Skip to Main Content

Physics Education Research

We focus on the development, implementation, and study of research-based reform for physics and physics education programs. Over the past six years, we have implemented reform that has transformed the undergraduate physics experience at FIU.

Along the way, a thriving research and learning community has been established, rooted in inquiry-based pedagogy, that engages high school teachers and students, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and associated stakeholders. Our efforts are supported by a multi-disciplinary team from the departments of Physics and Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, our work is supported by federal funding from NSF, AIP, AAPT and APS.


Our work supports improved learning in the classroom and beyond. For instructors considering reform: our journey is about learning, helping our students learn and our learning about the world around us. Research has shown that actively engaging students improves learning.


We support multiple projects that bring reform to the university and high school classrooms and evaluate the effectiveness of those reforms.

  • Center for High Energy Physics Research and Education Outreach (CHEPREO)
    CHEPREO, the Center for High Energy Physics Research and Education Outreach, is an NSF-funded multidisciplinary, multi-institution project that supports basic research in particle physics, grid computing, and advanced networking at CERN. CHEPREO is based in the Florida International University (FIU) physics department, but includes College of Education, Computer Science, and University Technology Services faculty and personnel, along with university partners at University of Florida, Florida State University, and the California Institute of Technology as well as universities in Brazil. Significant CHEPREO resources are devoted to excite, entice, and retain science and math students using the project’s cutting-edge science as a foundation.

    CHEPREO’s Education and Outreach efforts have established a vibrant learning community of high school teachers, high school students, undergraduate students, faculty, and associated stakeholders over the past five years. The high school community, built on a foundation of pedagogic reform through physics modeling instruction and HEP outreach through QuarkNet, now extends to over 80 teachers in over 45 different schools in the South Florida region as well as many teachers in other states and regions in Florida impacting well over 10,000 students a year. High-school activities include intensive summer workshops for teachers, regular meetings of our teacher community named FizMo (Physics Modelers), and a series of high school student activities that entice students to pursue science degrees and careers. CHEPREO has also transformed the undergraduate experience through modeling-based, guided-inquiry introductory physics classes, the CHEPREO fellowship program, and the establishment of the Physics Learning Center. The undergraduate community impacts all physics majors and many other science and science/math education majors in addition to the fellows and modeling class students who are the direct recipients of the support.

    The impact of the combined undergraduate and high school communities can be seen through multiple measures. Measures of the impact include improved conceptual learning, the first significant measurement of positive cognitive attitudinal shifts, improved success in an introductory physics courses, and increased enrollment and graduation rates for physics majors. Especially exciting is the reform has positively impacted all groups of students, including traditionally under-represented minorities and women. CHEPREO's success has been leveraged in many ways, including extending the reform movement deeper into the physics and curriculum and instruction departments, serving as a model for reform in other units in the university, and as a model for many complimentary funding proposals.

  • PhysTEC

    The PhysTEC project leverages the reform and community building efforts to build a model for increasing the quality and quantity of physics teachers. PhysTEC recruits top introductory physics students and offers them a no-strings-attached teaching ‘test drive’ to evaluate teaching as a career through the Learning Assistant (LA) program. The LA program provides students with an opportunity to teach in a non-threatening environment (at FIU it is often within reformed physics laboratories) augmented by an education seminar. In the seminar, LAs ground their teaching experiences with inquiry-centered interactions and research-based readings to understanding the intellectual challenges of the teaching profession. LAs who elect to pursue teaching careers are supported both financially and educationally with a newly reformed secondary teacher education track within the physics program. This new track is grounded in inquiry and constructivist pedagogy within the context of the science delivered by a multidisciplinary College of Education / College of Arts & Sciences team, thus providing excellent research-based curriculum to the student.

  • GEMS

    The GEMS (Gets Educators in Math and Science) Project, a NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, expands the PhysTEC project into the Mathematics, Chemistry, and Earth Science Departments. The project provides at least $10,000 per year to content area majors who commit to teaching. The project structure mirrors the PhysTEC LA program.

  • QuarkNet

    The FIU QuarkNet brings high energy physics and community to high school teachers and their students. The project leverages CHEPREO's efforts and expertise to provide quality HEP experiences to participants. Activities include cosmic ray detectors deployed at high schools and experiences that parallel the turn on of the LHC. FIU is one of 60 QuarkNet sites across the nation.

    Work supported by NSF Grants 0312038 and 0802184, PhysTEC (a grant through the AIP, AAPT, & APS), and support from FIU.