Are you being serviced? Promoting quality service teaching

L. Kirkup, G. Mather, L. Wood, P. Logan


If we accept a definition of physics service teaching as that which is provided to those not majoring in physics, then the teaching done by physics departments in Australian Universities is dominated (at first year level at least) by service teaching. It is of such importance that the sustainability of a physics department can be dramatically prejudiced by a modest change in attitude of, say, a Dean of Engineering towards the amount of physics s/he believes should appear in the undergraduate Engineering curriculum and who should teach that physics. At UTS we estimate that between 70% and 80% of the recurrent money earned yearly by the Department of Applied Physics derives from service teaching. A fair question to ask is ‘are those being serviced getting value for money?’. Positioning academic, rather than financial, values to the fore we might also ask ‘are we aware of what make service teaching distinctive, what are the special features of the groups of non-physics majors we teach, and do we have effective mechanisms for evaluating, reforming and adding value to the service teaching we do?’

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