of the International Commissions of IUPAP

and the Inter-Union Committees

presented to the

21th General Assembly

Nara, Japan - September 1993

1990 - 1993

I.U.P.A.P. - 30

C.14 Commission on Physics Education (1960)


Officers 1990-1993: Chairman E.L. Jossem, USA

Vice-Chairman: G. Marx, Hungary

Secretary: J. Barojas, Mexico

Members P. J. Black, U. K N. V. Karlov, Russia

A.M.P. de Carvalho, Brazil D.K. Nachtigall,Germany

K Hirata, Japan A. Tiberghien, France

L. Johansson, Sweden R. K Wassef, Egypt

F. Kaczmarek, Poland Kai_hua Zhao, China

Associate Members: E. Lillethun, Norway S. W. Raither, France



The primary charge to the commission in its mandate is to promote the exchange of information and views among members of the international community of physicists in the general field of Physics Education including: the collection, evaluation and distribution of information concerning education in the physical sciences at all levels; information relating to the assessment of the standards of physics teaching and learning; suggesting ways in which the facilities for the study of physics at all levels might be improved, and giving help to physics teachers in all countries in incorporating current knowledge of physics, physics pedagogy, and the results of research in physics education into their courses and curricula. The commission also initiates conferences as the need arises, and assists in the organization of such conferences. A listing of the major activities of the Commission in these areas during the 1990_1993 term is presented below.

1. Conferences

International Conference on Physics Education Through Experiments

Nankai University, Tianjin, China, 23 - 27 April 1990

This conference, a joint activity of IUPAP and ASPEN, had as its purpose the exploration of ideas and the exchange of information concerning the uses of experimental physics in the education of students. The Proceedings of the conference have been published and information about their availability may be obtained from Professor Pan Weiji. Department of Physics, Nankai University, Tianjin, China.

A meeting of C.14 was held in Tianjin during the two days immediately preceding this conference.

II. InterAmerican Conference on Physics Education: Preparing for 2000

Simon Bolivar University, Caracas, Venezuela, 14 - 20 July 1991

Arranged under the auspices of the Council for InterAmerican Conferences on Physics Education, this conference addressed a wide variety of current concerns in physics education. Information about the Proceedings may be obtained from the conference organizer, Professor Celso Luis Ladera, Departamento de Fisica, Universidad Simon Bolivar, Apdo Postal 89000, Caracas 1086A, Venezuela, Fax: 58-2-962-1695.Teaching About Reference Frames: From Copernicus to Einstein

Nicolas Copernicus University, Torun, Poland, 19- 24 August 1991

Organized by GIREP, this conference explored various aspects of the subject named in its title. Information about the publication of its Proceedings may be obtained from Dr. Jzefina Turlo, The Institute of Physics, Nicolaus Copernicus University, 5 Grudiadzka Street, 87-100 Torun, Poland, Fax: 48-56-24-602.

A meeting of C. 14 was held in Torun in conjunction with this conference.

Physics Education for Reforming Fundamental Physics Teaching Southeast University, Nanjing, China, 25-29 May 1992

The reform and improvement of physics education at the introductory college and university level was the topic of discussion at this conference. The proceedings of the conference have been published. Further information may be obtained from Professor Yun Ying, Department of Physics, Southeast University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, 210018, China.

Teaching Modern Physics; Statistical Physics

University of Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain, 19 - 25 July 1992

This conference, the third in the ICPE series of Teaching Modern Physics conferences, addressed the problems of teaching about statistical physics at all grade levels. As with previous TMP conferences it provided an opportunity for interactions between those at the research frontiers of the subject and those who teach the material. The proceedings of the conference are in process of publication. Further information may be obtained from Professor G. Velarde, Department of Physics, UNED-Ciencias, Apartado 60.141, Madrid 28.071, Spain.

A meeting of C. 14 was held in Badajoz in connection with this conference.

Education for Physics Teaching

Universität Dortmund, Dortmund, Germany, 21- 25 September 1992

This conference was concerned with the theoretical and practical problems involved in the training of teachers in physics, primarily at the elementary and secondary levels. For further information write to Professor D. K. Nachtigall, Lehrstuhl fur Didaktik der Physik, Fachbereich Physik, Universität Dortmund, Otto-Hahn-Strae 4, D-44227 Dortmund, Germany.

