Robert J. Beichner
Alumni Distinguished Professor of Physics, Co-Director of the NCSU STEM Education Initiative
North Carolina State University
As a member of the Physics Education R & D Group, Dr. Beichner's research focuses on increasing our understanding of student learning and the improvement of physics education. Working from a base of National Science Foundation and computer industry support, he developed the popular "video-based lab" approach for introductory physics laboratories. A spinoff from the award-winning VideoGraph project was a study of how the visual perception of motion can best be utilized in instructional computer animations and how that information can be used by teachers of large lecture classes. In a separate project, Dr. Beichner and his students are writing a series of tests aimed at diagnosing students' misconceptions about a variety of introductory physics topics. The kinematics graphing test developed by Dr. Beichner is now being used in high schools and colleges around the world.
His biggest current project is the creation and study of a learning environment supporting a new way to teach called SCALE-UP: Student Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs. This curriculum development, evaluation, and dissemination effort is supported by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, and Pasco Scientific. The approach is being adopted by more than 50 universities, including MIT, the University of New Hampshire, Coastal Carolina, the University of Central Florida, RIT, the University of Alabama, American University, and Wake Technical Community College. The SCALE-UP project is part of Dr. Beichner's efforts to reform physics instruction at a national level. Probably his most visible work along those lines has been the textbook that he co-authored with Raymond Serway. The 5th edition of Physics for Scientists and Engineers was the top-selling introductory calculus-based physics book in the nation, and was used by more than a third of all science, math, and engineering majors. He is currently the director of the PER-CENTRAL project, working to establish an electronic "home base" for the Physics Education Research community. He is also the founding editor of the APS journal Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research.