Research with PhysPort

What do faculty need to make evidence-based teaching and assessment choices?


Eleanor C Sayre


January 1, 2018

What is PhysPort?

PhysPort is a website for supporting physics teaching with research-based resources. If you teach physics, want to teach physics, or teach in a related field, check it out! PhysPort’s mission is to build community and capacity for connecting science education research with science classrooms and departments worldwide.

PhysPort resources help faculty use research-based instructional techniques and assessments. Disciplinary faculty care deeply about teaching well, but they often don’t have the time or expertise to engage with research literature on effective practices. PhysPort interprets and synthesizes the results of physics education research to build faculty-friendly resources for physics faculty.

How does PhysPort do research to support its mission?

To support PhysPort’s mission, we do a lot of research:

  • Fundamental research on faculty needs around teaching and assessment, mostly among university physics faculty in the US.
  • Applied research on user experience with the PhysPort website.
  • Synthesis and fundamental research on effective practices in teaching, learning and assessment, mostly in physics and mostly at the undergraduate level.

The results of PhysPort research have been published in the American Journal of Physics, Physical Review – Physics Education Research, The Physics Teacher, the Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, and the Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings.

Our usability research makes the PhysPort website more beautiful and accessible. PhysPort designs have been copied at PICUP.

How can PhysPort help me with my research project?

Researchers use PhysPort to do better research, spread the results of their research, or make their research lives easier.

PhysPort can help researchers with:

  • Propagation plans for researchers who develop assessment tools and physics curricula. Are you building a new assessment (or translating an existing one)? Do you develop curricula or teaching methods in physics? PhysPort can help you disseminate your results to physics faculty worldwide.
  • Data management, reduction, and analysis for researchers who collect quantitative data across multiple institutions or in large data sets. Are you using conceptual surveys with your target population to assess the efficacy of your curricula? Are you developing a new multiple-choice assessment? PhysPort can help you match pre/post data, develop visualizations about your data, and perform preliminary statistical analyses.
  • Ethical data access for researchers interested in quantitative methods in undergraduate physics learning. Do your research questions require conceptual survey data from a national sample of thousands of undergraduate students in physics? PhysPort makes anonymized data sets available for researchers with appropriate IRB approvals.
  • Research mentoring and coaching for researchers in physics education and allied fields. Are you new to physics education research? Curious about how to design research projects in education? Worried about how to publish your work? PhysPort researchers care deeply about helping our field welcome newcomers, do better research, and publish results in compelling ways. If you’re just getting started – or if you’re experienced and want a fresh eye on your work – we’re happy to chat with you about your work.

PhysPort can help.

Can I do research with PhysPort?

Maybe? There is ongoing work with PhysPort, but I am no longer engaged in it.

A PhysPort researcher contacted me, and I have questions about their research study.

Great! You can email them to ask about the study, or you can email the chair of the IRB which governs their project.

What current research is happening at PhysPort?

PhysPort concluded a 6-year project to investigate how faculty make changes to their teaching, and how they use PhysPort to inform their decisions. This research is conducted through remote interviews with physics faculty (e.g. over Zoom), analysis of website use, and feedback from PhysPort’s site.

Preliminary results suggest that faculty are thoughtful about changes to make, use many sources of information to inform their decisions, and consider improving student learning as a multi-faceted and complicated endeavor. While most faculty are positive about active learning techniques and use them in their classes, they are largely unconcerned with the research basis for those techniques and are unlikely to focus on fidelity of implementation. These results are mostly absent in the research literature around physics faculty development and uptake of PER-based curricula, suggesting that one cause of faculty hostility towards PER is their perception that PERers are condescending and out-of-touch with their needs.

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