; reasoning with data; and evaluation of the effectiveness of various computation modeling instructional strategies.

June 2018 Gordon Research Conference on Physics Research and Education

By Nancy Ruzycki and Dawn Meredith, conference co-chairs

Report on Gordon Research Conference on Physics Research and Education, June 2018

Every other year, the Gordon Research Conference offers a conference on the theme of Physics Research in Education. The goal of this conference series is to bring together researchers and educators around a common theme to improve physics education, with talks by education researchers, physics instructors, and traditional science researchers. In June 2018, this GRC was on “Novel Research in Energy Topics, and Transformative Methods for Teaching Undergraduate Students About Energy Concepts.”

We heartily thank GPER for supporting this conference by providing funding for one junior researcher. Other funding came from Gordon Research Conferences, NSF, AAPT, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, PER Leadership Organizing Committee (PERLOC), APS Forum on Education, and the GRC Primarily Undergraduate Institution Fund.

At this conference, the energy researchers shared some of the cutting-edge topics in energy research – from energy harvesting to energy flow modeling. These transformative topics in energy research can be used as examples in the teaching of undergraduate physics students and talks to the public. The education speakers examined the teaching of energy from several perspectives: embodied cognition, conceptual metaphors, students’ productive ideas about energy, building coherent understanding of energy across the scientific disciplines, and teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge. Several attendees gave talks about their own courses, and the scheduled events were supplemented with an impromptu Energy Theater activity and sharing of different representations for energy transformations and transfers.

While Gordon Research Conferences are always off the record, you can see the full program here.

In addition to our science and education goals, we also made efforts to recruit a diverse group of speakers and attendees. On the program, 10 of 22 invited speakers were women, and 7 of 10 were young career academics. There were 5 of 9 session discussion leaders who were women. The program included speakers from academia, government research laboratories and industry. Our attendees were diverse as well: 21 of 95 participants from Primarily Undergraduate Institutions, Community Colleges, Tribal Colleges, and Minority Serving Institutions; 36 of 95 women; 6 of 95 grad students or postdocs; and 40 of 95 young career academics.

This year, for the first time, this GRC was proceeded by a two-day Gordon Research Symposium. The Symposium was titled “Using Energy Models to Teach and Understand Complex Physics Problems in the Research Lab and Classroom”. This symposium format supports junior researchers (graduate students, postdocs, and very early career professors) by providing both opportunities for presenting their work and mentoring connections. The co-chairs for the Symposium were Prof. Serena Eley (Los Alamos National Lab and now Colorado School of Mines) and Dr. Daryl McPadden (Florida International University and now Michigan State University).

There will be a theme issue of the American Journal of Physics devoted to the teaching of energy topics. The issue will appear in June 2019.

GPER at the 2019 April Meeting (April 13 – 19 Denver, CO)

Paula Heron

The 2019 APS April meeting will feature two invited sessions on PER. One session has the Forum of Education (FEd) as a primary sponsor and GPER as co-sponsor and is intended to appeal to a broad audience; the other reverses the sponsorship roles and addresses more specialized or technical issues. In 2019, the more general session, titled Disentangling intuition, reasoning, and conceptual understanding in physics, will be chaired by Mila Kryjeskaia (North Dakota State University) and feature talks by Paula Heron (University of Washington), MacKenzie Stetzer (University of Maine) and Andrew Heckler (The Ohio State University). The more specialized session is based on an upcoming “Focused Collection” on Quantitative Methods in PER in Physical Review PER. The collection is being edited by Alexis Knaub (Western Michigan University), Danny Caballero (Michigan State University) and John Aiken (University of Oslo), who is also chairing the session. Alexis Knaub (Western Michigan University), Jayson Nissen (California State University Chico) and Jackie Doyle (Florida International University) will speak. Also at the April meeting, the 2019 APS Excellence in Physics Education Award will be presented and an invited session will be devoted to talks about the impact of the work recognized by the award. New APS Fellows nominated by GPER (see elsewhere in the Newsletter) will also be recognized at the evening reception hosted by the APS Education and Diversity offices, to which all meeting attendees are welcome. GPER encourages members to submit abstracts for contributed talks at the APS April Meeting in Denver. The deadline is Friday January 11.

Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research - June 16-22, 2019

Rachel E. Scherr, Paula R. L. Heron, and Michael C. Wittmann, organizers

Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research (FFPER) is an intensive week-long residential meeting in Bar Harbor, Maine. The conference provides a 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. For more information, see the conference website.

