Doctorate in Physics Specializing in Physics Education Research

As recognized by the American Physical Society, physics education research is a growing and substantive new sub-discipline within physics. CU Boulder's program of study in PER will include: theoretical models of students learning physics, social and contextual foundations of student learning, examination of educational reforms, use of technology in physics education, and assessment and problem-solving in physics.

At CU Boulder, physics graduate students have the opportunity to conduct research into physics education with one of the country's largest groups. A number of faculty, staff, and graduate students work together on various projects.

Proposed Coursework for a PhD in Physics with specialization in Physics Education Research:

In addition to taking the core-courses required of all physics graduate students (Quantum I /II, Mechanics, E/M I/II, Statistical Mechanics), students will be required to pass the standard comprehensive exams (Comps I, II, and III), take at least 7 of the 10 graduate courses in the physics deparment (note the departure from the standard requirement of 9 physics courses), and take courses from the following areas to help with and guide dissertation work:

  • Physics Education Research - (Required course for all PER grad students) PHYS/EDUC 5460 Teaching and Learning Physics --- offered every other Fall semester (odd years: 2015, 2017, 2019...)
  • Foundational Theories of Cognition - survey or in depth course(s) from Psychology, Cognitive Science, or Education hopefully to span the domains from neuro / AI / functionalist models, to cognitive pscyhology, to socio-cultural and critical theories
  • Methods (e.g. qualitative, ethnographic, quantitative, mixed methods) - survey or in depth course(s) from Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Education to see a variety of perspectives on research design, data collection, and analysis --- Ideally this would be coupled with the research project or actual data collection
  • Domain specific area(s) suited to particular doctoral research (e.g. Human-Computer-Interaction, Assessment, Advanced Courses in Experimental Design, Ethnic Studies)
  • Statistics - it is expected that students can do this on their own

We will emphasize coupling these courses with actual research projects that will contribute to, or at least refine work toward, the dissertation. 

For information on coursework/requirements for graduate study in PER outside of the Physics department (i.e. School of Education), please reach out to Noah Finkelstein

To the Physics Department PhD Program Requirements

To the University of Colorado Graduate School