Profile for Jennifer Docktor

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Jennifer Docktor

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

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Specialty area(s)

Physics Education

Brief biography

One of my primary roles at UWL is to advise and mentor future science teachers in the Secondary Teacher Education Preparation (STEP) program. I am part of a national effort called PhysTEC (the Physics Teacher Education Coalition) to recruit and retain physics teachers, and I also lead professional development seminars and workshops for current teachers.

My research in Physics Education focuses on cognitive science and problem solving. I use eye-tracking technology to study the way people view and interpret multiple representations in physics (such as diagrams, graphs, and equations.) This research will provide useful information for designing better instructional materials for teaching physics.

In teacher education I study strategies for recruiting and retaining high school physics teachers, implementing scientific explanations into courses for pre-service teachers, and administering professional development in physical science for in-service teachers at all levels (elementary school, middle school, and high school). Each of these are important pursuits because there is currently a critical shortage of physics teachers nationwide, and a high need for professional development in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) for pre-service and in-service teachers.


PhD in Physics, University of Minnesota, 2009
Subfield: Physics Education Research
Adviser: Dr. Kenneth Heller
Dissertation: Development and validation of a physics problem solving assessment rubric

MS in Physics, University of Minnesota, 2006
Subfield: Experimental High Energy Particle Physics

BS in Physics and Physics Education, North Dakota State University, 2004


Teaching history

The courses I teach most frequently are PHY106: Physical Science for Educators and BIO/CHM/PHY 452: The Learner and Learning in Science with classroom Field Experiences I and II. I also teach courses or laboratories in introductory physics such as PHY103 and 104 Fundamental Physics I and II or PHY203 and 204 General Physics I and II, and PHY472 Introduction to Particle Physics.

Professional history

Prior to starting at UW-L in 2011, I spent two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Cognitive Science at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

From 2019-present I am serving as chief editor for the American Physical Society's Forum on Education newsletter

Research and publishing

Selected publications:

Mestre, J.P. & Docktor, J. (2020). The Science of Learning Physics: Cognitive Strategies for Improving Instruction. World Scientific Publishing. Link

Docktor, J., Dornfeld, J., Frodermann, E., Hsu, L., Jackson, K.A., Mason, A., Ryan, Q.X., Yang, J., & Heller, K. (2016). Assessing student written problem solutions: A problem-solving rubric with application to introductory physics. Physical Review– Physics Education Research, 12 (010130). Article link

Docktor, J., Strand, N., Mestre, J., and Ross, B. (2015). Conceptual problem solving in high school physics. Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, 11 (020106). Article link

Docktor, J., and Sudhakaran, G. (2015). Building a thriving undergraduate physics teacher education program at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse: Recruitment and retention. In C. Sandifer and E. Brewe (Eds.), Recruiting and Educating Future Physics Teachers: Case Studies and Effective Practices. Physics Teacher Education Coalition, American Physical Society, and American Association of Physics Teachers. Book Information

Docktor, J., & Mestre, J. (2014). Synthesis of Discipline-based Education Research in Physics. Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, 10 (020119). Article Link

Ross, B., Mestre, J., Docktor, J. (2014) Understanding how to teach physics understanding in M. A. McDaniel, R.F. Frey, S.M. Fitzpatrick, & H.L. Roediger III (Eds.) Integrating cognitive science with innovative teaching in STEM disciplines (pp. 92-110). St. Louis: Washington University in St. Louis Libraries. Article Link

Docktor, J.L., Mestre, J.P., & Ross, B.H. (2012). Impact of a short intervention on novices’ problem categorization criteria. Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research, 8 (020102). Article Link



Heidi Masters, Educational Studies and Jennifer Docktor, Physics, co-authored the article "Preservice Teachers’ Abilities and Confidence with Constructing Scientific Explanations as Scaffolds are Faded in a Physics Course for Educators" in Journal of Science Teacher Education published on Jan. 10 by Taylor Francis. Dr. Heidi Masters and Dr. Jennifer Docktor advanced the field of teacher education with their recent publication related to scientific explanations. Dr. Masters and Dr. Docktor not only advanced the understanding of how to best prepare future science educators but also how to best use cross-departmental collaborations. Well done, Dr. Masters and Dr. Docktor!

Submitted on: Feb. 13, 2022



Jennifer Docktor, Physics, co-authored the book "The Science of Learning Physics: Cognitive Strategies for Improving Instruction" published on Dec. 1 by World Scientific.

Submitted on: Dec. 8, 2020