Faculty Profile

Rachel Scherr

Rachel Scherr

Senior Research Scientist

Email: scherr@spu.edu
Phone: 206-281-7259
Office: Otto Miller Hall 110


Education: BA, Reed College, 1993; MS, University of Washington, 1996; PhD, University of Washington, 2001. At SPU since 2012.

Rachel Scherr conducts research to identify the seeds of sophisticated understanding in learners’ ideas, and observes the processes by which students collaboratively construct physics concepts in best-practices physics learning environments. She has published extensively and has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on many National Science Foundation awards.

Dr. Scherr has served as thesis advisor for doctoral students at the University of Maryland, the University of Maine, and Seattle Pacific University, all in physics-education research. She is also an active consultant to the American Physical Society (APS), conducting research and evaluation for large programs including the Committee for the Status of Women in Physics; the APS Bridge Program, whose mission is to increase the number of physics doctorates awarded to underrepresented minority students; and the Physics Teacher Education Coalition, whose mission is to improve and promote the education of future physics teachers. She is a past chair of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Physics Education Research Topical Group and chair-elect of the APS Topical Group in Physics Education Research. She is on the editorial board of Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research.

Dr. Scherr has taught “Energy for Secondary Teachers” at Seattle Pacific since 2013. She previously served as the project director and research director of the Seattle Pacific University Energy Project and affiliate in the Seattle Pacific Physics Department. She has also fulfilled appointments at the University of Washington, University of Maryland, and the Evergreen State College.


Selected Publications

  • A. D. Robertson, R. E. Scherr, and D. Hammer, Eds., “Responsive Teaching in Science,” Routledge Press (2015).
  • R. E. Scherr, M. Plisch, and R. M. Goertzen, Sustaining programs in physics teacher education: A study of PhysTEC supported sites (American Physical Society, College Park, MD 2014).
  • R. E. Scherr and A. D. Robertson, “Productivity of ‘collisions generate heat’ for reconciling an energy model with mechanistic reasoning: A case study,” Phys. Rev. – Spec. Topics: Phys. Educ. Res. 11, 010111 1–16 (2015).
  • A. R. Daane, S. B. McKagan, S. Vokos, and R. E. Scherr, “Energy conservation in dissipative processes: Teacher expectations and strategies associated with imperceptible thermal energy,” Phys. Rev. – Spec. Topics: Phys. Educ. Res. 11, 010109 1–15 (2015).
  • A. R. Daane, S. Vokos, and R. E. Scherr, “Goals for teacher learning about energy degradation and usefulness,” Phys. Rev. – Spec. Topics: Phys. Educ. Res. 10, 020111 1–16 (2014).
  • A. R. Daane, L. Wells, and R. E. Scherr, “Energy Theater,” The Physics Teacher 52, 291–294 (2014).
  • R. E. Scherr, H. G. Close, E. W. Close, V. J. Flood, S. B. McKagan, A. D. Robertson, L. Seeley, M. C. Wittmann, and S. Vokos, “Negotiating energy dynamics through embodied action in a materially structured environment,” Phys. Rev. – Spec. Topics: Phys. Educ. Res. 9, 020105 1–18 (2013).

Please view Dr. Scherr’s CV (PDF) for additional publications.

Why I Do Research at SPU

Rachel Scherr, Senior Research Scientist

“I conduct research on the teaching and learning of physics, and there is no better place to do it than at SPU. Through close, collegial relationships, students and faculty support each other to grow intellectually and make a difference in the world.”

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