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We focus on the development, implementation and study of research-based reform for physics and physics education programs. Over several years, we have transformed the undergraduate physics experience at FIU. Along the way, a thriving research and learning community has been established, rooted in inquiry-based pedagogy and engaging high school teachers and students, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and associated stakeholders. 

Our efforts are supported by a multodisciplinary team from the departments of Physics and Teaching and Learning. We receive federal funding from the National Science Foundation, American Institute of Physics, American Association of Physics Teachers and American Physical Society


We support and assess projects bringing new strategies to university and high school classrooms.

  • 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 our department, but includes 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 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.

  • GEMS

    The GEMS (Gets Educators in Math and Science) Project, a NSFRobert 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.


  • Web Resources


    • PER Central: Like the name suggests, a central portal to PER resources
    • Compadre: Resources for Physics and Astronomy education, part of the National Science Digital Library. Host to PER central.
    • National Physicist Organizations
      • The American Association of Physics Teachers
      • The American Institute of Physics
      • The American Physical Society
    • ASU's Modeling Site: Modeling Instruction central
    • and Physics Teacher Education Coalition sites aimed at improving the quantity and quality of physics teachers
    • PhET: Physics Education Technology at University of Colorado provides interactive science simulations for free.

    PER Group Homepages:

  • Readings and Scholarly Work
    • Arnold Arons’ Teaching Introductory Physics book includes foundational information on student difficulties in introductory physics and treatments on the difficulties including homework and test questions. Wiley, ISBN: 0-471-13707-3, (1997)
    • I.A. Halloun and D. Hestenes, “Common sense concepts about motion,” American Journal of Physics 53 (11), 1056-1065 (1985)
    • D. Hammer, “More than misconceptions: Multiple perspectives on student knowledge and reasoning, and an appropriate role for education research,” American Journal of Physics 64, 1316-1325 (1996)
    • D. Hestenes, "Toward a modeling theory of physics instruction", American Journal of Physics 55, 440-454 (1987).
    • D. Hestenes, "Who needs physics education research?" American Journal of Physics 66, 465-467 (1998).
    • R.D. Knight, Five Easy Lessons: Strategies for Successful Physics Teaching Pearson-Addison Wesley (2004)
    • McDermott and Redish’s resource letter on physics education research
    • L.C. McDermott, “Millikan Lecture 1990: What we teach and what is learned – Closing the gap,” American Journal of Physics 59 (4), 301-315 (1991).
    • Redish's Who needs to learn physics in the 21st century and why?
    • E.F. Redish, “Millikan Lecture 1998: Building a science of teaching physics,” American Journal of Physics 67 (7), 562-573 (1999).
    • E.F. Redish and R.N. Steinberg, “Teaching physics: Figuring out what works,” Physics Today 52 (1), 24-30 (1999).
    • E.F. Redish, Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite, Wiley (2003)
    • A. Van Heuvelen, “Learning to think like a physicist: A review of research-based instructional strategies,” American Journal of Physics 59 (10), 891-897 (1991)
  • Research-Based Curricula and Materials

    Modeling Instruction:

    Modeling Instruction operates as a collaborative, studio-format, learning environment. Inquiry labs and activities focused on conceptual reasoning and problem solving are the primary vehicles through which models are built, validated and extended. The use of Modeling Discourse Management has cultivated a learning community by encouraging students to engage with each other and establish patterns of scientific communication that students utilize in extra curricular interactions.


    Activity-based Physics:

    From their website:

    "Activity-Based Physics is a multi-university project to sustain and enhance current efforts to render introductory physics courses more effective and exciting at both the secondary and college level. This program represents a multi-university collaborative effort by a team of educational reformers to use the outcomes of physics education research along with flexible computer tools to promote activity-based models of physics instruction."



    Cooperative Group Problem Solving:

    Cooperative group problem solving has several advantages:

    1. The structured problem-solving strategy seems too long and complex to most students. Cooperative-group problem solving gives students a chance to practice the strategy until it becomes more natural.
    2. Groups can solve more complex problems than individuals, so students see the advantage of a logical problem-solving strategy early in the course.
    3. Each individual can practice the planning and monitoring skills they need to become good individual problem solvers.
    4. Students get practice developing and using the language of physics — "talking physics".
    5. In their discussion with each other, students must deal with and resolve their misconceptions.
    6. In subsequent, whole-class discussions of the problems, students are less intimidated because they are not answering as an individual, but as a group."



    Just-in-Time Teaching:

    From their website:

    "Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT for short) is a teaching and learning strategy based on the interaction between web-based study assignments and an active learner classroom. Students respond electronically to carefully constructed web-based assignments which are due shortly before class, and the instructor reads the student submissions "just-in-time" to adjust the classroom lesson to suit the students' needs. Thus, the heart of JiTT is the "feedback loop" formed by the students' outside-of-class preparation that fundamentally affects what happens during the subsequent in-class time together."




