Didactic physics is a research field of physics. It focuses on analysing the learning and teaching of physics considering the characteristics of physics knowledge itself. Thus, didactic physics views teaching and learning of physics from the vantage point of physics.

The research approach of didactic physics is multidisciplinary. It is on one hand anchored in in-depth understanding of physics and its methods, informed by history and philosophy of science. Here, didactic physics borders on Physics Education Research. On the other hand, didactic physics explores learning of complex scientific knowledge by combining cognitive science, learning psychology and socio-cognitive aspects of learning.

In teaching and learning physics, a major challenge is that physics knowledge is complex, structurally organized and uses advanced mathematical representations and models. Yet the individual learner starts from their personal conceptions and own understanding of target knowledge. To keep the learner motivated, personal conceptions should serve as a basis of learning, but the target is scientific knowledge. The didactic physics research group has advanced many-faceted approaches on learning from the viewpoint of complex systems and cognitive systems modelling. The aim of our research is to model learning processes on the level of individual cognition and the socio-cognitive level. To achieve this, we use complex systems approach and network theory. The research topics within this framework include concept learning and conceptual change, the dynamics of collaborative learning, modelling the learning and learning processes, and modelling concept acquisition and collaborative learning as complex dynamic system.

Research in didactic physics impacts directly on higher education and teacher education. Our research gives the basis to develop the teacher education courses to foster advanced and cognitively well-informed approaches in deeper learning and self-guided learning. The emphasis is on general cognitive skills of conceptualization, reasoning and creativity. In addition, research helps us to understand better, which forms of communication and socio-cognitive factors are beneficial for learning. Research results influence physics learning and teaching solutions on all levels. The group collaborates with Department of Teacher Education, Centre of University Teaching and Learning as well as with other departments in the Faculty of Science.

Didactic Physics Research

Physics Education Research Helsinki


Contact information:
Ismo T. Koponen
Professor, PhD
Physics Education Research
Department of Physics
Division of Material Physics
P.O. Box 64 (Gustaf Hällstömin katu 2a)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
Mobile +358 50 448 0496, +358 50 584 9598