Learn about research-based teaching: The PER User’s Guide

by Stephanie Chasteen on December 8, 2011

There are a ton of research-based techniques for teaching, and we hear about them in bits and pieces.  There are great websites on modeling, for example, or our CU-Boulder  materials for using clickers and peer instruction.  But where can we go to find everything all in one place?

I’m pleased to help spread the word about the new PER User’s Guide (PER stands for “Physics Education Research.”)  I’ve been looking over the shoulder of developer Sam McKagan for many years now, from inception to implementation. I was excited by the idea and I can say, since I’ve had this inside look into the process, that you can trust what you’ll find on the page.  Sam’s done an amazing job of synthesizing the literature, making sure that the Guide is accurate, but also making it user-friendly so that teachers find what they need.  You can shop for strategies, compare them, and see what’s needed to make it work. The Guide is still in user testing, so I’m sure there will be additional improvements over the years, but this is an amazing resource.  Check it out and spread the word.  Note that this blog, as well as my podcast, are listed in the resources.  Woo hoo!

Here is Sam’s initial announcement about the site:

The pilot site of the PER User’s Guide, a new web resource to help physics instructors learn about the results of physics education research and apply them in their classrooms, is now live at: http://perusersguide.org

This site is still very much a work in progress and many refinements will be made in the coming months (and years!).  Before announcing the site to the broader physics community, we are looking for feedback from the PER community.  Please check it out and send me feedback, suggestions, and comments.  We are also looking for volunteers to help out with user testing.  The ideal volunteer would be someone who cares about teaching and is interested in learning more about PER, but is not an expert in PER.  If you know someone like this, feel free to pass this along to them.  Volunteering would involve trying out the site while discussing it with me over Skype for approximately a half hour.  If you are interested in volunteering for user testing, please do not go to the site before the session.

Sarah “Sam” McKagan
Editor, PER User’s Guide: http://perusersguide.org
American Association of Physics Teachers

The PER User’s Guide is a collection on the ComPADRE digital library (compadre.org).  It is provided by the American Association of Physics
Teachers and funded by the NSF. The Physics Education Research Leadership and Organizing Council (PERLOC) serves as the advisory board.

Of course, there are a few other sites that also compile useful information about research-based teaching and learning, such as the Science Education Resource Center (SERC), or Doing What Works.  The PER User’s Guide is a bit different in that it (a) focuses on physics instruction (though the results are certainly broadly applicable) and (b) provides a set of detailed information on a wide variety of instructional strategies, so that instructors can easily “shop” for new techniques, and see how much research does (or does not) support use of that strategy.

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