    From their website:

    "The primary goal of the Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) Project is to establish a highly collaborative, hands-on, computer-rich, interactive learning environment for large-enrollment courses."

    "Educational research indicates that students should collaborate on interesting tasks and be deeply involved with the material they are studying. We promote active learning in a redesigned classroom of 100 students or more. (Of course, smaller classes can also benefit.) 



    Tutorials in Introductory Physics:

    From their website:

    "Tutorials in Introductory Physics is a set of instructional materials intended to supplement the lectures and textbook of a standard introductory physics course. The emphasis in the tutorials is not on solving the standard quantitative problems found in traditional textbooks, but on the development of important physical concepts and scientific reasoning skills."



    Workshop Physics:

    From their website:

    "Workshop Physics is one component of the Activity Based Physics Suite. It is a calculus-based introductory physics curriculum designed to completely replace traditional lectures and laboratories. In a typical two-hour Workshop Physics class session, students use equipment and computer tools for data acquisition, visualization, analysis, and mathematical modeling."


Publications & Presentations

  • Peer-reviewed Publications
    • Vashti Sawtelle, Eric Brewe, and Laird Kramer,, Validation study of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey at a Hispanic serving institution, Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research 5, 023101 (2009).
    • Eric Brewe, Laird Kramer, and George O'Brien,, Modeling instruction: Positive attitudinal shifts in introductory physics measured with CLASS, Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research 5, 013102 (2009).
    • Vashti Sawtelle, Eric Brewe, and Laird Kramer,, An Exploratory Qualitative Study of the Proximal Goal Setting of Two Introductory Modeling Instruction Physics Students, Phys. Ed. Res. Conf. Ann Arbor, MI, AIP Conference Proceedings CP1179:261 (2009).
    • Eric Brewe, Laird Kramer, and George O’Brien,, Investigating Student Communities with Network Analysis of Interactions in a Physics Learning, Phys. Ed. Res. Conf. Ann Arbor, MI, AIP Conference Proceedings CP1179:105 (2009).
    • Eric Brewe, Laird Kramer, George O’Brien, Idaykis Rodriguez, Priscilla Pamela, Vashti Sawtelle, A longitudinal study of the role of Modeling Instruction in establishing supportive environments for conceptual learning of underrepresented students, Proceedings of the 2009 NARST Annual International Conference, (2009).
    • Eric Brewe,, Modeling theory applied: Modeling Instruction in introductory physics American Journal of Physics 76:1155 (2008).
    • E. Brewe, L. Kramer, & G. O’Brien, CLASS shifts in Modeling Instruction, Phys. Ed. Res. Conf. Edmonton, Canada, AIP Conference Proceedings CP1064:79 (2008).
    • L. Wells, R. Valenzuela, E. Brewe, L. Kramer, G. O’Brien, & E. Zamolla, Impacts of the FIU PhysTEC reform of introductory physics labs, Phys. Ed. Res. Conf. Edmonton, Canada, AIP Conference Proceedings CP1064:227 (2008).
    • McClintock, E., O'Brien, G., & Jiang, Z. (2005, Summer). Assessing teaching practices of secondary mathematics student teachers: An exploratory cross case analysis of voluntary field experiences. Teacher Education Quarterly, 32 (3), 139-151.
    • L. Hsu, E. Brewe, T.M. Foster, and K.A. Harper, "Resource Letter RPS-1: Research in problem solving," Am. J. Phys. 72 (9), 1147-1156 (2004).
    • Jiang, Z., O’Brien, G., & McClintock, E. (2004, March). A technology course for mathematics education graduate students. In Ferdig & others (eds). Proceedings and electronic versions of full paper of the 15th International Conference Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education. Atlanta, GA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), 4458-4463.
    • Alacaci, C., Lewis, S., O’Brien, G. & Jiang, Z. (2003, August). Assessing Graph Sense In Authentic Settings: Pre-Service Elementary Teachers? Ability To Choose Appropriate Graphs To Represent Data. In N. Pateman, B. Daugherty, and J. Zilliox (eds). Proceedings of the XXVII Annual Meeting of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (Volume 1). Honolulu, Hawaii: The ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education, 269.
