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Program Background

On 3 January 2017, the AAS Council (now Board of Trustees) approved a new education strategy, summarized in the Final Report of the AAS 2016 Task Force on Education (additional Task Force information can be found here). In that report, four broad themes were identified that unify what the AAS can and should promote for its membership via its education-related activities:

  1. Engagement of members and nonmembers with both foundational and new astronomical ideas and data, and in both formal and informal settings.
  2. Communication and networking to connect people with a wide variety of expertise, so that they can pursue coordinated efforts in education.
  3. Mentoring at all career stages, both to receive high-quality mentoring and to be trained in how to provide it.
  4. Equity, inclusion, and diversity in all AAS activities related to education, and engaging our membership on these topics directly.

In that report, the Task Force also recommended that the AAS “…create opportunities for professional development activities in the area of education and mentoring, with the goal of enhancing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of its members to educate all the audiences with which they engage. These education and mentoring professional development activities cut across the boundaries of the roles within AAS of the Education Committee (formerly the Astronomy Education Board or AEB), the Employment Committee, and the diversity committees (CSMA, CSWA, SGMA, WGAD), and the Education Committee should coordinate with all of these committees.

Specifically, the AAS should support and fund a comprehensive, grant-based professional development workshop program around education, mentoring, and related activities at AAS winter, summer, regional, and/or topical meetings. AAS staff should facilitate the coordination and implementation of workshops that are recommended by the Education Committee, as it does with other AAS committees.” The AAS-EPD announcement of opportunity is intended to offer support and funding to carry out such professional development activities.

Some possible topics for EPD experiences (in no particular order):

  • Career development for junior members seeking education employment after graduation — see, for example, the SPS Careers Toolbox.
  • Training AAS members in inclusive and equitable teaching and mentoring of astronomy majors, astronomy graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and technical staff.
  • Professional development in how to provide and support authentic and inclusive undergraduate classroom and research experiences.
  • Astronomy education and public outreach workshops intended for K-12 student education and the general public — see, for example, AAPT professional development programs for physics.
  • Research-validated best practices for those who teach introductory astronomy for non-science majors (often called “Astro 101”) in a wide variety of ways.

Some examples of current EPD activities funded through this effort (in no particular order):

  • Professional Development through Access to Diverse Viewpoints: Creating a More Inclusive Career Panel (D. Bouquin, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
  • Echo Lake Milky Way Viewing Trip (H. Bryer, University of Denver)
  • Teaching for Equity (K. Coble, San Francisco State University)
  • A Data Science Foundation & Roadmap for Astronomy Instructors (D. Muna, Eureka Scientific)
  • Training Workshop for New Curricular Materials: Bringing Zooniverse-Based Research Experiences into Astro 101 (L. Trouille, The Adler Planetarium)
  • Leveraging Astrobites' Introduction to Current Research for Higher Education (B. Tsang, University of Texas, Austin)