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On the origins of PERTG and PERLOC, and relationship to the AAPT RiPE Committee

The Physics Education Research Topical Group (PERTG) evolved from the AAPT Committee on Research in Physics Education.  The RIPE Committee was established by AAPT in 1981 in response to a steadily growing interest in research on the learning and teaching of physics.  Lillian C. McDermott, one of its founders, was its first chair.  From its early days onward, RIPE sponsored and co-sponsored invited and contributed sessions at national AAPT meetings.  These sessions were well attended, as were the semi-annual meetings of the RIPE Committee.  The rapid growth of the PER community gave rise to an enthusiastic effort led by current and former members of the RIPE Committee to establish physics education research as a Topical Group within AAPT.  The RIPE Committee, chaired by Stamatis Vokos, appointed an ad hoc committee, the Physics Education Research Election Organizing Committee, to develop a proposal in conjunction with AAPT.  Establishment of the PERTG was endorsed by the RIPE Committee and was approved by the AAPT Executive Board in October 2004. More details can be found here

Leadership of the PERTG is provided by the Physics Education Research Leadership Organizing Council (PERLOC), which consists of six elected members and the Chair of the Ripe Committee ex officio.  Unlike the Area Committees in AAPT, PERLOC is elected from within PERTG, rather than appointed by the AAPT Nominating Committee and President-Elect.  The first PERLOC, elected in April-May 2006, included: Noah Finkelstein, Steve Kanim, Lillian C, McDermott, Valerie Otero, E.F. (Joe) Redish, Michael Wittmann, and Rachel Scherr (RIPE Committee Chair).

It might seem that there is unnecessary overlap between the Research in Physics Education (RIPE) committee and PERLOC. There are several important differences. The information provided below will hopefully clarify the distinction between the two bodies.


Main Purpose: The mission of the PERLOC is to promote physics education research within and beyond the AAPT.

Membership: Elected by PERTG.

Some Specific Responsibilities:
  • Organize PER conference (PERC) and oversee publication of PERC proceedings.
  • Compile periodic newsletter for PERTG members.
  • Organize internal committees.


Main Purpose: Organize PER-related activities at national AAPT meetings and be an advocate for PER within AAPT.

Membership: Appointed by AAPT nominating committee and president-elect.

Some specific responsibilities:
  • Sponsor PER-related sessions and workshops at national AAPT meetings.
  • Represent PER community within AAPT organizational structure.
  • Coordinate activities with other AAPT committees.

Some shared responsibilities

  • Encourage and follow research on the teaching and learning of physics and related topics.
  • Help keep the AAPT membership and the broader science teaching community aware of new and current understanding of how and why students learn, and ways of improving instruction, including the appropriate use of new tools and technologies.
  • Encourage both the use of the outcomes of research and the doing of formal and informal research in the physics classroom and laboratory.
  • Encourage recognition of research in physics education as a valid area of inquiry within physics departments.