Prof. Thornton researches physics and general science education. His research objective is to train graduate physicists to be college and university professors. He has been active in teacher enhancement projects on the local, regional, and state level and developed a physical science course for K-8 teachers to train them as lead science teachers. This led to a statewide televised course for K-12 teachers emphasizing hands-on science, using kits developed by Prof. Thornton. Eight of these courses have been developed. Students have been instrumental in the development of the experiments and obtaining material. Prof. Thornton videotapes lectures and demonstrations that are shown at local sites throughout Virginia where local adjunct professors assist the teachers with the hands-on experiments. Research development in these courses will continue, and students desiring to specialize in physics education are sought.
Other areas of research currently under consideration include 1) development of distance learning courses, 2) changing the problem recitation sections of the large engineering and premed physics courses into a conceptual development session, and 3) emphasizing cooperative learning in the large lecture courses. These projects are possible M.S. and Ph.D. thesis projects.