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Eugenia Etkina

Professor of Physics Education – Emeritus Faculty
Learning & Teaching
GSE Room 217

Eugenia Etkina is an Emeritus Professor of Science Education at Rutgers, the State University Of New Jersey. She holds a PhD in physics education from Moscow State Pedagogical University and has more than 35 years of experience teaching physics at middle school, high school, college and university levels. She is a Recipient of the 2014 Millikan Medal, awarded to educators who have made significant contributions to teaching physics, and is a fellow of the American Association of Physics Teachers. She is also a recipient of the 2010 AAAS award for the best science teaching technology resource for the physics video website that she co-developed with D. Brookes.

In 1988, while teaching in Russia, she created a system in which students learn physics using processes that mirror scientific practice. The approach was enriched by her collaboration with A. Van Heuvelen in 2000 which led to the development of Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) – an approach to learning and teaching physics that engages students in learning physics by practicing it. Students work in groups observing simple experiments (usually the phenomena that they encounter in everyday life but do not question) and collecting data or analyzing data collected by somebody else. They figure out patterns and discuss possible explanations (models). They then design new experiments to test those explanations and reject some of them. Those explanations that the students fail to reject are used for practical applications. This approach allows students to systematically practice science from the first day of class.

ISLE serves as the basis for the textbook “College Physics: Explore and Apply” by Etkina, Planinsic and Van Heuvelen and supporting Active Learning Guide and Instructor Guide that are used in many universities and high schools for teaching algebra-based physics courses, especially AP Physics courses in US. ISLE-based curriculum materials are used in Canada, Mexico, Slovenia, Croatia, Sweden, Indonesia, Kenya, and many other countries.

Professor Etkina designed and coordinated one of the largest university-based programs in physics teacher preparation in the United States (the foundation of the program is ISLE). The program is unique as it offers its students 6 courses in which they learn how to teach physics and four semesters of clinical practice teaching physics in college and high school with instructors who use ISLE. Many features of the program are being adopted in Slovenia, Sweden, Indonesia and other countries. Professor Etkina also conducts professional development for high school and university physics instructors and participates in reforms to the undergraduate physics courses.

Since 2000, Professor Etkina led over 120 workshops for physics instructors on every continent. An active researcher, she has published over a 100 peer-refereed articles and gave over 170 invited presentations.

• B.S. in Physics Education, Moscow State Pedagogical University (1982)
• M.Sc. in Physics Education, Moscow Pedagogical University (1982)
• Ph. D. in Physics Education, Moscow Pedagogical University (1997)

  • Expertise & Research Interest

    Physics Education Research


    Content knowledge for Teaching Physics

    Physics Teacher Preparation

  • Research Work With Students

    Eugenia studies how to help physics students think like physicists. She develops curriculum materials (ISLE – Investigative Science Learning Environment and PUM – Physics Union Mathematics) and assessments to achieve this goal. Curriculum materials based on her work are at:





  • Recent & Selected Publications

    Etkina, E., Planinsic, G., Van Heuvelen, A. (2019). College Physics: Explore and Apply, 2nd Edition, San Francisco, CA: Pearson.

    Etkina, E., Gitomer, D., Iconangelo, C., Phelps, G., Seeley, L., and Vokos, S. (2018) Design of an assessment to probe teachers’ Content Knowledge for Teaching: An example from energy in HS physics, Physical Review, Physics Education Research, 14, 010127. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.14.01012

    Etkina, E., Gregorcic, B., and Vokos, S. (2017) Organizing physics teacher professional education around productive habit development: A way to meet reform challenges. Physical Review, Physics Education Research, 13, 010107, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.13.010107.

    Etkina, E. and Planinsic, G. (2015) Defining and developing “Critical Thinking” through devising and testing multiple explanations of the same phenomenon.  The Physics Teacher, 53, 432-437. DOI: 10.1119/1.4931014.

    Etkina, E. (2015). Millikan award lecture: Students of physics—Listeners, observers, or collaborative participants in physics scientific practices? American Journal of Physics, 83(8), 669-679. DOI: 10.1119/1.4923432.

    Etkina, E. (2015). Using early teaching experiences and a professional community to prepare pre-service teachers for every-day classroom challenges, to create habits of student-centered instruction and to prevent attrition. In C. Sandifer and E. Brewe (Eds.), Recruiting and Educating Future Physics Teachers: Case Studies and Effective Practices (249-266). College Park, MD: American Physical Society.

  • Honors & Awards

    In 2016 and 2017 Rutgers Physics Teacher Preparation program produced the largest number of physics teachers out of all university-based programs in US. It has been a member of the 5+ Club of the Universities that produce more than 5 physics teachers a year (the club is established by by Physics Teacher Education Coalition; only a few US physics teacher preparation programs prepare more than 1 physics teacher per year)

    The College Physics textbook (by Etkina, Gentile, and Van Heuvelen) 1st edition became a 2016 Most Promising Textbook Award winner. The award is given by Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA).

    Elected Fellow of the AAPT.

    Millikan Medal, AAPT.

    NJ Teacher Educator of the year award.

    Distinguished service citation award, American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).

    GSE Alumni Association Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award.

    American Physical Society Outstanding Referees of 2010.

    AAAS SPORE – Science Prize for an On-Line Technology Resource – award for the Rutgers Physics Teaching Technology Resource http://paer.rutgers.edu/pt3  October 2010.

    Rutgers Physics Teacher Preparations Program is recognized as an exemplary site endorsed by the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC), October 2010.

    Rutgers University Warren I. Susman Award for excellence in teaching for the academic year 2009-2010.

    9th Annual G. Arfken Scholar in Residence, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

    GSE Alumni Association Outstanding Faculty Research Award.

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