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Physics Education Research

Introduction to Physics Education Research

Physics Education Research (PER) aims to develop and utilize theories and techniques that characterize, influence, and measure the learning of physics by students. While much of the work in this field focuses on these 'traditional' students, PER extends its reach to professional development for pre- and in-service teachers of physics at the K-12 levels in an attempt to better teachers.

Works within PER tend to fall within one or more of several broad descriptions, including:

  • identifying student difficulties
  • developing methods to address these difficulties and measure learning gains
  • developing surveys to measure student performance and other characteristics
  • investigating student attitudes and beliefs as relating to physics
  • studying small and large group dynamics
  • analyzing student patterns using framing and other new and existing epistemological methods

As in other subfields of physics, works and ideas in PER are put forth in print and online journals and are subject to peer-review.

Who performs PER?

Over the past four decades, PER has emerged as a growing subfield of physics. In its early days, practitioners were physics researchers from 'traditional' subfields who spent some or all of their time investigating relevant issues. More recently, institutions have started graduate programs in physics education, training new generations of researchers with field-specific skills. These programs exist in both physics departments as well as schools of education. Presently, there are many physicists and non-physicist whose entire training has been in the context of PER.

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Organizations and general information

Popular PER journals and journals that include PER sections