Changing the culture: A guide to implementation of effective practices for physics programs

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Michael Wittmann, Ph.D.
Head of Education
American Physical Society

The new economics of higher education, changing demographics, and the economic wake of COVID-19 compel universities to reconsider how education survives and thrives. The Effective Practices for Physics Programs (EP3) initiative is a collaborative effort between the American Physical Society (APS) and American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) designed to help departments improve through continued self-reflection while drawing on practices deemed effective, as demonstrated either through research or by community practice. The Guide includes, for example, the Toolkit for Departments Under Threat, to help departments facing threats to their existence, as well as guidance on curriculum, pedagogy, advising and mentoring, recruiting and retention, research and internship opportunities, equity and diversity, scientific skills development, career preparation, staffing, resources, faculty professional development, how to be an effective chair, and more. The Guide also offers a wealth of guidance on supporting equity in physics departments, both in a section on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and interwoven throughout all sections. We have published over 20 of the planned 36 sections of the Guide, including over 2400 individual strategies. Over 230 individuals in the greater physics community have contributed to and/or reviewed materials for the peer-reviewed Guide. As development of the inaugural edition of the EP3 Guide concludes, our focus turns toward implementation. What can departments do to identify valuable elements and strategies within the guide’s substantial material and adapt them for implementation within the context and constraints of their local environment? We have held workshops, often for departments under threat, and done site visits to institutions to help with recruitment and retention of underrepresented students. Several cohorts of faculty have joined in Departmental Action Learning Institutes, which support faculty members and their departments in implementing significant changes to their undergraduate programs. Over time, the guide and associated supporting activities and tools will impact nearly every physics department in the USA. The continuous cycle of improvement implicit in the guide’s design will impact courses ranging from introductory physics through advanced courses required of all physics majors. This project will impact a large fraction of pre-service high school physics teachers, physics majors, and ultimately most students studying engineering or other sciences that require a physics course. This poster will provide a brief overview of the EP3 guide, describing its development, structure, and how the guide’s content will be updated and improved going forward. We also discussion of how we are using the Guide with the broader physics community.


David Craig, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR; Michael Jackson, New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM; Robert Hilborn, American Association of Physics Teachers, College Park, MD; Chandra Turpen, University of Maryland, College Park, MD