Ronald K. Thornton


Professor of Education and Physics, Emeritus


Director, Center for Science and Math Teaching


Tufts University




Ronald K. Thornton holds a Ph.D. from Brown University in High Energy Physics. He is professor emeritus of Physics and Education and was Director of the Tufts Center for Science and Mathematics Teaching for almost 30 years. He has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Tecnica Ferico Santa Maria, Sydney, Rome, Naples, and Pavia. He has more than 17 major publications in experimental particle physics. With P. Laws and D. Sokoloff he leads the Activity-based Physics Group. He does research on student learning and has co-authored the RealTime Physics and the Tools for Scientific Thinking laboratory curricula and Interactive Lecture Demonstrations (ILDs).  He has led the development of the Tools for Scientific Thinking Microcomputer-based Laboratory (MBL) software and hardware, and the LoggerPro, Visualizer, and WebILD software packages.  He has developed with D. Sokoloff student and teacher conceptual understanding evaluations including the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE). These materials, developed with support from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education, F.I.P.S.E., are used extensively, in many countries, in universities, colleges and schools.


       He has led teaching workshops for physics professors, K-12 teachers, and teacher educators around the world and is an author of the Teacher Education Module.  Among his awards, Professor Thornton received the 2010 American Physics Society Award for Excellence in Physics Education (w P. Laws & D. Sokoloff), 1993 Dana award for Pioneering Achievement in Education with Priscilla Laws and the 1992 Smithsonian/ Computerworld Leadership in Education Award.  His work has won awards from Classroom Computer Learning, the EDUCOM/NCRIPTL award for the Best Physics Software and the Computer in Physics Award for Innovative Software. His work in energy (solar, energy efficiency, energy education) has won two state awards and the National Award for Energy Innovation from the US Department of Energy. He has twice been chair of the National Committee on Research in Physics Education of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and is a fellow of the AAPT.