Welcome to the physics education research (PER) group at University of Minnesota. PER combines the application of fundamental knowledge about learning and the discipline-specific knowledge of physics to investigate ways of making the teaching and learning of physics more effective and efficient, primarily at the university level. It is an interdisciplinary area with strong roots in the two core disciplines: Physics and Education. It's a research-based group which provides teaching/learning support to the department and a PhD program to graduate students.
Life is a continuous exercise in creative problem solving.
— Michael J. Gelb
The focus of the Minnesota PER group has been the investigation of student difficulties with problem solving in the context of physics. It applies its results to develop practical curricular materials and techniques that can be used by physics faculty members in typical physics departments. This research has led to the development of problems that facilitate the learning of problem solving skills (Context-rich problems), a peer coaching pedagogy using a cooperative group framework (Cooperative problem solving), a problem solving framework for the use of students, a laboratory style that emphasizes problem solving, a program of educating and supporting teaching assistants, and a set of computer problem solving coaches. The group also develops research methodology such as techniques to effectively determine the goals of non-physics faculty for physics courses, the interactions of individuals solving problems in groups, and techniques to determine the beliefs and values of physics faculty teaching introductory physics. The group also develops assessment tools to evaluate student progress in problem solving, technical writing, and the correlation between algorithmic mathematical skills and problem solving.