About the Journal

As the field of PER grows and diversifies, it is increasingly difficult for newcomers to gain an appreciation of the major findings across all sub-domains, to discern global themes, and to recognize gaps in the literature. We believe that a synthesis of the research could play an important role for both researchers and practitioners. Our goal is to produce a resource that addresses the following central questions:
* What has PER contributed to our current knowledge of teaching and learning of physics?
* What would we be lacking today without decades of continued PER?
* How has PER evolved over the decades (in terms of research questions tackled, instruments employed, methodologies used, etc.)? What were the major turning points in PER history?
* How has physics teaching and learning changed (improved) over the decades due to the direct impact of PER?
* How has PER benefited from other disciplines (e.g. cognitive psychology, educational psychology, pedagogical research, instructional design research, etc.) and vice versa?

We propose to invite a broad spectrum of researchers with international reputations to contribute chapters that synthesize results on important topics.



As a young science education researcher at Penn State in the mid-1990s with a background in pure physics (condensed matter—high temperature superconductivity), I was totally perplexed and worried about the future of my doctoral studies. I was new to the field and did not know where to turn for research ideas and, if I found one, how to validate the rationale. When I progressed further into my coursework, we were introduced to the handbooks that existed at the time: the Handbook of Research on Science Teaching and Learning (Gabel, 1994) and the International Handbook of Science Education (IHSE) (Fraser and Tobin, 1998). I was amazed by the breadth and depth of the chapters written by experts on each topic deemed to be of concern and be attractive to science education researchers. The sections and chapters outline the major research areas and a respective synthesis of research. Later, other handbooks followed, both those covering science education broadly [e.g., the Handbook of Research on Science Education (HRSE) by Abell and Lederman, 2007 and 2014] and the Second International Handbook of Science Education (Fraser, Tobin, McRobbie, 2012), and others that that covered specific topics in depth (e.g., the International Handbook of Research on Conceptual Change, Vosniadou, 2008; and the International Handbook of Research in History, Philosophy and Science Teaching, Matthews, 2014).

While IHSE did not have chapters on specific science content areas (i.e., physics, chemistry, and biology), HRSE included such chapters in its “Science Teaching” section. Reinders Duit has been compiling a bibliography of science education for some decades and reporting percentages of published studies for each content area. In HRSE's “Teaching Physics” section, the authors (Duit et al.) reported that “… according to the bibliography on constructivist-oriented research on teaching and learning science by Duit (2009), about 53% of the studies documented were carried out in the domain of physics, 18% in the domain of biology, and 28% in the domain of chemistry.” To cut the long story short, having known the obvious advantages of handbooks and the fact that the field of physics education research has a high number of published studies, I envisioned editing a handbook dedicated to physics education research (PER). But, the timing was also crucial, and I was thinking that it was ripening already in 2018.

Scholarly contributions to PER come from two types of researchers: those coming from a background of physics teaching and science education research studies in a college/faculty of education—and those coming from a background of college/university level physics teaching and PER in a department of physics. I mostly represent the former and I thought I needed a co-editor from the background of the latter. Although I had my doctoral degree from an American university, since 2001 I had resided in Turkiye and had become very active in European science education and physics education circles. Moreover, as an educator, I valued and practiced actions favoring inclusion and diversity throughout my professional life. I have cherished international collaborations and connections from around the world and always kept in mind that education and educational research is about enhancing human capacities.

With all these thoughts in my mind, and given the fact that American contributions to PER have been immense, I wanted to have a colleague from the USA co-edit the handbook with me. Thus, I decided to approach Paula Heron, who has a Ph.D. in physics and is in a physics department. We had already known each other for quite some time, and I very much respected and admired her contributions to PER, just like everyone else did in our field. I emailed Paula in early March of 2019. She was a keynote speaker at the GIREP conference that was going to be held in Budapest in early July of that year. Paula carefully considered my invitation to co-edit the The International Handbook of Physics Education Research and within a few days responded, as she promised, with a positive answer. Committing oneself to a long-term project like this is indeed courageous and for that reason I am forever grateful to Paula for teaming up with me in this extremely important endeavor, the value of which I am confident will be appreciated in the years to come.

