Frequently Asked Questions about the PER User's Guide

What is PER?

Physics Education Research (PER) is a field of research focused on understanding how students think about physics and how to teach physics more effectively. Researchers in PER typically have (or are working towards) PhDs in physics or education. PER is different from traditional education research because researchers in this field are experts in the subject of physics, and can therefore look at student learning in ways that are particular to physics content. Over the last few decades, researchers in PER have made enormous advances in understanding how students learn physics most effectively and in developing teaching methods that apply this understanding to achieve improved student learning. For more questions about PER, please see Frequently Asked Questions about PER.

What is the PER User's Guide?

The PER User's Guide is a web resource for physics educators to learn how to teach more effectively by applying the results of physics education research (PER) and teaching methods based on these results. Research in the field of PER has made enormous advances in understanding how students learn physics most effectively and in developing teaching methods that apply this understanding to achieve improved student learning. The goal of this site is to provide a synthesis of decades of physics education research in a format that is easy for busy physics instructors to understand and apply.

Who is the audience for the PER User's Guide?

The PER User's Guide is intended for physics educators (college faculty and high school teachers) who want to use the results of PER to improve their teaching. Within this audience, we are targeting two primary types of users:

  1. Those who don't know much about PER and are interested in learning more in order to decide whether to try PER-based teaching methods in their classrooms.
  2. Those who are already using PER-based teaching methods in their classrooms and are looking for support in doing so more effectively.

Secondary audiences who may find the PER User's Guide useful include administrators and policy makers who care about improving physics education, and physics educations researchers who would like to get a user's perspective.

What kinds of resources can I find in the PER User's Guide?

Some highlights of the site include the Top 10 Results of PER that Every Physics Instructor Should Know, Frequently Asked Questions about PER, and our Methods and Materials page, which lists dozens of PER-based teaching methods, curricula, and techniques, and allows you to filter these methods according to your learning environment and goals.

What features will be included in the PER User's Guide in the future?

We will be expanding the PER User's Guide over the next year to include:

  • Expanded Resources about PER
  • Expanded Frequently Asked Questions about PER
  • Expanded tools for searching and comparing PER-based teaching methods
  • Detailed Implementation Guides to selected teaching methods. Each detailed implementation guide will contain approximately 20 pages of text, graphics, and multimedia, demonstrating the method through detailed suggestions for implementation, ways to address common challenges and questions, a summary of the research base behind the method, classroom videos, reviews by other adopters, case studies of successful adopters, and ways to connect with other adopters.
  • Explanations and references for the research validation of all the teaching methods listed on the site
  • Regular newsletters highlighting the latest results in PER and their relevance for physics educators.
  • Assessment tool database with access to research-based assessment instruments
  • A "virtual New Faculty Workshop Library" with videos of all presentations at the successful Workshop for New Faculty in Physics and Astronomy.

How is the PER User's Guide different from PERCentral?

PER-Central is a website with information about PER targeted primarily at researchers in PER. The PER User's Guide contains syntheses of research results and teaching materials targeted at users of PER - college faculty and high school teachers who teach physics, but do not necessarily conduct physics education research.

How is the PER User's Guide different from ComPADRE?

The PER User's Guide is a library within ComPADRE. ComPADRE is a large database of links to many different kinds of physics education resources. The PER User's Guide is an organized guide containing syntheses of research results and teaching materials with a more narrow goal: helping physics educators learn about and apply the results of PER in their classrooms.

Do I need to join the PER User's Guide?

No, you may search and browse the database without joining the PER User's Guide.

What are the benefits of joining the PER User's Guide?

Currently, you do not need to be a member to enjoy any of the benefits of the site. However, we will soon be adding additional tools that you will need to be a member to access, including the ability to write reviews of materials, suggest new materials, access discussion forums with other community members, and receive newsletters. Joining the PER User's Guide also allows you to access these features on other ComPADRE libraries.

What is required to join the PER User's Guide?

To join, users must provide their name and email. Further information can be provided, if desired, to personalize the PER User's Guide for the user and enhance interactions with others.

Why do pages on the PER User's Guide change?

The PER User's Guide is a dynamic collection, meaning the information provided depends on a user's requests and the information that exists in the database. As the database grows, the displayed pages will change.

Is there a cost for the PER User's Guide?

The PER User's Guide is a free and open resource provided as service by the American Association of Physics Teachers. It is supported, in part, by funding from the National Science Foundation and is part of the NSF National Science Digital Library.

Who can I contact for further information?

You can contact the the PER User's Guide staff using the feedback form.

Additional Information can be found on the About the PER User's Guide page.