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Re: Back to Basics vs. Hands-On Instruction

In his Math-Learn message of 15 Feb 2004 titled "Re: Back to Basics
vs. Hands-On Instruction" Ze'ev Wurman (2004a) first quoted the 15
Feb 2004 9:40 pm Math-Learn post of <> [bracketed by
lines "PPPPPPPPPP......"]:

Okay, ignoring the pros or cons of either side of the argument, if
the textbooks are mandated to allow for a maximum of 20 to 25 percent
of hands-on material, how can one say that there was no intent to
mandate a maximum
amount of hands-on learning? What does it mean to "mandate to allow for a
maximum" if it does not mean intending "to mandate a maximum"?

Then Ze'ev wrote:

The textbooks are not "mandated to allow for a maximum" - they have *also*
to offer a way where the curriculum can be taught with no more than 20-25%
(overall) hands-on activities. They can offer additional hands-on
activities, they can offer a hands-on-only path, whatever. But if they want
to be adopted, they must *also* offer a path with no more than 25% overall

Although the above statement by Ze'ev is correct, it is grossly
misleading [as were earlier posts by Wurman (2004b) and Metzenberg
(2004)], because it fails to acknowledge that the practical effect of
the California Curriculum Commission's (CCC's) regressive "Criteria
For Evaluating K-8 Science Instructional Materials In Preparation for
the 2006 Adoption" [online as a 40kB pdf at
<>] will be to STIFLE use of
hands-on science instruction in California's K-8 classrooms - and
probably those of the entire U.S. - as has been forcefully pointed
out by Woolf (2004); Dykstra (2004); Hake (2004a,b,c); and Steinbok
(2004), with zero substantive counters by Wurman, Metzenberg, any
members of the CCC, or any of the Mathematically Correct crowd.

The CA Board of Education will meet to decide the fate of the ominous
'Criteria" at its 10-11 March 2004 meeting. To help block such
disastrous action subscribers might like to communicate with the
board by sending letters to:
State Board of Education
1430 N Street, Room 5111
Sacramento, CA 95814
According to the Board's Kathy Akana, there's no need to write to
individual Board members, since ALL letters sent to the above address
will be forwarded to ALL members of the Board with one-day service
every Thursday. Political activists tell me that letters are the most
effective way of communicating with busy bureaucrats, and that
emails, FAX's, and telephone calls are often ignored.

I wonder if Metzenberg, Wurman, any member of the CCC, or any of the
Mathematically Correct Crowd would deny that the "Criteria" are
written so as to favor direct instruction over hands- and minds-on
instruction? Consider, for example, these excerpts:

[To be considered suitable for adoption an instructional materials
submission must provide"]

Lines 105-109: A table of evidence in the teacher edition,
demonstrating that the California Science Standards can be
comprehensively taught from the submitted materials with hands-on
activities composing no more than 20 to 25 percent of science
instructional time (as specified in the California Science
Framework). Additional hands-on activities may be included, but must
not be essential for complete coverage of the California Science
Standards for the intended grade level(s), must be clearly marked as
optional, and must meet all other evaluation criteria.

Lines 156-157: A program organization that provides the option of
pre- teaching of the science content embedded in any hands-on

Lines 299-300: Suggestions for how to adapt each hands-on activity
provided to direct instruction methods of teaching.

To repeat Larry Woolf's (2004) unanswered query:

The real question is why such a limitation. . .[Lines 105-109 above].
. . is needed, especially if we want teachers to use the best methods
available to them to teach effectively. The only reason this
limitation is in the criteria is because someone . . . [most probably
Stan Metzenberg with his unbounded but unexplained admiration for
direct instruction - see e.g., Metzenberg (undated)]. . . . put this
limitation into the Science Framework, with no justification. The
real issue that needs to be addressed is "what is the scientific
basis for this limitation?" - an issue that no one who is for this
limitation will address. Or PERHAPS MR. WURMAN WILL CITE
But I suspect he will not.

Larry's suspicion has been borne out. Ze'ev Wurman has offered not a
shred of SCIENTIFIC evidence [Shavelson & Towne (2002)] for the
superiority of direct instruction in science. Wurman, Metzenberg,
CCC members <>, and the
Mathematically Correct Crowd appear to live in "private universe,"
blithely oblivious of the literature of cognitive science [see, e.g.
Bransford (2000)] and three decades of science-education research on
how people learn [see e.g., the references in Hake (2004c) to,
Karplus (1974, 1977, 1981); Shymansky et. al. (1983, 1990); Halloun &
Hestenes (1985a,b); McDermott & Redish (1999); Hake (1998a,b; 2002);
Lopez & Schultz (2001); FOSS (2001); Pelligrino et al.(2001); Fuller
(2002)]. As opposed to this mountain of SCIENTIFIC evidence favoring
hands- and minds-on instruction over direct instruction for
conceptually difficult areas of science, it appears that the best
that Wurman (2004a) can do is to quote a meaningless ANECDOTE from
the Palo Alto weekly [Metz (2004)].

I repeat the challenge in Hake (2004a):

"Woolf, Dykstra, I, and about 10^5 other scientists and educators,
some of them Nobelists, still await SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE [Shavelson &
Towne (2000)] that the direct instruction method so admired by
Metzenberg, the CCC, and the Mathematically Correct crowd is more
effective than minds- and hands-on instruction for promoting
students' knowledge and understanding of science."

BTW, it is instructive to compare the direct instructionists take
over of K-12 California mathematics instruction [see e.g. Ralston
(2003)] with their presently attempted dictation of K-8 California
science education.