Paula and I could be a successful team of co-editors once we set clear goals and plans, show strong leadership to achieve those goals, fulfill our own tasks, and also help each other communicate openly, resolve emerging conflicts constructively, and feel that each one of us is directly contributing to the handbook's success. All of these became true over the course of the creation of The International Handbook of Physics Education Research. I am forever grateful to Paula for being such a wonderful colleague and co-editor.

In Budapest, we met and talked about some of the details of the project. Also, since many PER people were already there, it was a precious opportunity for us to open the project to potential contributors, collect their ideas, and seek ways to involve them in The International Handbook of Physics Education Research. The next steps were to form a structure and organization for The International Handbook of Physics Education Research and find a publisher. Later, we formed an international advisory board to share the idea of The International Handbook of Physics Education Research and their views about the draft structure and organization. As a result, we received much praise and positive feedback. Among our efforts to find a publisher for The International Handbook of Physics Education Research, we finally contacted the AAPT Committee on Publications, who had an agreement with the American Institute of Physics to publish books. AIPP reviewed our proposal for The International Handbook of Physics Education Research and in July 2020, we signed a contract.

For The International Handbook of Physics Education Research to deserve the “international” character in its name, we wanted to include colleagues with extensive experience in PER from around the world. Another aspect was to have diverse teams of co-authors, such as relatively new and relatively experienced ones, and ones from different countries (or better, whenever possible, from different continents). In addition, we wanted to share not only the responsibility and workload but also the joy and pride of creating The International Handbook of Physics Education Research with respected PER colleagues. Therefore, we decided to have section editors collaborate with us in identifying chapter authors and tracking progress. To a large degree, our scheme worked.

It is important to note that the development of The International Handbook of Physics Education Research took place during a time of tremendous upheaval and uncertainty. The global Covid-19 pandemic presented editors, authors, and reviewers with unanticipated challenges in maintaining high standards while meeting publisher deadlines. While schools and businesses were closed and lockdowns were ordered, we all experienced difficult times. But, the work had to go on. Paula and I held weekly online video meetings and had meetings with section editors. It was a big challenge to organize it since we were spread out around the world. Nevertheless, things worked out well. Afterwards, we communicated frequently with the section editors to respond to their questions, to provide initial editorial reviews for submitted first drafts of chapters, to recruit reviewers, and anything else that came along.

Initially, I was in Turkiye and Paula was in the U.S. During the last year, we switched continents. She came to Europe for a sabbatical, while I moved to the U.S. We still had several hours of time difference, but it did not stop us from working together in accordance with our determination to successfully complete The International Handbook of Physics Education Research. That was our great responsibility to so many who vested trust in us and have been devoting their time and efforts as section editors, authors, and reviewers with diligence, motivation, and ambition.

Now we have the final manuscript, which consists of three volumes organized into 12 sections, with a total of 69 chapters. Nineteen section editors and 170 authors contributed and benefited from the expertise of many external reviewers. Section editors, contributors and reviewers represent countries from Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia. As general editors, we are greatly thankful to all.

M. Fatih Taşar
Georgia State University
Atlanta, GA, USA


Coming from a physics background with a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, and entering the field of PER as a postdoc, handbooks were not a significant part of my early professional development. In the mid-1990s, when I joined the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington (then under the leadership of Lillian C. McDermott), the field seemed small enough that everyone knew everyone else (at least in the USA) and you could pick up the phone or send an email to inquire about what they were up to. The literature was relatively sparse, especially concerning university-level teaching, and most researchers were intimately familiar with a small set of seminal papers. Since then, the field has grown enormously and I have come to appreciate the value of review articles, such as those found in handbooks. In my role as an Associate Editor of Physical Review—PER, it has frequently been the case that I have needed a quick overview of a particular area of research. This, more than anything else, convinced me that a handbook for PER would be an invaluable resource for our field. I am grateful that Fatih approached me about this project, which seemed ambitious at first, but has grown into something even bigger than I think either of us imagined. I am also deeply appreciative of all of the effort that has gone into it, especially by the Section Editors, without whom the project would not have been possible.

Paula R. L. Heron
University of Washington
Seattle, WA, USA