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Taking the long term view in education (Was: Definition of Capacitance)

As no one else seems poised to say it, I mention that
setting experimental goals with long time-bases is exceptionally
unpopular these days. Tools are available to test for outcomes
10,15, 20 years later, and they are seen in clinical use.

Could it be that physicists are not used to picking results
out from under deep noise, or over long horizons?
I sometimes suspect that it would take a life science researcher
to motivate such an experiment on physics-teaching outcomes.

The only researchers that I have seen in science ed. that have been
consistently considering the long term effects are Shayer & Adey. There was
an article in TPT that showed that FCI scores do not decrease up to 3 years
after an IE course.

The easiest studies would be to assess the effect of introductory courses
several years later as the students will still be around. Similarly the
effects of using specific science curricula in the early grades could be
assessed in the 5th grade. This would be a good thing for the FOSS people
to do. Indeed, the science curricula in the elementary years could be
assessed all the way up to the end of HS because enough of the students will
still be available in a geographic area. This would be very feasible in
large school districts. Such an experiment would probably have the same
time frame as a typical high energy experiment, would cost far less, would
have some socially useful value, and might improve the number of students
interested in physics. This would also be a far better alternative to the
current mania for high stakes testing.

One problem that I see with the current science ed. research is that all too
often the researchers do not understand the material in enough depth so they
end up creating misconceptions. Physicists understand the material, so they
could couple this with the researchers and greater progress could be made.

Incidentally the long term view is seldom seen in most education studies.
Generally the goals are short term, and sometimes maximizing the short term
results does little for the long term. Anton Lawson as well as Shayer and
Adey have taken a longer term goal by stressing the importance of improving
student thinking over the short term maximization of content. Shayer &
Adey's work does nothing in the short term content area, but has a large
delayed effect on test scores across the curriculum. Lawson shows a large
increase in thinking ability, but has not to my knowledge looked at how this
effects later performance. Most PER studies do have the goal of improving
FCI or other test results, and this is slightly longer term than the typical
course because it is testing over the entire course. Laws et al have found
that when IE methods are used the test scores continue to rise for up to 2
weeks after the intervention. This is in complete contrast to the usual
curve where the test scores fall during the 2 weeks after a standard test.

Do you know what students actually retain from your courses?

John M. Clement
Houston, TX