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
24245 Hatteras Street, Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Becker, J. 2004. "Back to Basics vs. Hands-On Instruction," online at
<>. Post to
Math-Learn of 3 Feb 2004 10:34 am. Becker quotes the Washington Post
article by Strauss (2004) that was extensively quoted by Hake
(2004c). I would urge all
subscribers to access Strauss' ENTIRE article (complete with a photo
of kids being CONSTRUCTIVELY GUIDED TOWARDS (NOT left adrift to
"DISCOVER," as misinformed direct instructionists such as Wurman and
Metzenberg evidently imagine) techniques for growing crystals in a
fourth-grade science class in San Diego), by clicking on the URL
given in Strauss (2004).

Bransford, J.D., A.L. Brown, R.R. Cocking, eds. 1999. "How People
Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School." (Nat. Acad. Press),
<>, online in HTML at

Dykstra, D. 2004. "Re: The End of Hands-On Science Activities in
California's K-8 Classrooms?", AERA-K post of 30 Jan 2004
11:34:55-0700' online at

Hake, R.R. 2004a. "Re: The End of Misinformation About Hands-On
Science Activities in California [was The End of Hand-on Science
Activities . . . .]," online at
Post of 4 Feb 2004 20:10:55-0800 to AERA-K, AP-Physics, Biopi-L,
Chemed-L, Math-Learn, Math-Teach, Phys-L, PhysLrnR, & POD.

Hake, R.R. 2004b. "Re: The End of Hands-On Science Activities in
California's K-8 Classrooms?", online at
Post of 28 Jan 2004 13:40:14-0800 to AERA-K, AP-Physics, BIOPI-L.
CHEMED-L, Math-Learn Phys-L, PHYSLRNR, Physhare, POD, and PHYSOC.

Hake, R.R. 2004c. "Re: The End of Hands-On Science Activities in
California's K-8 Classrooms?," online at
<>. Post
of 5 Feb 2004 19:57:39-0800 to AERA-K, AP-Physics, Biopi-L, Chemed-L,
FYA-List, Math-Learn, Math-Teach, Phys-L, PhysLrnR, & Physhare.

Metz, R. "Up, up and away," Palo Alto Weekly 11 February; online at

Metzenberg, S. 2004. "The End of Misinformation About Hands-On
Science Activities in California," Math-Teach post of Feb 04
01:34:41-0500. online at

Mertzenberg, S. undated. "Reading: The Most Important Science Process
Skill," Antenna; <>.
Metzenberg writes: "It has become fashionable in science education to
mold K-12 students around an "idee fixe" [obsession] of a modern
scientist; formulating hypotheses, observing, measuring, and
discovering through hands-on investigations. What has been left
unsaid is that real scientists don't actually spend very much of
their day 'observing' and 'measuring.' They read! Reading for
understanding of content is the core process skill of science, and
there is no substitute for practice at an early age. . . . Hands-on
investigative activities ought to be sprinkled into a science program
like a 'spice'; they cannot substitute for a 'main dish'. THE BEST

Ralston, A. 2003. Review of Wilson (2003) in "Notices of the AMS,"
November; online as a pdf at
<> / "California
Dreaming--A Book Review," where "/" means "click on" or go directly
to <>. See also the
comments on Ralstons's review at
<>/ "Opinion" where
"/" means "click on," or go directly to
<>. My thanks to
Math-Teach's Domenico Rosa for these references.

Shavelson, R.J. & L. Towne, eds. 2002. "Scientific Research in
Education," National Academy Press; online at

Steinbok, V. 2004. "The End of Misinformation About Hands-On Science
Activities in California; online at
Post of 05 Feb 2004 00:15:55-0500; Steinbok evidently hit his reply
button :-( possibly thinking that this would insure distribution of
his post to those addressed by Hake (2004a). But as of 16 Feb 2004
12:00:00-0800 his post appeared only on the archives of Math-Teach
and PhysLrnR (courtesy of list manager Dewey Dykstra), probably
because Steinbok is not a subscriber TO most of the lists addressed
by Hake (2004a).

Strauss. V. 2004. "Back to Basics vs. Hands-On Instruction:
California Rethinks Science Labs." Washington Post, Tuesday, 3
February. page A12; online at
Click on "Message Boards" to see readers replies - some side with the
direct instructionists.

Wilson, S.M. 2003. "California Dreaming: Reforming Mathematics
Education," Yale University Press. Reviewed by Anthony Ralston (2003).

Woolf, L. 2004. "Re: The End of Hands-On Science Activities in
California's K-8 Classrooms?"; online at
Post of 28 Jan 2004 22:45:53-0800 to PhysLrnR, Phys-L, Physhare, & POD.

Wurman, Z. 2004a. "Re: Back to Basics vs. Hands-On Instruction,"
online at <>.
Post of Sun Feb 15, 2004 11:41 pm to Math-Learn. This thread was
initiated by Jerry Becker's (2004) Math-Learn post of 3 Feb 2004
10:34 am.

Wurman, Z. 2004b. "Re: The End of Hands-On Science Activities in
California's K-8 Classrooms?", online at
Wurman states that in replying to Hake (2004b), he hit his reply
button :-( possibly thinking that this would insure distribution of
his post to those addressed by Hake (2004b). But as of 16 Feb 2004
12:00:00-0800 his
post had not appeared on AP-Physics, Chemed-L, or Physoc,
presumably because he is not a subscriber to those lists.