In this interview, Dean Zollman discusses: interests in current physics education research (PER); family background and childhood; PhD at Maryland under Carl Levinson and Manoj Banerjee; involvement in civil rights movement; postdoc at Kansas State; collaborations with Bob Fuller and Tom Campbell; involvement with American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT); Jack Renner’s research on the intellectual development of college students; overview of the big names and ideas in PER in the early-to-mid 70s; research on how to meet students’ current developmental levels and capabilities; hands-on and visual approaches to physics learning; NSF-funded work at University of Utah, developing instructional laser discs with Bob Fuller and Tom Campbell; forays into using video for physics instruction and early application of computers to physics education; Fulbright at University of Munich; Fascination of Physics collaboration with his partner J.D. Spears; teaching quantum mechanics visually; winning the Milikan Award; the Physics InfoMall CD-ROM project; relationship with NSF; Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Education project and COVID’s damage to its realization; Oersted Medal; crossovers with field of psychology in researching how learning happens; internet-based Pathways project for high school instructors; collaborations with the International Commission on Physics Education; the excitement of helping people learn; and the hope that innovative teaching strategies will draw in a more diverse student body to solve the big physics questions of our time. Toward the end of the interview, Zollman looks forward to continuing PER both on the fundamentals of how students learn as well as on applied methods for teaching. He notes that the quest to understand the mechanisms of learning invite a more interdisciplinary approach going forward.
Interview with David Sokoloff, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oregon. Sokoloff discusses his focus on improving physics education at the collegiate level, and the programs and methods he has implemented to ensure that the state of physics education, both domestically and internationally, continues to advance. He discusses the workshops he has organized around the world for the development of Active Learning in Optics and Photonics (ALOP). These workshops also involve Interactive Lecture Demonstrations (ILDs), which Sokoloff has utilized throughout his career as a physics educator. He also reflects on creating Home-Adapted ILDs during COVID so that students could continue learning about these concepts during the pandemic. Sokoloff talks about how he has grappled with active throughout the pandemic, when so many aspects of education have been forced online. He discusses the challenges of replicating live learning situations through online platforms. Sokoloff then looks back on his time at MIT and his engagement with local and national politics during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly with the Teacher Corps. He returns to his discussions of Active Learning workshops and his multi-year collaboration with Priscilla Laws and Ron Thornton. Towards the end of the interview, Sokoloff remarks upon his experiences as a rep to the U.S. Liaison Committee for the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, a rep to the International Commission on Physics Education, and a recipient of the Oersted Medal. Sokoloff rounds out the conversation discussing the importance of active learning in physics education, as well as how vital it is that students are given the space and opportunity to question ideas, make mistakes, and speak up for themselves.