GPER 2019 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. Mila Kryjevskaia. Dr. Kryjevskaia is a faculty member in the Department of Physics at North Dakota State University; her research focuses in particular on applying theoretical frameworks from cognitive science, such as dual-process theories of reasoning, to gain insights into observed patterns of student reasoning in physics, and to guide the development of new approaches to instruction. She has also contributed to the profession nationally as Chair of the Research in Physics Education Committee of the American Association of Physics Teachers and as an Ex-Officio member of the Physics Education Research Leadership and Organizing Council. Dr. Kryjevskaia has served on the AAPT Child Care Grant Selection Committee, the PERLOC Grant Selection subcommittee, and the Nominating Committee for the APS Topical Group on Physics Education Research (GPER). Dr. Kryjevskaia will become Chair in 2020 and past-Chair in 2021.

The new Secretary/Treasurer is Dr. Stephanie Chasteen. Dr. Chasteen is an independent consultant, applying PER methods and results to support STEM educational reform projects. She serves primarily as an external evaluator for NSF-funded projects, including PhysTEC, EP3, New Faculty Workshop, and Get the Facts Out, and is the PI of the TRESTLE project; a follow-on to the Science Education Initiative project. Her primary research interest is in understanding the interaction between faculty decision-making and departmental culture in educational reform. Her postgraduate experiences include the Teacher Institute at the Exploratorium Museum of Science, Art, and Human Perception in San Francisco, and the University of Colorado Boulder. She began her consulting business a decade ago, and enjoys working alongside (but outside) traditional academic structures to support all the good work going on in PER.

The new Member-at-Large is Dr. Rachel Henderson. Dr. Henderson is a postdoctoral researcher working in the Physics Education Research Lab at Michigan State University. Dr. Henderson’s research focus is on equity in assessment in order to ensure that learning within the classroom is inclusive for all students, including developing formal structures to support transformed physics laboratories while developing assessment tools and practices for understanding student learning in these laboratory courses. Dr. Henderson has served as a member-at-large on the APS Forum on Outreach and Engaging the Public and is the founding postdoc member-at-large on the APS Topical Group on Data Science. In addition to being an active member of APS, Dr. Henderson is a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers where she has collaboratively begun a Physics Education Research early career group to support and promote early career interests.

Of the 475 current GPER members, 119 (25%) voted in the election. Congratulations to these well-deserving candidates and a thank you to all who participated!

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

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

In June of 2019, 60 members of the Physics Education Research (PER) community gathered at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, for the 8th biennial “Foundations and Frontiers in Physics Education Research” (FFPER) conference. First held in 2005, and modeled after the Gordon Conferences, this meeting is a venue for specialists who are active researchers in the field of physics education. Talks at the conference are all in a plenary format, typically addressing the speaker’s take on the major accomplishments of the field of PER (Foundations) or describing possibly promising research directions (Frontiers). This year’s plenary speakers were: Mervi Asikainen (University of Eastern Finland), Eugenia Etkina (Rutgers University), Jenaro Guisasola (University of the Basque Country), Natasha Holmes (Cornell University), Paul van Kampen (Dublin City University), Sam McKagan (Alder Science Education Association), Gina Passante (California State University Fullerton), Amy Robertson (Seattle Pacific University), and Chandralekha Singh (University of Pittsburgh). The plenary sessions are followed by coffee breaks and discussion sessions in which attendees engage deeply with the speakers and with each other.

Afternoons at the conference are spent in smaller sessions. Conference attendees self-organize into collaborative groups that examine particular research interests or explore current issues in PER. This year, the collaborative groups included one about PER in “developing” or “non-Western” countries, one about a possible YouTube channel for PER, one about using social-psychological interventions to make physics classes equitable and inclusive, one about the formation of a PER review network to foster community and improve research, and one in which PER graduate students worked with faculty mentors to review and improve each other’s short papers.

The FFPER conference continues to exist and flourish in part because of the financial support of the Forum on Education and the Topical Group on Physics Education Research. Members of the PER community value FFPER as a space in which to immerse ourselves in current research and to form connections and collaborations with other members of the community.

Rachel E. Scherr, Michael C. Wittmann, and Paula R. L. Heron co-founded FFPER and have co-organized it since its inception.

Announcing GPER’s 2019 APS Fellows

We are pleased to announce Mel Sabella as a newly awarded Fellow of the American Physical Society. Dr. Sabella was nominated by GPER and recognized for his excellent contributions to Physics Education Research.

Dr. Sabella has spent more than two decades working to improve physics education and broadening participation in physics education to individuals from groups that have been marginalized, minoritized, and underserved in physics. His research utilizes anti-deficit frameworks that build on the resources that students bring to the classroom. He has been a leader in the field using and calling for the development of more equitable measures of success in physics classrooms. He has also mentored numerous undergraduate students in engaging in physics education research. His work in PER is revolutionary in that he has successfully centered the voices of those traditionally marginalized and silenced in physics, including students from minoritized and marginalized ethnic/racial groups, and students, K-12 teachers, and two-year college faculty from urban environments. He has supported students and K- 12 pre-service and in-service teachers in engaging in physics education research and provided avenues for their work to be highlighted and their voices to be heard. This has served as a national model for engaging in culturally responsive and ethical, collaborative research. As a leader in the Learning Assistant Alliance, he has demonstrated ways of using the Learning Assistant program as a structure that supports the agency of students and K-12 teachers.

The APS fellowship citation for Mel Sabella sums up her work: "For contributions to research in the field of introductory physics education courses designed to leverage the strengths of underserved and diverse student populations and engage them as co-investigators, and for demonstrating the utility of nontraditional measures of success in physics education."