The conference features a series of morning plenary lectures given by established and emerging leaders in PER. Each addresses the theme of Foundations and Frontiers by synthesizing major accomplishments in the field and/or speculating on especially important and promising new directions. Plenary speakers for 2019 are, in alphabetical order: Mervi Asikainen, Eugenia Etkina, Jenaro Guisasola, Natasha Holmes, Paul Van Kampen, Heather Lewandowski, Sam McKagan, Gina Passante, Amy Robertson, and Chandralekha Singh.

Afternoons are unscheduled in order to support informal conversation. Evening sessions include working groups on subjects of community-wide interest, topical groups for specific research issues, and a contributed poster session. The goal of the conference is to foster the type of direct and intense discussion possible in a small residential meeting of specialists.

Due to past interest in the conference and limited space at the venue, there is a formal application process for this conference. To apply, send a CV.

The deadline to apply is January 11, 2019. Decisions will be made by February 1, 2019. We are dedicated to making the selection process transparent and equitable. Information about application criteria and decision-making processes is at the conference website.

Special note to graduate student applicants: We hope for graduate student registration to be substantially reduced through support from the American Physical Society Topical Group in Physics Education Research (APS GPER). Graduate students wishing to take advantage of this reduced rate must be members of APS GPER. The first year of membership is free for students! Join here.

GPER Mini-Grant Awards

Catherine H. Crouch, GPER Member-at-Large and 2018 Grants Chair

The GPER Committee is pleased to announce the three proposals that were awarded mini-grant funding for the 2019 funding cycle. Successful proposals showed significant potential in at least one of the following areas:

  • advancing and diffusing knowledge concerning the learning and teaching of physics;
  • increasing the profile of PER in APS;
  • increasing membership in GPER.

Requests for mini-grants are considered on annual basis and are normally due the first Friday of October. The full solicitation includes descriptions of the four strands of the competition: travel grants to individuals to attend APS conferences, grants to APS conference session organizers, grants to non-APS conference organizers supporting travel, and infrastructure. For travel grants, supporting junior or isolated members of the community is prioritized.

The Executive Committee thanks the (anonymous) committee of GPER members who evaluated the proposals and made recommendations to the Executive Committee for approval.

Summaries of the funded proposals are provided below.

Presenting student outcomes from Michigan State University’s recently transformed Design, Analysis, Tools, and Apprenticeship (DATA) Laboratory
Proposer: Rachel Henderson

Amount Awarded: $500

Summary: In response to the national call from the Physics Education Research (PER) community to focus on student engagement within the physics laboratory context, the Michigan State University physics department has recently transformed its algebra-based, introductory physics laboratory curriculum. This newly transformed course, Design, Analysis, Tools, and Apprenticeship (DATA) Lab, emphasizes the development of experimental skills and laboratory practices and provides students with an authentic physics laboratory experience. Students in DATA Lab engage in the exploration of physical systems to increase their understanding of data analysis, model development, measurement uncertainty, and scientific communication. In this presentation to the attendees of the 2019 APS April meeting, we will discuss the differences in student outcomes, specifically how students perceive experimental physics, between the context of the traditional laboratory course and the newly developed DATA Laboratory.

Engaging students in authentic experimentation during lab courses: Registration support for an invited speaker
Proposer: Dimitri Dounas-Frazer

Amount Awarded: $300

Summary: In my capacity as Vice Chair of the AAPT Committee on Laboratories, I am organizing an invited session at the 2019 APS April Meeting. The session is called, “Engaging students in authentic experimentation during lab courses,” and it is co-sponsored by the APS Forum on Education and the AAPT Committee on Laboratories. Speakers will address the challenge and promise of project-based learning in lab courses, an important aspect of many undergraduate physics programs. In particular, Dr. Laura Ríos, a physics education researcher, will present about her work on a multi-institutional investigation of lab instructors’ teaching practices during final projects in upper-division labs. Dr. Ríos is an early career scholar with limited access to travel funds. This proposal seeks $300 to defray conference registration costs for Dr. Ríos.

