Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2000 10:58:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: CSWA Newsletter of 6/21/2000

            AAS Committee on the Status of Women
    weekly issues of  6/21/2000, ed. by Priscilla Benson
***  send email and addresses to  ***

This week's issues:
1.  Networking Lunch for Women Astronomers
2.  AAS Education Effort
1. Networking Lunch for Women Astronomers


Networking Lunch for Women Astronomers

The Royal Astronomical Society's Committee for Women in 
Astronomy and Geophysics intend to organise an informal 
lunchtime meeting on Tuesday 8th August. The aim of this 
meeting is to provide an informal forum for discussion of 
the various issues which particularly affect women 

We hope to invite two or three women astronomers to say a 
few words on their own experiences to provide a focus for 
general discussion and we will write up a report of the 
meeting for Astronomy and Geophysics magazine. 

We will provide a light buffet lunch although as our budget 
is limited, we encourage anyone who has already pre-booked a 
packed lunch to take it along.  The venue is yet to
be decided but will be on the main Manchester University 
site. The choice of venue will depend on the expected number 
of participants. 

Any GA24 participants (including men and non-astronomer 
partners) who would be interested in attending this meeting 
are invited to contact the organiser: 

Dr. Myfanwy Bryce 
Jodrell Bank Observatory 

Phone: +44 1477 572624 
FAX: +44 1477 571618 

2.  AAS Education Effort

Dear AAS friends and colleagues,

Many people have asked me, "What is happening with the AAS 
education office?" A few weeks before the June AAS meeting, 
I was informed that as of January 2001, the office as 
presently constituted would be closed. This decision is the 
result of an evaluation of the accomplishments of the office 
during the three years it has been in operation conducted by 
a committee appointed by the AAS Council.  I was not shown 
the results of the evaluation nor told who was on the 
committee, so I cannot report to you exactly what was found.  
The AEB (Astronomy Education Board) also was not consulted.  
The best I can do is to report what I've been told by 
individual Council members.  I apologize for the impersonal 
nature of this mailing, but I've gotten a large number of 
inquiries and this will make for a more timely answer.  
Please forward this email to anyone else you know interested
in AAS education.

Upon taking this office three years ago, I conducted a 
survey (along with the ASP) of AAS members education 
priorities. I received 1300 responses and used them to help 
determine what activities were most valued by you.  A year 
and a half ago, the AEB and the Education Office 
incorporated those results as we crafted a long-range plan 
of proposed education activities, which we submitted to the 
AAS Council and reported in the Newsletter.  We have been 
working to fulfill that plan.  However, the committee 
apparently decided that the plan was not the one they 
wanted.  Also, some on the AAS Council were apparently not
satisfied with the plan, although Council gave no indication 
of this when they accepted it. When I was informed of the 
committee's decision, I specifically asked if they 
determined whether the Ed Office was meeting the needs of 
members as expressed to the office directly or via 
that initial survey.  I was told that the 1300 respondents 
were only a minority of the Society and were probably, "a 
biased sample."

During the past three years, the number of educational 
activities at AAS meetings and the participation by members 
has steadily grown.  Oral education sessions are now 
routinely among the largest at meetings.  "Astro 101: A 
Continuing Dialogue," held the first afternoon of each
meeting before registration, is averaging about 75 
participants.  Just as important, the scholarly content in 
such sessions has increased as AAS members have reported 
results based on research and experience in teaching and 
members of physics education community such as Eric Mazur
have been recruited to join us. The idea of putting the 
Education Office at a University was to foster continual 
interaction with educators and a chance to test out ideas.  
My view is that the highest priority of the Education Office 
should be to serve AAS members who want help with their own 
education activities.  I have been told that this priority 
is wrong, that the highest priority should be to have a
"national impact."  An example given to me of national 
impact was that an education person could be based in 
Washington and spend time going with Kevin Marvel to Capitol 
Hill, helping make sure that Congressmen know what an 
important vehicle for education astronomy represents.
Necessarily this would mean a reduction in assisting AAS 
members.  My personal view is that Kevin is doing an 
excellent job and although it would be nice to help him, the 
efforts of the Education Office are best directed towards 
education.  However, my view is also that YOUR view is
the most important one.  Now is the time to express it.

Two other comments I've heard are that the Education Office 
has not benefited enough members or raised enough money.  
The first commentor suggested that the AAS Council has not 
heard from many members who said they benefit from Education 
Office activities.  We've only raised about $60,000 from 
grants so far.  However, three years is not a very long
time to start a major education program and get funding.  
Our first proposal to NSF elicited the following comment 
from one referee, "The AAS is not serious about education, I 
would not give them money.  We've made two proposals to NSF 
education in the last two years and one has been funded.  I 
would hate to see us lose momentum now, but if we alter our 
plans every 3-4 years we do just that. In "Revitalizing 
Undergraduate Education: Why Some Things Work and Most 
Don't," Shiela Tobias demonstrates that Universities which 
have significantly improved their education efforts have 
done so little by little, typically over the course of a 
decade.  There are no quick fixes, magic curricula, or magic 
bullets. Constantly changing goals is a primary cause of 
failure. I wonder if those evaluating the AAS program have 
read Sheila Tobias? In physics, research leaders have been 
instrumental in helping raise money ($5M) to support 
education through the "Campaign for Physics."  The AEB had 
just set up a committee to do this when we were told the 
office would close down.  Perhaps the AAS Council will now 
provide additional leadership in this area. If their 
committment is strong, as publicly stated,  they will.  
Watch and see.  Many people are not aware that NSF education 
grants often require matching funds, so it is vital to raise 
money from sources besides the the government.

Apart from money, those of us who teach have been 
challenged.  Research by Mazur, Sadler and others shows that 
we are teaching much less physics than we think.  If it was 
discovered that the quantum efficiency of HST was half that 
expected the response would be immediate.  Data indicate 
that we are only teaching half of what we think we are, and 
our response should be as strong.  I hired a science 
education specialist, Gina Brissenden, rather than a 
secretary, to try and keep up with this research, find the 
best of it, and bring it to AAS members.  If the AAS loses 
its commitment in this area, its effort is no longer data-
based, and that is a big problem. I've seen no indication 
that this is something recognized by the evaluation 
committee  or Council.  

The next one or two months will be a critical time in 
determining how money designated for "education" is spent in 
the future in the AAS (including, I presume, and money 
donated to the Centennial Campaign and marked for 
education).  If you want to see any of the current 
activities continued it is very important that you express 
your opinion to Bruce Partridge and AAS Council members.  It 
is frustrating to me to see a situation in which (in my 
opinion) what Council sees is very different from what many 
AAS members see.  For instance the statement just released 
by Council suggests new directions for education, including 
that the AAS, investigate how its education programs might 
interact with other societies such as the ASP.  But 
coordination with the ASP has already been a highlight of 
the past 3 years.  We have co-authored grant proposals and 
closely cooperate with the ASP on meetings such as "Cosmos 
in the Classroom" and other programs. You may have noticed 
in the Council statement that the AEB has been given the 
charge of formulating recommendations for future education 
activities, but no charge to solicit members opinions.  If 
you want your voice heard, it is up to you to raise it. You 
are also welcome to contact me with opinions or questions.  
However it is most important that you send them where I 
mentioned above.

In the future, you might want to consider the education 
priorities of candidates for the AAS Council.  Ask 
candidates to describe them in the Newsletter statements 
they make when running for office, as well expressing your 
own priorities to them.  I intend to do so.

Doug Duncan

End of CSWA Newsletter of 6/21/2000