We offer a warm congratulations to Mel, and thank him for his ground breaking work!

GPER at the 2020 APS April Meeting

The 2020 APS April meeting in Washington DC will have plenty to offer those interested in Physics Education Research. GPER is sponsoring (the Forum on Education, FEd is co-sponsoring) two invited-speaker sessions: The first is “Advances in the Design and Implementation of Physics Curriculum”, featuring three speakers representing articles submitted to the upcoming Physical Review PER Focused collection on curriculum development, and the second is “Big Data in Physics Education Research” which will present findings and insights on student performance, retention, and diversity using large institutional data sets and innovative analysis methods. FEd also has several additional invited sessions on topics such as equity and inclusion, using data science in physics and physics education, nuclear literacy and the status of the Effective Practices for Physics Programs (EP3) project. The meeting will also include contributed sessions in GPER and we encourage you to submit an abstract! The deadline for abstract submission is January 10, 2020.

Physical Review – Physics Education Research Journal

Charles Henderson, Editor, Physical Review Physics Education Research

Journal Staff

  • Debbie Brodbar, Journal Manager
  • Maria Poko, Senior Editorial Assistant
  • Charles Henderson, Editor
  • Paula Heron, Associate Editor

Editorial Board

Term ending 31 Dec 2019

  • Eric Brewe
  • Olivia Levrini
  • Valerie Otero

Term ending 31 May 2021

  • Jenaro Guisasola
  • Mackenzie Stetzer
  • Ping Zhang

Impact Factor

Average impact factor of 1.61. This is relatively strong for an education research journal. (2018 impact factor was 1.964.) *Note that the 2017 impact factor is not available due to the journal name change.

Impact Factor

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.

Two focused collections were active in 2018.

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

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
Focused Collection Published: July 3, 2019
Published Articles: 12

GPER Mini-Grant Awards

Suzanne White Brahmia, GPER Member-at-Large and 2019 Grants Co-Chair

The GPER Committee is pleased to announce the four proposals that were awarded mini-grant funding for the 2020 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.

This year’s cycle of mini-grants all went to supporting travel funding for the April APS meeting. Summaries of the talks are provided below.

Title: Evaluating instructional labs' use of deliberate practice to teach critical thinking skills
Proposer: Natasha Holmes
Amount Awarded: $500

Summary: We have developed a theoretically-driven scheme to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional lab curricula for teaching critical thinking skills. The scheme draws on three principles: (1) critical thinking is context-dependent, (2) critical thinking involves exercising agency to make decisions to evaluate data and methods, and (3) deliberate practice can be used to effectively teach critical thinking skills. We use this scheme to evaluate the materials for three sets of electricity and magnetism labs. Our analysis shows that lab curricula aiming to develop critical thinking skills (1) were tailored to the contexts, (2) supported student decision-making and agency, but (3) did not align with methods of deliberate practice. Labs that aimed to reinforce concepts (and not teach critical thinking) did not support student decision-making. The results provide suggestions for improvements to curricular design and the new scheme serves as a tool to evaluate lab instructions.

Title: Examining Physics Students Interpretation and Application of an Ethical Framework During a Unit on the Development of the Atomic Bomb
Proposer: Egla Ochoa-Madrid
Amount Awarded: $500

Summary: The societal implications of technology developed through physics are not always clear. Physicists need to use ethical reasoning skills to maneuver through morally ambiguous situations. For this reason, curricula for physics students should also be geared towards developing these skills. My research focuses on the effects of ethical discussions in the physics classroom. I will present an examination of how students interpret and apply an ethical framework to discussions about the development of the atomic bomb and current STEM research. Using both student written work and video-recordings of in-class discussions, I analyze how the subject matter and interpersonal dynamics may influence student interactions. I will present preliminary evidence that students avoid discussing the negative implications of the ethical framework, but also demonstrate a range of productive approaches to applying the framework which contribute to strong ethical arguments.

Title: Critical thinking in experimental physics: Features of physics lab curricula that promote higher-order thinking
Proposers: Cole Walsh
Amount Awarded: $500

Summary: There have been recent calls to shift the focus of introductory physics labs towards developing students’ experimentation and critical thinking skills. Making these changes successfully at a large scale will require that we understand what features of lab curricula are most important for developing these skills. We have developed an assessment, the Physics Lab Inventory of Critical thinking (PLIC), that aims to measure these skills and has been administered to 9995 students enrolled in 113 courses across 44 schools. I am studying the relationship between students’ development of critical thinking skills, as measured by the PLIC, and features of their lab instruction, such as the amount of decision-making agency and epistemic agency available. We also examined courses that have administered the PLIC multiple times with changes to their curricula to better understand how particular changes affect the development of critical thinking skills for different populations of students.

Title: Questionable research practices in introductory physics labs
Proposers: Martin Stein
Amount Awarded: $500

Summary: Some practices in particle physics research are in stark contrast to what students practice in introductory physics labs. One contrast is that students in introductory physics labs are often asked to confirm theories they learn in lecture while researchers strive to find “new physics” in experimental data. To highlight an unintended consequence of this practice, we evaluated students' lab notes from an early activity in an intro lab course. We found that about 30% of student groups (out of 107 groups at three institutions) recorded questionable research practices in their lab notes such as subjective interpretations of results or manipulating equipment and data. The large majority of these practices were associated with confirmatory goals, which we suspect stem from students' prior exposure to labs that ask them to confirm known theory. We propose ways for physics labs to better engage students in authentic scientific practice and the search for “new physics” in their data.