    • Jiang, Z., McClintock, E., & O’Brien, G. (2003, July). A mathematical modelling course for Preservice secondary school mathematics teachers. Chapter 16. In Q. Ye, W. Blum, K. Houston, & Q. Jiang (Eds), Mathematical Modelling in Education and Culture. Chichester, England: Horwood Publishing Limited. Proceedings from the 10th Annual International Conference of Teachers of Mathematics Association, Tokoyo, Japan, 183-196.
    • Alacaci, C., O’Brien, G. E., Lewis, S. L., & Jiang, Z. (2003). Integrating mathematics and science in a preservice elementary teacher education program. In S. McGraw (Ed.). Integrated mathematics: Choices and challenges. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 117-129.
    • Park, D., O’Brien, G. E., Eraso, M., & McClintock, E. (2002, fall). A scooter inquiry: An integrated science, mathematics, and technology activity. Science Activities 39 (3), 27-32.
    • O’Brien, G. E., Jiang, Z., Moseley, B., Alacaci, C., Lewis, S., McClintock, E., Park, D., & Chebbi, T. (2002, Spring). “What makes it go?” A look at the design and implementation of an interdisciplinary mathematics and science workshop for inservice and preservice elementary teachers. Journal for the Art of Teaching 9 (1), 85-97.
    • Jiang, Z., O’Brien, G., & McClintock, E. (2000, July). Modeling in mathematics and science. An Internet-based, interdisciplinary course for secondary school students. Proceedings from the July 2000 Hong Kong International Conference on Geo-Spatial Education, 69-75.
  • Presentations
    • O’Brien, G., and Jorge, G. (2008, March). “Partnership in Academic Communities (PAC) Program: Middle/High School Multidisciplinary Experiences Helping At-Risk Students to Succeed in Science, Math, and Technology.” Presented at the NSTA Boston National Conference.
    • Brewe, E., Kramer, L., Wells, L., O’Brien, G., Saul, J., Jones, D., Pamelá, P., Rodriguez, I., and Sawtelle, V. (2008, February). "CHEPREO: A Learning and Research Community Realized." Presented at the Annual National PHYSTEC Conference, Austin, TX.
    • O’Brien, G., Brewe, E., Kramer, L., Wells, L., Jones, D., Pamelá, P., Saul, J., and Sawtelle, V. (2008, February). “Addressing Challenges and Opportunities in a Diverse Student Population: Creating a Model Science and Math Community.” Presented at the Project SUCCESS 2nd Symposium, Miami, FL, St. Thomas University.
    • INVITED: Kramer, L., Brewe, E., Wells, L., O’Brien, G., Jones, D., Pamelá, P., Saul, J., and Sawtelle, V. (2008, January). “The CHEPREO Project: Building from a Learning Community.” Presented at the Baltimore, MD AAPT Winter Meeting.
    • Kramer, L., O'Brien, G., Pamela, P., and Saul, J. (2007, July). "An Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Study: Impact of Inquiry at FIU." Presented at the Greensboro, NC AAPT Summer Meeting.
    • O'Brien, G., Saul, J., Kramer, L., and Pamela, P. (2007, January). "Assessing the impact of modelling workshops on professional development and teaching practices: An exploratory case analysis of three participants." Presented at the Annual ASTE International Conference in Clearwater, Florida, January 4-6.
    • Kramer, L., O'Brien, G., Pamela, P., and Saul, J. (2007, January). "Building the undergraduate learning community." Presented at the Seattle, Washington Joint AAS/AAPT Winter Meeting.
    • Kramer, L., O'Brien, G., Pamela, P., and Saul, J. (2007, January). "Results from the undergraduate learning community." Presented at the Seattle, Washington Joint AAS/AAPT Winter Meeting.
    • "Interpreting FCI normalized gain, pre-instruction scores, and scientific reasoning ability," P.M. Pamela, J.M. Saul, L. Kramer, and G. O'Brien, AAPT Announcer 36 (2), 89 (2006).
    • "The good, the bad, and ugly: a teacher's first-year modeling journey," F.V. Ferrante, J.M. Saul, and L. Kramer, AAPT Announcer 36 (2), 107 (2006).
    • "Trials and tribulations of building the CHEPREO physics learning community,"L. Kramer, J.M. Saul, and G. O'Brien, AAPT Announcer 36 (2), 109 (2006).
    • "Evaluation and Assessment of Education Outreach in the CHEPREO project," J.M. Saul, L.Kramer, and G. O'Brien, AAPT Announcer 36 (2), 109 (2006).
    • Saul, J., Gaultney, V., Kramer, L., Markowitz, P. Pamela, P., & O’Brien, G. (2005, November). "The CHEPREO Project: Results from a High School Learning Community." SESAPS/FL-AAPT Meeting.
    • Kramer, L., Gaultney, V., Markowitz, P., Pamela, P., Saul, J., & O'Brien, G. (2005, November). "Building a Learning Community Around HEP." SESAPS/FL-AAPT Meeting.
    • Kramer, L., & O’Brien, G. (2005, April). "The CHEPREO project: A learning community." Paper presented at the Annual Association of Physics Teacher Section (FL AAPT) Meeting in Miami, FL, April 8-9.

Contact Us

Department of Physics
11200 SW 8th Street, CP 204

Miami, FL 33199
Tel: 305-348-2605
Fax: 305-348-6700