Reduced graduate student registration for FFPER Conference
Proposers: Rachel Scherr, Paula Heron, and Michael Wittmann

Amount Awarded: $1700

Summary: The Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research (FFPER) conference held biannually in Bar Harbor, Maine is a primary venue for defining the state of physics education research. Plenary speakers are luminaries from PER and related intellectual communities. Attendees are first-rate physics education researchers who use the time to identify research directions and build collaborations. The format of the meeting balances formal presentations, small working groups, and unstructured time to maximize networking and productive discussion. Senior graduate students who are active in research are key participants in FFPER: they bring fresh ideas, practices, and challenges to the conference, make connections with senior researchers, and take new information, relationships, and perspectives back to their home institutions. This award provides funding to substantially reduce the cost of graduate student registration to FFPER. In order to take advantage of reduced registration, graduate students will be required to be members of APS and GPER.

PRPER Journal Metrics

Charles Henderson, Editor, Physical Review Physics Education Research

Publication Time
Mean time from submission to acceptance for manuscripts submitted in 2017 was 139 days. The biggest amount of time is with the authors.

Time to Acceptance

Number of Articles
173 articles were submitted to the journal in 2017.

Number of Manuscripts

Acceptance Rates
Average acceptance rate increased slightly to 48% (3-year average).

Impact Factor
Average impact factor of 1.57. This is relatively strong for an education research journal. The 2016 Impact Factor was 2.083.

Impact Factor

Beginning in January 2016, the name of the journal changed from Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research (PRST-PER) to PRPER. The 2016 Impact Factor (IF) came completely from the old title PRST-PER. The 2018 Impact Factor will come completely from the current title (PRPER). However, 2017 is a crossover year and results in two Impact Factors that are not comparable to the previous or future values. The 2017 PRSTPER IF was 2.582 and the 2017 PRPER IF was 1.42. Calculation details are below.

A normal two-year Impact Factor would be:

IF (2017) = # of citations in 2017 to papers published in 2015 and 2016 / # of papers published in 2015 and 2016)

Instead, during this transition period we have:

PRSTPER IF (2017) = # of citations in 2017 to PRSTPER papers published in 2015 / # of PRSTPER papers published in 2015

PRPER IF (2017) = # of citations in 2017 to PRPER papers published in 2016 / # of PRPER papers published in 2016

Focused Collections
Focused collections are a PRPER initiative announced late in 2012. A focused collection is a set of articles on a particular topic of interest to the PER community. All articles are peer reviewed through the normal refereeing procedure. Focused collections serve to consolidate the PER knowledge about a particular topic in a single place, thus making these collections a useful resource for researchers both within PER and outside of PER.

Focused Collection 6: Curriculum Design

Guest Editors: Benedikt Harrer, Eleanor Sayre, and Leslie Atkins Elliott

Article proposals due: Sept 30, 2018

Decision to authors: Oct 31, 2018

Manuscripts due: Jun 30, 2019

69 proposals received | 25 encouraged | -- articles submitted | -- articles accepted

Focused Collection 5: Quantitative Methods in PER: A Critical Examination

Guest Editors: Marcos Caballero, Alexis Knaub, and John Aiken

Article proposals due: Oct 31, 2017

Decision to authors: Dec 1, 2017

Manuscripts due: Jul 31, 2018

43 proposals received | 26 encouraged | 18 articles submitted | -- articles accepted

Focused Collection 4: Astronomy Education Research

Guest Editors: Janelle Bailey and Julia Plummer

Article proposals due: Oct 31, 2016

Decision to authors: Nov 30, 2016

Manuscripts due: May 17, 2017

Focused Collection Published:

51 proposals received | 27 encouraged | 19 articles submitted | 14 articles accepted

Focused Collection 3: Gender in Physics

Guest Editors: Eric Brewe, Vashti Sawtelle

Article proposals due: July 18, 2014

Decision to authors: Aug 29, 2014

Manuscripts due: Jan 30, 2015

Focused Collection Published (scheduled): August 1, 2016

42 proposals received | 33 encouraged | 21 articles submitted | 16 articles accepted

Focused Collection 2: Preparing and Supporting University Physics Educators

Guest Editors: Rachel Scherr, MacKenzie Stetzer

Article proposals due: May 16, 2014

Decision to authors: June 27, 2014

Manuscripts due: Nov 28, 2014

Focused Collection Published: Feb 22, 2016

30 proposals received | 23 encouraged | 13 articles submitted | 9 articles accepted

Focused Collection 1: PER in Upper Division Physics Courses

Guest Editors: Michael Loverude, Bradley Ambrose

Article proposals due: March 3, 2014

Decision to authors: Apr 30, 2014

Manuscripts due: Sept 1, 2014

Focused Collection Published: Sept 23, 2015

37 proposals received | 33 encouraged | 24 articles submitted | 19 articles accepted