Frequently Asked Questions

The Effective Practices for Physics Programs (EP3) initiative aims to help physics programs respond to challenges with a collection of knowledge, experience, and proven good practice provided through Guide section content, Departmental Action Leadership Institutes, and ongoing workshops to train physics program leaders and external program reviewers on how to use the Guide.

If you are a chair or other leader who makes programmatic decisions for physics departments at a four-year institution in the U.S., the Guide will help you learn how to implement evidence-based effective practices to achieve goals that matter most for your department. For the purposes of this Guide, effective practices are actions that departments can take to address specific questions, improve programs, or clarify important strategies.

If you review physics departments at four-year institutions in the U.S., the Guide will help you become more effective by providing vetted practices and resources to help physics departments achieve specific goals that support targeted feedback aligned with a program’s own goals.

If you are outside the U.S., a chair at a community college, or an administrator, many aspects of the Guide will still be useful, although the Guide was not explicitly designed for these audiences.

No. The EP3 team sought to create a guide to support departments in creating and building excellent programs while giving them freedom to adapt recommendations to their particular goals, environments, resources, and constraints. The Guide recommends practices for achieving specific goals, with the understanding that there are many ways to accomplish goals, and a department does not need to adopt all of these practices or goals to improve their program. Using the Guide can prevent you from reinventing departmental programs for which substantial knowledge is already available.

The Guide is designed to help departments prepare for periodic external review and fulfill the needs of national accreditors all while engaging in a process of continuous improvement of their programs.

The Guide was shaped to embody practices of specific goal setting, specific interventions, data acquisition, and reflection. This cyclic review structure allows departments to see progress without periodic bursts of activity during which an overwhelming amount of time must be spent on assessment. Further, such a process is now required by nearly all national accreditors, and shaping departmental actions along these lines can save faculty members significant time and enable departmental ownership of the activities they wish to explore and choose to assess.

Not at this time. After extensive study and discussion with members of the physics community, including a survey of physics department chairs, the APS Committee on Education has concluded that it is not appropriate at this time to institute certification or accreditation of undergraduate physics programs; this conclusion was also reached independently by AAPT.

APS is considering the possibility of certifying external reviewers of departments to respond to repeated inquiries for certification for programs from the physics community.

Many reports from task forces within and outside the physics community have investigated specific issues faced by departments and institutions and are referenced and expanded upon in the Guide. For example, the SPIN-UP report, published in 2003, focused on increasing the number of physics majors during a time in which many programs were losing majors but did not say much about curriculum, professional skills development, or program assessment. The Guide draws on the SPIN-UP report but has a much broader scope.

“A Guide to Effective Practices for Physics Programs (EP3)”, S. McKagan, D.A. Craig, M. Jackson, and T. Hodapp, Eds., (American Physical Society, College Park, MD, Version 1), 2021."

If you are citing a particular section of the Guide as a contributor, do so as you would a book chapter, for example, "A. Author, contributor to “Recruiting of Undergraduate Physics Majors” in “A Guide to Effective Practices for Physics Programs (EP3)”, S. McKagan, D. A. Craig, M. Jackson, and T. Hodapp, Eds., (American Physical Society, College Park, MD, Version 1), 2021." Note, current section version numbers can be found at the top of each webpage.

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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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