Physics Education for Development

University of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines, 1 - 5 December 1992

This conference focused on interactions between physics teaching and physics teachers and the community in which the teaching is carried out. A proceedings containing the texts of papers presented at the conference has been published. For further information write to Professor Porfirio P. Jesuitas, Director, Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City 1101, The Philippines.

Future Conferences

An International Conference on Physics Education: Light and Information, is scheduled to be held in Braga, Portugal, 16 -21 July, 1993. Topics to be discussed include, for example, advances in optics teaching, optical encoding of information, and biophysical aspects of optics. For further information write to: Professor L. Chainho Pereira, Vice-Rector, Universidade do Minho, Largo do Paco, 4719 Braga, Portugal, Fax: 351-53-61-69 36.

Three conferences for 1994 are in the initial stages of planning: The InterAmerican Conference on Physics Education, to be held at College Station, Texas in July 1994, a conference on Teaching Modern Physics to Non-physics Majors, to be held in the Sinai, Egypt in July 1994, and a conference on Physics and the Environment; "After Rio" to be held at Balaton, Hungary in September 1994.

2. The Medal of the Commission

The Medal of the ICPE is awarded for "contributions to physics education which are major in scope and impact and which have extended over a considerable period". In 1991 the Medal was awarded to the International Physics Olympiad and in 1992 to Dr. Nahum Joel.

3. The Newsletter of the Commission

Under the Editorship of the Vice-Chairman of the ICPE, Professor George Marx, the Commission continues the publication of its Newsletter on a semi-annual basis with issues appearing in March and in September. The Newsletter is mailed free to about 1000 persons and institutions worldwide.

4. Other Activities

Under the auspices of the ICPE, and with financial sponsorship from UNESCO, a book entitled Physics Examinations for University Entrance: An International Study was edited by a member of C.14, Professor Paul Black This study, which examines the situation in eleven countries world wide, has been published and distributed by UNESCO as Document No. 45 (ED-92/WS-15) in the UNESCO Science and Technology Education Document Series (STEPS).

Work also continues on other publication projects, in particular, on a Reader on Research in Physics Education and Teacher Training.

New Developments in the Field

It has been said (Bruner, 1966) that education is in constant process of invention, because there are changes both in circumstances an in knowledge that impose constraints on and give opportunities to the teacher in each succeeding generation. However, it is also true that many of the same problems reoccur from generation to generation, albeit often in new forms. In the past three years the situation has been made more difficult by the political, social and economic changes that have occurred, and are still in progress, in many countries, including industrialized countries. Educational systems are particularly vulnerable to such changes, and their full long-erm effects are yet to be seen.

Nevertheless, in the past three years there has been a continuation of world wide concern with the physics curriculum. This concern has existed at all levels, and has been particularly strong at the secondary and early tertiary levels. In many countries efforts are being made to restructure the introductory physics curriculum and to provide more contemporary insights into physics for the students. The conferences in the Teaching Modern Physics Series, initiated by C.14, have attempted to further this process by bringing together research experts in a field of physics and teachers with expertise in physics pedagogy. The participants are asked to consider contemporary developments in the subject matter field, to discuss the extent to which it might be practical to incorporate such new knowledge and insights into the curriculum, and to develop practical ways of doing so.

Significant developments have also occurred in another aspect of physics education, namely, in an increased attention to the student as the center and focus of the process. In particular, research studies on how students learn, and on the conceptions and models of the physical world they bring with them to the classroom, have stimulated renewed efforts towards the improvement of instructional strategies and tactics. In some countries there is a trend toward modification of lectures to make them more interactive with students, but there are also instructional models in which the lectures are abandoned in favor of interactive laboratory experiences which continually confront the student with the real physical situation being studied.

Developments in instructional technology, especially the rapidly growing availability of personal computers, CD-roms, and laser disks are also influencing the ways in which students are being helped to learn.

What one hopes to see coming out of these efforts to improve physics education is a broadened point of view and a more imaginative and effective utilization of new knowledge and insights in the process of educating students, and, of no less importance, educating the next generation of teachers.


Finally, as retiring Chair of C.14, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge with great thanks and appreciation the contributions of the other officers and members of C. 14 to the work of the Commission. It is to their ideas and efforts that the Commission owes whatever measure of success it has achieved. Acknowledgments and thanks are due, also, to our Associate Members, to the IUPAP Secretariat, and to UNESCO for continuing support and assistance.

E. L. Jossem


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last updated 7/25/96