Welcome to the Sayre Lab!

Sayre Lab Interests

  • Improving and extending the theoretical bases for physics education research.
  • Investigating the interplay between physics and mathematics understanding.
  • Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods education research.
  • Developmental trends among pre-service physicists.
  • Faculty development for effective assessment practices.

Current Projects

Past Projects


Partial list here, including PDFs of papers, grants, CV, and theses.  There's also a few of the more recent ones on the arXiv, including some I might not have updated here.  Eleanor Sayre's Google Scholar page has a somewhat more comprehensive list, at the expense of not including PDFs.  

Videos of talks on youtube, and a promotional video.  If you'd like to see a talk that isn't available, email me.    

Colloquia and Seminars

I love travel, I love giving talks, and I love meeting with people at other institutions to chat about their work.  These colloquia and seminars showcase some of my recent work.  They are appropriate for physics departments (large and small) or DBER groups.

Research-based resources on PhysPort: PhysPort (http://physport.org) is a website that supports physics faculty in implementing research-based teaching practices in their classrooms.  We provide expert recommendations and practical information about teaching methods and assessment.  The PhysPort Data Explorer is an intuitive online tool for physics faculty to analyze their assessment data.  Faculty upload their students' responses using our secure interface. The Data Explorer matches their pre/post data, scores it, compares it to national data, and graphs it in an interactive and intuitive manner.  The Periscope collection on Physport brings together classroom video of students working groups with professional development materials for faculty, pre-service teachers, and learning assistants.  To support PhysPort's development efforts, we conduct research on faculty needs around teaching and assessment, secondary analysis of published PER studies, and primary analysis of assessment data.  In this talk, I'll introduce some of PhysPort's research-based resources and the research results which support them.

Assessment in physics courses and degree programs: The PER community has produced 50+ research-based assessments (RBAs) which evaluate the effectiveness of different teaching methods, covering diverse physics topics (both introductory and upper-level) as well as beliefs about the nature of physics, problem solving, lab skills etc. Results on these tests show that PER-based teaching methods lead to dramatic improvements in students learning, so assessment can act as a gateway drug to better teaching. Physics professors want to assess their classes and degree programs, but they struggle with how to do that well: what tests to use, how to compare among classes in their program or year to year, and how to compare their results to other comparable institutions.  The DEAR-Faculty project helps physics faculty implement and understand research-based assessment in their classes through online resources and an interactive Data Explorer. In this talk, I present results of our research on what faculty want from assessment; typical results of student learning as a function of teaching method, kind of student, and kind institution; and how you can use research-based assessment methods to improve your students' learning. 

Learning, forgetting, becoming: how students become physicists, and how we can help: In this interactive seminar, I introduce several projects centered around driving questions in physics education research: how and when do students learn? How can we improve their learning? The first project uses quantitative methods to measure student learning and forgetting throughout the semester in large-enrollment introductory classes, and to compare student learning across hundreds of courses nationwide. The second project investigates upper-level students' professional development as physicists through interviews and classroom observations. We study learning and becoming in practice from a sociocultural lens, and technical content knowledge development through a knowledge-in-pieces lens.  This third project develops curricula for non-science majors around exciting questions in modern physics.  After I introduce the projects, we'll have interactive discussions about research questions and goals in physics education research. 

Math in Physics: The Mathematization project studies how upper-division physics students use mathematics across multiple courses and in several modalities.  Our research takes place primarily in Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetic Fields, and Quantum Mechanics, three of the core upper-division physics theory classes.  We conduct network analyses of their homework solutions to see which ideas are connected within problems, and what kinds of problems elicit which ideas.  We analyze their in-class small-group problem solving to see how their epistemic framing affects (and is affected by) their peers, the instructor, and the kinds of problems they work on.  We track how their ideas about "looking ahead" in numerical solutions vary by physics context, and we examine how they coordinate multiple representations to generate new ideas. In this talk, I'll highlight the connections between our research questions, our theoretical frameworks, and our methodological choices. 


Professional development workshops for discipline-based education research (DBER): Discipline-based education research holds the promise of satisfying expectations of both scholarship, which is increasing at teaching-centric institutions, and teaching effectiveness, a concern at all institutions. Additionally, junior education researchers seek more diverse training in research methods and theories. Emerging education researchers need support as they develop their research programs and expand their theoretical and methodological expertise, and they benefit from the guidance of knowledgable peers and near-peers. Our two-part professional development model combines intensive in-person workshops with long-term remote activities.  During a two-week in-person workshop, emerging and established education researchers work closely together to develop research questions, learn appropriate analytic techniques, and collect a corpus of data appropriate to their research questions.  Afterwards, they meet biweekly in a distributed, mentored research group to share analyses and develop their ideas into publishable papers. 

Doing research with human subjects: what faculty need to know: Faculty often make changes in their teaching to improve student understanding and engagement.  To assess these changes -- either at the course level or the departmental level -- requires careful measurements.  In this interactive workshop, I discuss some of the challenges with collecting, analyzing, and presenting student data from the perspective of the care of human subjects.  We discuss how to choose appropriate measurements, what do to if you have historical data, and how to plan for the future.  I will walk you through privacy concerns for work with human subjects, including applying for approval from the human subjects protection board (IRB).   This is an introductory level workshop for people just getting started with the scholarship of teaching and learning. 


Current members

PI: Eleanor Sayre (personal site | CV | schedule)
Graduate students: Bahar Modir, Nandana Weliweriya, Dina Zohrabi-Alaee, Tra Huynh
Undergraduates:  Ben Archibeque, Wai-Ka Wong

Former members

Postdocs: Brian Danielak, Paul Irving, Adrian Madsen, Hai Dong Nguyen, Deepa Chari
Graduate students: Xian Wu, Ying Chen, Nick Fowler
Summar 2016: Savannah Mitchem, Ben Archibeque
AY15-16: John D Thompson, Devon McCarthy, Ben Archibeque
Summer 2015: John D Thompson, Devon McCarthy, Dylan McKnight, Noah Marks, Martha Rangel
AY14-15: Ben Archibeque, John D Thompson, Ed Schenk, Lane Sorell
Summer 2014: Jaime Richards, Alison Gomez, Ed Schenk, John D Thompson  
Summer 2013: Lauren Harris, Chelsea Rasing
Summer 2012: Daryl McPadden, Tim Brown
AY11-12: Joe Carson
Summer 2011: Yifei Sun, Conor Frame
AY10-11: Yifei Sun, Tyler Koch
Summer 2010: Tyler Koch, Tienren Wang

Would you like to join the lab?  

We have research opportunities for undergraduate students, graduate students, and visiting scholars.  We're also interested in collaborations with other researchers and labs.  Come play with us!  Contact Eleanor Sayre for more details about how.