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Think and Do The Extraordinary

Robert Beichner

Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Emeritus

Riddick Hall 246



Professor Beichner received his PhD in 1989 from the State University of New York at Buffalo and joined the NC State Physics Department in 1992 as an Assistant Professor. He advanced through the professorial ranks and was named an Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor in 2003. He is a member of our Physics Education Research and Development Group.

He invented the now-popular Video-Based Lab pedagogy, where students examine video clips of motion and watch synchronized kinematics graphs. As part of that effort he created the Test of Understanding Graphs in Kinematics, used by numerous teachers and researchers and a serving as a model for similar conceptual assessment instruments. Dr. Beichner and his students have written and evaluated a series of these tests that are in use around the globe.

Research Description

For much of his career he has focused his attention on redesigning introductory physics education. His work laid the foundation for research done on active learning spaces. He initiated the SCALE-UP (Student Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies) project in the mid 1990s. This approach has led to changes in classrooms around the world, at institutions ranging from middle schools and high schools to MIT. SCALE-UP has been adopted at more than 500 universities and had spread to content areas ranging from archeology to zoology.

Honors and Awards

  • Beichner has received numerous teaching awards and is a member of NC State's Academy of Outstanding Teachers. He received the Ohaus Award for Innovation from the National Science Teachers Association. He was named the 2009 North Carolina Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and received the 2010 UNC System’s Board of Governors Award. Beichner was named the 2010 National Undergraduate Science Teacher of the Year by the Society of College Science Teachers and the National Science Teachers Association. In 2011 he was awarded the McGraw Prize, the premier honor in the field of education. He was also honored by Congress as noted in the US Congressional Record of September 29, 2011. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Association of Physics Teachers. In 2015 he was only the second individual to receive the American Physical Society’s Award for Excellence in Physics Education, which is normally only given to groups or large projects.

Selected Publications

Try, Try Again: The Power of Timing and Perseverance in Higher Education Reform
K Foote, C Henderson, A Knaub, M Dancy, R Beichner
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 51 (1), (2019), 50-57, doi:10.1080/00091383.2019.1547082

Modifying the test of understanding graphs in kinematics
G Zavala, S Tejeda, P Barniol, RJ Beichner
Physical Review Physics Education Research, 13 (2), (2017), 020111, doi:10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.13.020111

Enabling and Challenging Factors in Institutional Reform: The Case of SCALE-UP
Foote, K. T., Knaub, A., Dancy, M., Henderson, C., & Beichner, R.
Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res, 12, (2016), 010103, doi:10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.12.010103

Guest Editorial: Reflections on the origins of Physics Education Research—Special Topics
Beichner, R.
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res., 11, (2015), 020001, doi:10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.11.020001

Diffusion of research-based instructional strategies: The case of SCALE-UP. International Journal of STEM Education
Foote, K. T., Neumeyer, X., Henderson, C., Dancy, M. H., & Beichner, R.
International Journal of STEM Education, 1(1), (2014), 10, doi:10.1186/s40594-014-0010-8

History and Evolution of Active Learning Spaces
Beichner, R., In Baepler, P., Brooks, C., and Walker, J.
Active Learning Spaces, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, (2014)

Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering
National Research Council,Singer, S., Nielsen, N. and Schweingruber, H. (Eds.)
Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research, Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, (2012), doi:10.1002/jee.20030

Do they see it coming? Using expectancy violation to gauge the success of pedagogical reforms
Gaffney, J., Housley Gaffney, A., and Beichner, R.
Phys Rev ST-Phys. Ed. Res., 6, (2010), 010102, doi:10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.6.010102

Approaches to data analysis of multiple-choice questions
Ding, L., and Beichner, R.
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res., 5, (2009), 020103., doi:10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.5.020103

Impact of animation on assessment of conceptual understanding in physics
Dancy, M. & Beichner, R.
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res., 2, (2006), 010104, doi:10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.2.010104

Evaluating an electricity and magnetism assessment tool: Brief electricity and magnetism assessment
Ding, L., Chabay, R., Sherwood, B. & Beichner, R.
Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res., 2, (2006), 010105, doi:10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.2.010105