Physics Education Research

The SPU Department of Physics is actively engaged in Physics Education Research (PER), the study of the teaching and learning of physics. The Physics Education Research Group at Seattle Pacific University has especially strong interests in the teaching and learning of energy and in physics teacher education.

Publications and Presentations

Current projects

University Student Conceptual Resources for Understanding Physics
This project takes as a premise that students’ ideas are fundamentally sensible — that they think what they think for good reason. Specifically, we are working to identify the resources students use to understand forces and mechanical waves in the context of introductory physics instruction. Using the results of this research, we are developing and testing curricular materials that build on student resources.

Content Knowledge for Teaching Energy
In this project, we develop and validate a set of coherent measures of content knowledge for teaching energy in physics while we support and evaluate teachers through professional development.

Focus on Energy for Elementary Teachers
In this project, we develop and investigate a professional development program for elementary teachers to learn about energy and capitalize on students’ productive ideas.

Periscope: Looking into learning in best-practices physics classrooms
In this project, we create and disseminate Periscope, a set of materials for university physics educator development based on compelling classroom video of best-practices university physics instruction.


Physics student researching

We welcome undergraduate researchers for senior or honors research projects. Contact Amy Robertson.

Graduate studies in physics education research are offered in partnership with the doctoral program in the School of Education. Contact Rachel Scherr.

We enjoy hosting visiting scholars in physics education research for intensive research collaborations, exchanges, or sabbaticals. Contact Rachel Scherr.

Educational Research

2015 PhysTEC 5+ Award

SPU’s School of Education received a special commendation from the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) for its record of educating future physics teachers. The 5+ Club Award is given to schools that graduate five or more physics teachers in a given year.