What is PER?
Physics education research is the study of student learning in physics and the teaching of physics. PER is a growing field in physics departments throughout the United States. There are many graduate departments across the country that grant physics PhD's with a specialization in physics education research.
Research consists of investigations into student learning and student understanding of physics.
There is a movement within PER that is now studying the "hidden curriculum" with physics courses. We often have goals for our students that go beyond simply memorizing or understanding content. We want them to become expert problem solvers, understand and value scientific method, and become independent thinkers. The problem is that we rarely address these goals explicitly.
American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and American Physical Society (APS) sponsor conferences and journals for physics education researchers.
Plus many other conferences & journals that include all of the sciences.
"The APS applauds and supports the acceptance in physics departments of research in physics education. Much of the work done in this field is very specific to the teaching of physics and deals with the unique needs and demands of particular physics courses and the appropriate use of technology in those courses. ... The APS recognizes that the success and usefulness of physics education research is greatly enhanced by its presence in the physics department."
-APS Statement on Research in Physics Education (May 1999)