Pedagogy in Action > Library > PhET Interactive Simulations

PhET Interactive Simulations

This material was originally developed through comPADRE
as part of its collaboration with the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Compiled by Sam McKagan*, based on material from the PhET Team

*American Association of Physics Teachers, McKagan Enterprises

What is PhET?

Masses and Springs
PhET is a suite of research-based interactive computer simulations for teaching and learning physics, chemistry, math, and other sciences. PhET simulations can be run online or downloaded for free from the PhET website. The simulations are animated, interactive, and game-like environments where students learn through exploration. They emphasize the connections between real-life phenomena and the underlying science, and help make the visual and conceptual models of expert scientists accessible to students. PhET simulations are primarily developed for and tested with university and high school students, but have been found to be educational and fun for students "from grade school to grad school."

find more information about teaching with PhET

Why Teach with PhET?

PhET simulations are based on research into how students learn in general, student understanding of specific science concepts, and user interface design. Each simulation goes through an iterative design process of student interviews to test usability and conceptual learning, and classroom testing. Research shows that effective use of PhET simulations can lead to improved conceptual learning over traditional lectures, demonstrations, and labs.

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How to Teach with PhET

PhET simulations are designed to be flexible and can be used with many different educational contexts and styles. They can be incorporated into lectures using ConcepTests, Interactive Lecture Demonstrations, or other forms of demonstrations. They can be incorporated into homework activities in which students interact with the simulations on their own and answer numerical, multiple-choice, or essay questions about what they discover. They can be incorporated into laboratories in which they supplement or even replace hands-on lab equipment. Research shows that PhET simulations work best when they are incorporated into guided-inquiry activities with minimal directions.

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Examples of Teaching with PhET

Find ready-to-use classroom activities about circuit construction, the photoelectric effect, and pendulums, as well as guidelines for using the PhET activities database and techniques for writing your own PhET activities.


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