Writing your own activities - PhET Activity Guidelines

Compiled by Sam McKagan, based on material from the PhET Team
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


You can create your own lectures, homework, and labs around any PhET simulation by using the PhET Activity Guidelines . These guidelines will help you create "guided inquiry activities which encourage students to construct their own understanding," which are the most effective way to use PhET simulations. Many of the activities in the PhET Activities Database can also serve as examples to help give you ideas. If you do write your own activities, you can also contribute them to the PhET Activities Database.

Learning Goals

You can create activities with a wide variety of goals, ranging from qualitative and quantitative content goals to higher order goals such as building models, designing experiments, and making inferences from observations. The PhET Activity Guidelines encourage instructors to define specific learning goals for all activities. For suggestions on how to write learning goals, see the Learning Goals resource site from the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative.

Context for Use

The PhET Activity Guidelines are general guidelines that apply in any context. Activities can be created to use PhET simulations in nearly any context, from large lectures to small group work.

Description and Teaching Materials

To create your own teaching materials with PhET, you can start from scratch, start with an activity you already use in your classroom and modify it to incorporate simulations, or start with an activity from the PhET Activities Database and modify it to fit your classroom situation or to use a different simulation.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The PhET Activity Guidelines give suggestions for how to teach with the PhET simulations in general. In addition, on the web page for each simulation, there is a section called "Tips for Teachers" which often contains a "teacher's guide" with detailed information about the features of that particular simulation.


The PhET Activity Guidelines have been assessed with research studies, including the interview studies listed below. For assessing your own activities, it is important that the assessment be aligned with the learning goals. For example, if the learning goals are qualitative or process-based, the assessment should not be solely quantitative or answer-based.

References and Resources

The PhET Activity Guidelines: http://phet.colorado.edu/en/for-teachers/activity-guide

These guidelines are based on research, including: