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Physics Education Research Conference 2011

PER Topical Group, AAPT Event
August 3, 2011 - August 4, 2011 in Omaha, NE

Frontiers in Assessment: Instrumentation, Goals & Practices

The theme of the 2011 PER conference was Frontiers in Assessment: Instrumentation, Goals & Practices. We hope this theme will generate productive dialogues about issues of assessment and help our field grow by highlighting assessments that go beyond traditional approaches.


Assessments are fundamental to education. To borrow from Cole Porter: Teachers do it. Researchers do it. Even students in their seats do it. In physics education, researchers have used assessments to probe aspects relevant to learning such as student knowledge, reasoning processes, attitudes and beliefs, and abilities. Teachers use assessments to find out what their students know, engage students, help students learn, and to judge the effectiveness of their teaching. More broadly, people tacitly assess their own performance in a variety of tasks in their everyday lives, while explicit self-assessment, which is critical for learning, may be less common and a challenge to teach. Although everyone does it, not everyone does it in the same way nor for the same purposes.

In a sense, assessments are the instruments of physics education research. Our understanding of our research is only as good as our understanding of what instruments can (and cannot) tell us. New instruments allow for discovery of new phenomena and development of new knowledge. Discussion of assessment is important as our community broadens the scope of the phenomena we would like to examine, the measurements we would like to make, and therefore, the instruments we need. We believe it is timely to bring discussion of assessment issues into the foreground of the PER community.

In the broader field of educational assessment, there is a rich discussion about issues of validity and reliability of various assessment tools as well as alternative modes of assessment, such as formative assessment, student meta-cognitive reflections, portfolios, and performance assessment. Physics education researchers have begun to take up and examine these diverse assessment practices.

For every research study in our field, researchers need to think deeply about the assessments that are used, including their validity and reliability; methodology; alignment with learning, teaching, and research goals; overall purpose; implicit assumptions; and how our current assessment instruments are or are not meeting our objectives as teachers, researchers and learners.

Conference Posters

Individuals that submitted a contributed poster abstract may upload an electronic version of their poster to their abstract.

2011 PERC Proceedings

Attendees may expect to receive their volume of the 2011 PERC  Proceedings in mid-November.

PERC 2011 Organizers

  • David T. Brookes
  • Brian Frank
  • Elizabeth Gire
  • Matty Lau
  • Noah Podolefsky