Artistic view of the Higgs Field
Artistic view of the Brout-Englert-Higgs Field (Image: CERN)

Learning Units

Among the various research activities of CERN's PER team are design-based research projects that are aimed at developing appropriate educational reconstructions for the science classroom. After several iterative cycles, these projects then lead to empirically validated learning units that can be implemented by teachers and educators. Below, you can find recently developed learning units as well as additional material.


Sarah Zöchling: Virtual and interactive PET learning unit (2021)

Abstract: Medical applications of physics have been shown to be particularly interesting for students in past empirical studies. Moreover, they are included in national and international physics curricula, such as in the Next Generation Science Standards. Thus, we have developed a virtual and interactive learning unit about Positron-Emission-Tomography (PET) for students aged 16+ years. PET is one application of particle physics in medical diagnostics, whereby particle detectors are used, for example, to locate a tumour. The virtual and interactive learning unit consists of a unique combination of pre-recorded explanatory videos, interactive elements such as quizzes, screen experiments, and expert interviews. We have created this new learning format with H5P to reach students around the world during and beyond the pandemic. We consider this learning unit to be very promising for incorporation into remote, blended, and face-to-face teaching and learning of the physics of PET.



Alexandra Jansky: Introduction of radioactivity by using probability theory (2019)

Abstract: Randomness and probability play an essential role in many areas of science. However, previous studies in mathematics education research and psychology indicated that adolescents have problems understanding random processes. Indeed, this doctoral research project showed that students’ conceptions on probability and randomness have an impact on the understanding of random physical processes, e.g. the transformation of unstable atomic nuclei. Based on this result, a learning unit on probability theory in the context of radioactivity was developed and evaluated with 17- to 18-year-old German-speaking students within an iterative design-based research project. In summary, the doctoral research project led to a successful learning unit which demonstrates the feasibility of an adequate and plausible introduction to radioactivity using probability theory.



Jeff Wiener: Elementary particle physics in early physics education (2017)

Abstract: Current physics education research is faced with the important question of how best to introduce elementary particle physics in the classroom early on. Therefore, a learning unit on the subatomic structure of matter was developed, which aims to introduce 12-year-olds to elementary particles. This unit was iteratively evaluated and developed by means of a design-based research project with grade-6 students. In addition, dedicated professional development programmes were set up to instruct high school teachers about the learning unit and enable them to investigate its didactical feasibility. Overall, the doctoral research project led to successful results and showed the topic of elementary particle physics to be a viable candidate for introducing modern physics in the classroom.