Physics Education Research

In general, physics education research involves a broad range of research interests.  These are described more fully at PER Central ( which is a site designed specifically to serve as an informational touchpoint and online community for "producers" and "consumers" of physics education research (PER).

At the University of Cincinnati, the PER group is a mutual effort between the Physics Department and the School of Education.  The work of the group focuses on projects involving the implementation and evaluation of best teaching practices and curriculum in the introductory physics sequences, research on student development of scientific reasoning as well as its assessment, and professional development for our graduate teaching assistants.  The group includes three primary faculty members from main campus as well as two faculty from UC's branch campuses: Krista Wood (UC Blue Ash) and Darwin Church (UC Clermont). However, due to the nature of the research conducted, a variety of faculty members from across UC, as well as collaborators at other institutions, are involved in many of the projects.

 Graduate degrees in physics education research may be earned through either the Department of Physics or the School of Education. Because the programs are quite different, it is best to consult with one of the PER faculty before applying.

Professor Alex Maries’ research focuses primarily on the development of instructional approaches and curricula to improve the teaching and learning of physics. Knowledge of learning theories developed by cognitive scientists (e.g., cognitive apprenticeship model) can be extremely useful when designing instruction, and professor Maries has developed cognitive strategies based on these theories to improve student learning. Through collaboration with Kathy Koenig at UC and Robert Teese at Rochester Institute of Technology, he has developed Interactive Video-Enhanced Tutorials (IVETs) designed to help improve student problem solving skills. Additionally, since Professor Maries believes strongly in educating the next generation for active learning, he has been engaged in professional development for all the Teaching Assistants who teach recitations in the physics department since he came to UC in 2015. Lastly, since improving teaching and learning is a communal effort he has been engaged with other STEM faculty in interdepartmental research and efforts to improve education at UC.

Professor Kathy Koenig's primary research involves two overlapping areas including (1) development and assessment of scientific reasoning and its relevancy to science teaching and learning and (2) effectiveness of pedagogical practices and curriculum, many of which are web-baesd, on student learning and retention in STEM.  Through collaborations with Dr. Lei Bao at The Ohio State University, she has developed several college level curricula as well as an assessment tool ( that supports her research on student development of scientific reasoning.  Other collaborations include work with the Live Photo Physics Group (Bob Teese, Priscilla Laws, Maxine Willis, and David Jackson) with which she has been involved in the development and evaluation of interactive video vignettes (web-based exercises that incorporate video analysis activities) and interactive video-enhanced tutorials (web-based instruction that supports students' abilities in problem solving).  Because she strongly believes in bridging theory into practice, she spends a significant amount of time working with other STEM faculty and graduate teaching assistants in regards to their own classroom teaching. 

Professor Mark Plano Clark employs research based teaching pedagogies in his introductory physics courses including the use of the flipped classroom and Learning Catalytics.  He has mentored for the Preparing Future Faculty program and is beginning to work with learning assistants; that is, undergraduates who work alongside faculty or other graduate students in the classroom to support active learning pedagogies.

Professor Bob Endorf (Emeritus) has been heavily involved with in-service teacher professional development using the Physics by Inquiry (McDermott) curriculum.  For 17 years he has been leading two summer professional development programs, each serving up to 24 teachers in either grades K-5 or 5-12. A total of 316 teachers have now completed the grades 5-12 program and 269 have completed the grades K-5 program. Both programs have been continuously funded through state grants and will continue to be funded through Spring 2015. Pre-and-post tests indicate the participating teachers are making significant gains in knowledge acquisition, and the results have been presented numerous times at National AAPT meetings.