The Effective Practices for Physics Programs (EP3) Guide contains information and advice for physics departments and programs in the U.S. to use as they address challenges and make changes and improvements. The Guide is a structured resource informed by research and effective practices from across the physics community. While the Guide is intended to be comprehensive, departments should not attempt to implement all recommendations, but instead identify practices appropriate to their context. Departments should approach the Guide as a toolbox to accomplish objectives they have set for themselves rather than regarding it as a set of standards.

The EP3 team runs Departmental Action Leadership Institutes (DALIs), which train physics faculty members to lead departments in facing a challenge or implementing significant changes to their undergraduate programs. The DALIs are an important part of the EP3 initiative that support implementation of recommendations made by the Guide.

Future workshops will be made available to train physics program leaders and external program reviewers on how to use the Guide.

The EP3 initiative, led by the American Physical Society (APS) in collaboration with the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), began with the creation of a task force in 2016. The task force was charged by the APS Council of Representatives with developing a guide for self-assessment of undergraduate physics programs founded on documented best practices linked to measurable outcomes. The creation of the Guide was based on a philosophy of effective departmental change and required a rigorous peer review process.

Following completion of the first version of the Guide, stewardship will be transferred from the task force to an EP3 Editorial Board, an editorial committee overseen by the APS Committee on Education, in collaboration with AAPT. The EP3 Editorial Board will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the Guide. To ensure the Guide’s relevancy to the physics community, its content will be reviewed and updated, as appropriate, along with new material added based on the needs identified by physics programs, current research, and other practices deemed effective by the community.


A “process of self-review and peer review for improvement of academic quality and public accountability of institutions and programs. This quality review process occurs on a period basis, usually every three to ten years.” (Definition from CHEA.) The EP3 Initiative takes the position that physics programs should use the program-level assessment of student learning required for accreditation as an opportunity to engage in a cyclic process of program improvement and to design learning assessments that support goals for improving your program while satisfying accreditation requirements, avoiding duplicating efforts or doing busywork that doesn’t support your department. Nearly every college or university in the U.S. is accredited by one of the seven major accreditation agencies for four-year colleges and universities, and you need to know which one is your accreditor. Requirements vary among agencies, but all are concerned with learning assessment. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is an association of degree-granting colleges and universities in the US that recognizes institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations. The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) is an association of accreditation agencies. Physics programs also need to ensure that physics courses for engineering and chemistry majors meet, respectively, the requirements of ABET, the accrediting body for most engineering programs in the U.S. (including some engineering physics and physics programs), and the American Chemical Society (ACS), which approves chemistry degree programs in the US.


There has been a growing emphasis on accountability in higher education. National accrediting bodies for colleges and universities, as well as other organizations administering professional standards, have increased emphasis on measures of performance based on established learning goals and closed-loop assessment processes at all institutional levels. Unfortunately, individual departments must often create assessment processes on their own, without the benefit of the experience of the broader physics community or published research. The EP3 Guide fills this gap by creating guidance for physics departments in program improvement, assessment, and management of these processes.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1738311, 1747563, and 1821372. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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