The Physics Education Research Laboratory at the University of Maine brings together theory and empirical work to understand the teaching and learning of physics from middle school through graduate school.


  • student understanding of specific physics concepts
  • the use and understanding of mathematics in physics learning
  • curriculum development and dissemination
  • professional development of K-12 teachers and university instructors
  • models and mechanisms of human reasoning and learning

Present activities

Research and Curriculum Development

  • analog electronics and electric circuits in upper-division laboratory courses
  • teaching and learning at the physics-mathematics interface
  • upper-division thermodynamics and statistical mechanics
  • comparisons of student understanding in physics and engineering
  • the interplay between specialized content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, especially knowledge of student ideas, in physics

Theory and Theoretical Framework Development

  • extending the resources framework, a knowledge-in-pieces approach to describing student reasoning
  • applying models for knowledge transfer and learning to empirical data, especially for the application and use of mathematics in physics
  • applying conceptual blending to physics
  • applying symbolic forms to student understanding of vector calculus
  • applying dual process theory to physics reasoning
  • studying metacognition in learning physics
  • investigating student reasoning patterns
  • developing theories of content knowledge for teaching

Teacher Professional Development

  • working with middle school physical science teachers to improve the teaching and learning of energy, force and motion and other topics
  • developing and assessing courses on teaching and learning in physics for future secondary science teachers, university teaching assistants, and university faculty

Past activities

Research and Curriculum Development

Theory and Theoretical Framework Development

  • studying embodied cognition in physical and mathematical reasoning

Conference Organization

PERL affiliations