Tasks Inspired by Physics Education Research

Developed by: Curtis Hieggelke, David Maloney, Stephen Kanim, Thomas O'Kuma

middle schoolhigh schoolintro collegeinter-mediateupper levelgrad school   other

 Intro College Calculus-based
calc based
 Intro College Algebra-based
alg based
 Intro College Conceptual

Electricity / Magnetism
Lecture - Large (30+ students)  Lecture - Small (<30 students)  Recitation/Discussion Session  Homework  Studio

What? Short activities that help students apply concepts and address known difficulties. Activities are designed so that they cannot be solved using "plug-and-chug."

Why? Because the tasks are short and independent of one another, they are easy to try out without making significant alterations to your course. They are constructed to be the right "step size" so that students feel comfortable responding to them using their natural ideas rather than memorized physics.

Why not? While the structure and content of TIPERs are based on physics education research and many are taken directly from the research literature, there is no research on the impact of the final collection of TIPERs on student learning. The books are published commercially so there is a cost for students.

Example materials


Activity outline

Ten TIPER formats:

Bar Chart Tasks — these require student to draw histograms for specified quantities of a situation.

Changing Representation Tasks — given one representation, e.g., a free-body diagram, students generate an alternative representation, e.g., the Newton’s second law equation.

Comparison Tasks — these ask the student to determine which of two situations has a greater value for a quantity, or if the two situations have the same value for quantity.

Conflicting Contentions Tasks — these tasks present two or three (usually natural language) statements about a situation and the goal is to decide which, if any, of the statements is correct.

Linked Multiple-Choice Tasks — in these the same question, with the same set of answer possibilities, is asked about a sequence of variations for a situation.

Qualitative Reasoning Tasks — these tasks ask about how a qualitative variation of a situation affects the behavior of the system.

Ranking Tasks — ask students to rank a set of physical situations based on the magnitude of a single characteristic.

Troubleshooting Tasks — these require the identification of the acknowledged error(s) in a contention, representation or analysis.

What, if Anything, is Wrong Tasks — these are similar to troubleshooting tasks except that there may not be anything wrong.

Working Backwards Tasks — these usually have one or more equations as the starting point with the goal being a description or drawing of a physical situation.

Student skills developed

Designed for:
  • Conceptual understanding

Instructor effort required

  • Low

Resources required

  • Cost for students

Intro Article: D. Maloney, C. Hieggelke, and S. Kanim, nTIPERs: Tasks to Help Students “Unpack” Aspects of Newtonian Mechanics, presented at the Physics Education Research Conference 2010, Portland, Oregon, 2010.
External Resources

For suggestions about how to develop your own TIPERs, see Maloney, "Developing Conceptual Exercises", Winter 1994/ 95 CaFD Newsletter.

TIPERs are published in a series of books by Pearson (you can download the instructor's guide from the resources tab in each of the links below):

This is the lowest level of research validation, corresponding to at least one of the validation categories below.

Research Validation Summary

Based on Research Into:

  • theories of how students learn
  • student ideas about specific topics

Demonstrated to Improve:

  • conceptual understanding
  • problem-solving skills
  • lab skills
  • beliefs and attitudes
  • attendance
  • retention of students
  • success of underrepresented groups
  • performance in subsequent classes

Studied using:

  • cycle of research and redevelopment
  • student interviews
  • classroom observations
  • analysis of written work
  • research at multiple institutions
  • research by multiple groups
  • peer-reviewed publication