Prof. Beatty earned a Ph.D. in Physics Education Research in 2000, the first PER doctoral degree awarded by the University of Massachusetts Physics Department. He became a postdoctoral research associate and, in 2006, a research faculty member in the UMass Scientific Reasoning Research Institute. During this time he directed a large NSF-funded study that focused on how teachers learn to use clicker-based pedagogy. In 2009 he joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he co-founded the UNCG Physics Education Research Group.
Prof. Beatty’s primary expertise lies in clicker-based pedagogy and other techniques for engaging students in active learning, on which he has conducted or co-conducted over 30 talks and workshops. His research interests, however, are broader. One is envisioning and exploring new, provocatively different ways to teach that might align better with how humans naturally learn and function. A second is developing unified frameworks for characterizing and analyzing pedagogical approaches and learning environments. A third is developing increasingly precise, quantitative models for thinking, learning, and instruction. His current research is focused on understanding the deep principles and dynamics that computer games use to engage players and teach them complex skills and knowledge, and on finding creative ways to incorporate these principles and dynamics into classroom-based instruction.
Since 1992, Prof. Beatty has undertaken international outreach work in South Africa, Argentina, Cyprus, Uganda, Scotland, Singapore, Switzerland, and Chile. He has been a visiting lecturer at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina and the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. He likes travel, ethnic food, photography, wilderness sports, fitness, and finding new ways to think about things. Since December 2013, he and his wife have been conducting an experiment to answer the question, “What do you get when you cross a physicist with a violinist?” (Their hypothesis: a string theorist.)