One of the key findings of the SPIN-UP report (Hilborn et al., 2003) is that thriving physics departments do more than just offer a series of high-quality courses. Thriving physics departments create an environment with significant out-of-class interactions among students as well as between students and faculty. Examples of ways to promote out-of-class interactions include:
• Offer active and personalized advising and career guidance.
• Sponsor and support a campus chapter of the Society of Physics Students and encourage students to participate.
• Create a comfortable student lounge or common room.
• Work with students to develop community outreach activities.
• Maintain a tutoring program matching upper-division students with introductory students needing help.
• Involve students in existing invited speakers programs with opportunities to interact and dine with these and other visitors.
Recommendation B4. Departmental leadership should establish collective responsibility and a commitment to incremental improvement, based on research on programs and courses.
Establish a faculty working group to formulate a set of realistic goals for the overall program and especially the introductory courses, consider how to reach these goals, and decide on what evidence will be used to assess progress. The resulting plans will need to consider the structure of courses and programs, the processes of teaching and assessment, and the structures that affect cohesion and motivation of students (such as advising and informal interactions between students and faculty). This group should utilize education research findings in their deliberations. Plans should include the following:
• Identify specific evidence to help assess learning objectives for each course.
• Consider pedagogies that can help to realize these objectives. As discussed throughout this report, the specific pedagogies that are appropriate will vary from one department to another. There exists a vast array of publications and websites that can help faculty select appropriate strategies, materials, and methods.
• Work with interested department faculty members and groups of faculty to implement the agreed-upon changes. This is one of the most difficult aspects of successful improvement programs. Faculty members who welcome experienced observers into their classes, and who consider their advice, can be more successful in implementing change. Conversations and resources should be extended to all interested faculty, including fulltime, adjunct, and