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John Stewart

John Stewart


“For 20 years, I have tried to understand how to improve physics education to promote improved success for all students.”

Physics Education Research

John Stewart received his PhD from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1994 for work in Condensed Matter Theory. Since that time he has directed his efforts toward Physics Education Research (PER). His work attempts both to further understanding about how physics classes produce understanding and how physics departments and universities can work more effectively to serve and retain all students. He was part of the team that led the physics departmental transformation at the University of Arkansas which increased the number of physics graduates from 2 per year to 27 per year and made the department a national leader in the graduation of highly qualified physics teachers.

His primary research interest is the understanding physics class functioning, how that function can be improved, retention of STEM majors, and the description of the knowledge state of physics students. Through the STEM-R grant, he studies how math and science classes influence student retention and through the Pulsar Search Collaboratory grant how informal science programs shape student career decisions.

He is the site leader of the American Physical Society's Physics Teacher Education Coalition WVU site which works to graduate more highly qualified high school physics teachers. He is also the PI for the WVUteach Robert Noyce Scholarship program which will aid the transition to teaching for all late career WVU STEM majors and the PI of the CPHYS Computational Physics Scholarship program which supports rural West Virginia students in pursuing degrees in computational physics.

He is currently (2018) the Past Chair of the American Physical Society's Forum on Education and the American Association of Physics Teachers' Committee on Teacher Preparation. He was for many years the editor of the National Science Digital Library's portal on physics and astronomy teacher preparation. He was elected an APS Fellow in 2016 for his work on teacher preparation and departmental transformation. He was elected an AAPT Fellow in 2018.

  • For more information on our research projects, visit Stewart Physics Education Research.
  • For more information about the many projects he and his wife have been involved in and for resources for teachers and students visit, our personal web site.
  • For career information for physics students, visit Be A Physicist.

Selected Publications

State and Coherence of Physics Knowledge

Stewart, J., Zabriskie, C., DeVore, S., & Stewart, G. (2018). “Multidimensional item response theory and the Force Concept Inventory,” Physical Review Physics Education Research , 14, 010137.

Stewart, J., Miller, M., Audo, C. & Stewart, G. (2012). “Using cluster analysis to identify patterns in students’ responses to contextually different conceptual problems,” Physical Review Physics Education Research, 8, 020112.

Physics Class Function

Stewart, J., DeVore, S., Stewart, G., & Michaluk, L. (2016). “Behavioral self-regulation in a physics class,” Physical Review Physics Education Research, 12, 010125.

Stewart, J., Taylor, J., & Stewart, G. (2012). “Using time-on-task measurements to understand student performance in a physics class: A four-year study,” Physical Review Physics Education Research, 8, 010114.


Henderson, R., Stewart, G., Stewart, J., Michaluk, L., & Traxler, A. (2017). "Exploring the gender gap in the conceptual survey of electricity and magnetism". Physical Review Physics Education Research, 13, 020114.

(Editor's Suggestion) Traxler, A., Henderson, R., Stewart, J., Stewart, G., Papak, A., & Lindell, R. (2018). "Gender fairness within the Force Concept Inventory". Physical Review Physics Education Research, 14, 010103.

Henderson, R., Miller, P., Stewart, J., Traxler, A., & Lindell, R. (2018). "Item-level gender fairness in the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation and the Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism". Physical Review Physics Education Research, 2, 020103.

Henderson, R. & Stewart, J. (2017). “Racial and ethnic bias in the Force Concept Inventory,” Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings.

Departmental Transformation

Stewart, J., Oliver III, W., & Stewart, G. (2013). “Revitalizing an Undergraduate Physics Program: A Case Study of the University of Arkansas,” American Journal of Physics , 81.

Student Affect and Retention

Zabriskie, C., Henderson, R., & Stewart, J. (2018). “The Importance of Belonging and Self-Efficacy in Engineering Identity,” American Education Research Association Annual Meeting Proceedings, New York, NY.

Henderson, R., Stewart, J., & Murphy, C. (2017). “The Role of Personality and Self-Efficacy in Achievement in Science Classes,” American Education Research Association Annual Meeting Proceedings, San Antonio, TX.

Stewart, J. and C& Murphy, C., (2016). “The Role of Personality and Gender in Science and Engineering Performance,” American Education Research Association Annual Meeting Proceedings, Washington DC.

Online Education

Murphy, C.A., & Stewart, J.C. (2015). “The impact of online or F2F lecture choice on student achievement and engagement in a large lecture-based science course: Closing the gap,” Online Learning Journal, 19(3).

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