[Stanford University]
                        and Sciences][Stanford University]
Department of Physics

Physics Education Research
Links and Resources

Physics education research seeks to find the most effective methods for teaching physics. The resources listed here highlight some of the key developments in this field. They have been selected to help a physicist unfamiliar with PER to begin using research-based teaching methods with a minimum amount of effort. Links are provided to strategies and materials developed at other institutions to promote borrowing and adaption (rather than re-invention) of best practices.

The body of literature in this field is vast, so this list is by no means exhaustive. If there are other resources that you feel would be useful, please contact me.

PER Overviews

In the fall of 2008, the physics department sponsored a series of seminars on physics education. Slides and video are available for Joe Redish's talks on using math in physics classes and reinventing discussion sections. Video for Eric Mazur's seminar, "Confessions of a Converted Leturer," is also available (through iTunes).

Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite, Joe Redish This is the "Bible" of PER. A great resource that gives an overview of the field, describes successful implementation strategies, and cites key papers.

PER presentations by graduate student Wells Wulsin, SASS and U. Cincinnati (they are similar).

David Hammer, "Two Approaches to Learning Physics", The Physics Teacher 27, 664 (1989)

Research on Interactive Engagement Methods in Physics Education presentation, Suzanne Kane

Science and Physics Education Homepages

Helpful bibliographies

APS Resources on curriculum reform

PER resources targeted for graduate students

The Core Reading list from the FFPER conference

Bibliographies from Redish

PER Central from the AAPT

PER Reviews from the AAPT

Lessons from other Universities

MIT: Physics Courses MIT's workshop-based TEAL courses. Faculty Newsletter, Journal of the Learning Sciences, Carnegie Foundation magazine, Powerpoint Articles by John Belcher, who helped develop MIT's TEAL course. The TEAL course showed increased normalized gains compared with the traditional course, but TEAL generated substantial resistance from the student body.

Illinois: How U. Ill. adopted widespread reform in its intro courses. This presentation I found particularly insightful, along with this paper and this summary.

Maryland: Reinventing College Physics for Biologists: Explicating an epistemological curriculum, how U. Md. changed its algebra-based physics course. Learning how to Learn Science final report, an earlier evaluation of the course.

RPI: a Studio Physics approach


Traditional and Tutorial Discussions Side by Side, TA Tutorial FAQs, handouts developed for fall 2008 Stanford physics TA training

Student Tutorial FAQs, handout developed for Stanford Physics 20/40 series students, fall 2008

A Primer on Tutorials for CU-Boulder faculty, by Steve Pollock

Tutorial FAQ's for students (click on "FAQ's about Tutorials (why do we do these things?)" in left sidebar), from Steve Pollock, CU-Boulder

Guide for Tutorial Facilitators, from U. Md.

Tutorials in Introductory Physics, L. C. McDermott and P.S. Shaffer, 1998. Research-based tutorial problems, developed at U. Washington.

Activity-Based Tutorials, M.C. Wittmann, R.N. Steinberg, E.F. Redish, and the University of Maryland Physics Education Research Group (Wiley, 2004 and 2005).

U. of Maine Tutorials for Intermediate Mechanics

Implementation of Tutorials at UW

Implementing Tutorials at CU-Boulder

Tutorials at U. Maryland

Tutorials in Physics Sense-Making from U. Md.

Cooperative Group Problem Solving at U. Minnesota

Presentation on Tutorials by Wells Wulsin

Undergraduate section leaders in the Stanford CS department, program description and paper


D. Sokoloff and R. Thornton The Physics Teacher, v.35 (1997) Using interactive lecture demonstrations to create an active learning environment

C. Crouch, et al., Classroom demonstrations: Learning tools or entertainment? Am. J. Phys. 72 (2004) 835-838. Examines how much students learn from traditionally presented demonstrations

Interactive Lecture Demonstrations, David Sokoloff and Ron Thornton, 2001. Sample ILDs and how to use them.

Peer Instruction: A User's Manual, Eric Mazur, 1997. A guide to interactive techniques in lecture.

Just In Time Teaching Strategy to use web-based materials to collect out-of-class feedback to inform lecture content.

Clicker Resource Guide from CU-Boulder.

Clicker questions for upper-division courses from CU-Boulder, for E&M and Quantum Mechanics. (Download the "Concept Tests." It's a .zip file that contains many .ppt presentations.)

Lecture demonstrations, compiled by the Physics Instructional Resource Association (PIRA), supported by the AAPT. Main website and the index of demos.


E. Redish, et al., On the effectiveness of active-engagement microcomputer-based laboratories, Am. J. Phys., 65, 45-54 (1997).

Real Time Physics, David Sokoloff, Ron Thornton, and Priscilla Laws, 1995. Computer-based lab activities, following the guided-inquiry method of predict-observe-explain.

R. Thornton and D. Sokoloff, Am. J. Phys., 66 (1998), 338. Data showing substantial gains made by RTP labs and ILD's over traditional instruction.

U. Md. Activity-Based Physics lab tutorial More like a lab than a standard discussion. Videos of: students and with TA.

Scientific Community Labs.

PhET Interactive Simulations from CU-Boulder.

Professional Development

Take a free (NSF-funded) Chautauqua summer course (~3 days). More information: here and here.

Article on careers in PER, "Education Research: A New (Tenure) Track for Scientists", Science, 5 Oct. 2007.

Last updated: 2012-01-02.
Originally compiled by Wells Wulsin, May 2009.

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