Thursday, June 9, 2011

Physics in Canada Report by Antimirova et al. (2009)

Written some time ago now (early 2009), much of the content is still current in this report on physics education research in Canada by Dr. Tetyana Antimirova, Pedro Goldman, Nathaniel Lasry, marina Milner-Bolotin and Robert Thompson.   Published in Physics in Canada (2009, v65, (1), 19-21) it provides a snapshot of physics education and physics education research in Canada.  The article points out that while there were, at that time, more than a hundred PER groups worldwide, and some dozens in the U.S.A. it argues that there is in essence only one in Canada.  At that time, if one counted faculty members working essentially totally in PER that could be justified, although in fairness there are groups of a few people, mainly working in PER along with other areas, at a number of Canadian institutions.  Nonetheless, I do agree with the critical point that not enough attention is yet paid to PER in Canada.

The article does point out strong growth in the Canadian physics education community, citing the number of sessions at the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) annual congresses by the Division of Physics Education (DPE), prominent keynotes on physics education, and other signs of interest in the topic.  The key reason for under representation of PER in Canada is the lack of a sustained funding model.  While SSHRC funding can cover educational research in all fields, and NSERC Promoscience funding can be used for science outreach development to youth (but not the associated research), Canada badly needs a long term, high level funding mechanism.  Ideally this would be tri-council (NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR) funding for research in education in all of the sciences.  As the article notes, more than 120 Canadian physicists signed a statement seeking an appropriate Canadian funding mechanism.

Image from T. Antimirova, Ryerson University.

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