I am interested in how people learn and solve problems in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. I work at the interface of science learning and cognitive science (e.g., visual cognition, reading comprehension, nature of expertise, transfer of learning). Using techniques common in cognitive science (e.g., eye-tracking, reading speed) but heretofore not used to study science learning, I am attempting to learn details about how both experts and novices store, retrieve and apply knowledge. Ongoing investigations include explorations of the role of misconceptions in comprehending scientific text, visual processing of diagrams in problems, and conceptual problem solving.

Key Professional Appointments

Professor, Educational Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005 - present

Professor, Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005 - present

Chair of Department, Educational Psychology, University of Illinois, 2011 - 2014

Associate Dean for Research, College of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2010 - 2011

Professor, Physics, University of Massachusetts, 1993 - 2005

Associate Dean, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, University of Massachusetts, 2003 - 2003

Visiting Staff Associate, LRDC, University of Pittsburgh, 1992 - 1993

Associate Professor, Physics, University of Massachusetts, 1987 - 1993

Visiting Assistant Professor, Physics, University of Massachusetts, 1981 - 1987


Ph.D., Physics, University of Massachusetts, 1979

B.S., Physics, University of Massachusetts, 1974

Awards, Honors, Associations

Fellow of the American Physical Society, Citation: “For ground-breaking applications of principles and methodologies from cognitive science to physics education research and for elucidating expert-novice performance differences in physics le, American Physical Society, 2010 - 2011

Fellow of American Physical Society, American Physical Society, 2010 - 2010

Recipient of the Chancellor's Medal for exemplary and extraordinary service, University of Massachusetts, Unknown, 2001 - 2001

Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, University of Massachusetts, Unknown, 2000 - 2001

Selected one of "125 Alumni to Watch," University of Massachusetts, Unknown, 1988 - 1988


Docktor, J., & Mestre, J. (2014). Synthesis of discipline-based education research in physics. Physical Review Special Topics--Physics Education Research, 10 (2), 58 pp.  link >

Nokes, T., & Mestre, J. (2013). Toward a model of transfer as sense-making. Educational Psychologist, 48 (3), 184-207.

Mestre, J., & Ross, B. (2011). The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol. 55: Cognition in Education. ( pp. 313 pages). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Feil, A., & Mestre, J. (2010). Change Blindness as a Means of Studying Expertise in Physics Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19 (#4), 480-505.

Smith, A., Mestre, J., & Ross, B. (2010). Eye-gaze patterns as students study worked-out examples in mechanics Physical Review-Special Topics: Physics Education Research, 6 (2), 9 pages.  link >

Stelzer, T., Brookes, D., Gladding, G., & Mestre, J. (2010). Impact of multimedia learning modules on an introductory course on electricity and magnetism. American Journal of Physics, 78 (7), 755-759.

diSessa, A., Mestre, J., Parnafes, O., Sherin, B., Thaden-Koch, T., & Wagner, J. (2006). Theory in pieces— the communal development of a theory. the International Conference of the Learning Sciences ( pp. 1078-1083). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Thaden-Koch, T., Dufresne, R., & Mestre, J. (2006). Coordination of knowledge in judging animated motion. Physical Review Special Topics Physial Education, 2 (020107).

Dufresne, R., Mestre, J., Thaden-Koch, T., Gerace, W., & Leonard, W. (2005). Knowledge representation and coordination in the transfer process. Transfer of learning from a modern multidisciplinary perspective ( pp. 155-215). Greenwich, CT: Information Age.

Etkina, E., Mestre, J., & O'Donnell, A. (2005). The impact of the cognitive revolution on science learning and teaching. The cognitive revolution in educational psychology ( pp. 119-164). Greenwich, CT: Information Age.

Mestre, J. (2005). Transfer of learning from a modern multidisciplinary perspective Greenwich, CT: Information Age.

Mestre, J., Thaden-Koch, T., Dufresne, R., & Gerace, W. (2004). The dependence of knowledge deployment on context among physics novices. the International School of Physics “Enrico Fermi”, Course CLVI, Research on Physics Education ( pp. 367-408). Amsterdam: IOS Press.

Dufresne, R., Mestre, J., Hart, D., & Rath, K. (2002). The effect of web-based homework on test performance in large enrollment introductory physics courses. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 21 (3), 229-251.

Mestre, J. (2002). Probing adults' conceptual understanding and transfer of learning via problem posing. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 23 9-50.

Mestre, J., & Cocking, R. (2000). Special issue on the science of learning. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21 (1).


Cognitive research: What it tells us about student learning and how it can inform teaching (2012).: Terre Haute, IN.

An eye tracking analysis of physics representations (2012).: Philadelphia, PA.

Discipline based education research (2012).: Philadelphia, PA.

Exploring representational fluency with eye tracking (2012).: Philadelphia, PA.

Using Change Blindness to Study Expertise in Physics (2012). Western Michigan University: Kalamazoo, MI.

Physics Learning and Classroom Practice: Clinical and Classroom-Based Studies of Physics Cognition (2012). Western Michigan University: Kalamazoo, MI.

A synthesis of discipline-based education research in physics. White paper commissioned by the National Research Council (147 pages). (2011).

Using learning research to transform the way we teach science (2006).: Boston.

Moving toward institutional change in teaching and learning: Obstacles & opportunities (2006).: Washington, DC.

Using cognitive research: Evolving insights for pedagogical innovation (2006).: Flagstaff, AZ.

Using learning research to transform the way we teach (2006).: Champaign, IL.

What do studies of physics learning look like? (2006). the Senior Thesis class in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Champaign, IL.

What do studies of physics learning look like? (2006).: Champaign, IL.

Using learning research to transform the way we teach (2006).: Champaign, IL.

Representation of diagrams in memory after short exposures (2006).: Syracuse, NY.

The application of coordination class theory to students’ judgments about animated motion (2006).: Bloomington, IN.

Misconceptions in science and math: Two views of what they really are and implications for teaching (2004). Georgia Tech University: Atlanta.

Using learning research to transform the way we teach science (2004).: Schenectady, NY.

Physics education research and its implications for improving instructional practices (2004). University of North Carolina: Chapel Hill.


Principal Investigator, Scaling cultures of collaboration: Evidence-based reform in portal STEM courses, National Science Foundation, 2014 - 2018

Principal Investigator, Using computer adaptive testing (CAT) to improve STEM learning, test performance, and retention, National Science Foundation, 2013 - 2018


Board member, National Experiment in Undergraduate Science Education (NEXUS), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), 2011 - 2014

Discipline Peer Review Committee, Fulbright Specialist Program in Physics Education Research, Physics Education Peer Review Committee, Fulbright Program, 2011 - 2013

Member of Committee on Education, American Physical Society, 2007 - 2010

Steering Committee, National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology, National Academy of Sciences, 2006 - 2010

Committee Member, Blue Ribbon Committee, Centers for Teaching & Learning Program, National Science Foundation, 2003 - 2006

Committee member, Committee on Assessing Technological Literacy, National Academy of Sciences, 2003 - 2006

Committee Member, Technical Advisory Committee, Graduate Record Examination, Educational Testing Service, 1999 - 2006

Profile Picture for José Mestre

Professor Emeritus, Educational Psychology



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1310 S. Sixth St.
Champaign, IL 61820

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