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REAL WORLD PROBLEMS (was "Re: References regarding extraneous information?")

Please excuse this cross-posting to discussion lists with archives at:

PhysLrnR <>;
Phys-L <>;
Biopi-L <>.
CHEMED-L: <> (employs LISTSERV software
but, inexplicably, does NOT utilize the LISTSERV archive system)

In her 5/31/01 PhysLrnR post "References regarding extraneous
information?" Melissa Dancy asked:

"Is anyone aware of any research into the effect of providing either
too much or too little information in a problem statement? I'm
wondering if working problems that are more realistic. . .(i.e., REAL
WORLD PROBLEMS). . . can lead to any measurable differences in
problem solving skills, reasoning ability, or attitudes/beliefs."

To which Paul Camp replied in a PhysLrnR post of 6/1/01 (his comments
at C, my responses at R):

C1. "There has been a great deal of research on just the types of problems
you. . . (Melissa Dancy). . . are talking about, and even entire
curricula designed around them, but YOU WON'T FIND IT MUCH IN THE
BEYOND, into cognitive science and general education research." (My

R1. Aside from looking BEYOND, it might also help to look WITHIN the
"traditional physics education research venues." Unfortunately,
PhysLrnR's (and others) are loath to spend time searching the
marvelous PhysLrnR archives at

Although, for reasons not too apparent, PhysLrnR is one of the few
discussion lists which denies, to non-subscribers, immediate access
to its archives, it takes only a few minutes for ANYONE - as far as I
know - to subscribe and then unsubscribe following the simple
instructions given at
<>/"Join or
leave the list (or change settings)."

To find information on "REAL WORLD PROBLEMS" try this: type into the:

A. "Subject" slot: "Problem" (49); "Problem Based" (4); "PBL" (6);
"context"(8) to obtain the hit numbers in parentheses "(....).

B. "Search for" slot: "real world" (21); "non standard" (11);
"extraneous" (15); [9 from the present thread initiated by Melissa
Dancy on 5/31/01.]

Similar searches could easily be made at the Phys-L, Physhare, and
Biopi-L (but NOT Chemed-L) archives.

C2. In a very real sense, this is what Problem Based Learning,
Project Based Learning, and their offshoots are all about, as well as
HAND, but some names you might want to look up are Howard Barrows,
Janet Kolodner, John Bransfield. . .(probably "Bransford"). . ., the
6 group (Joe Krajcik, Danny Edelson and Brian Reiser), Roger Shanck.
. .(probably Schank). . ., and somebody at McMaster University whose
name I just can't dredge up right now. (My CAPS.)

To obtain specific references type into the "Search for" slot: "Barrows"(4);
"Bransford"(7); Schank (6), "McMaster"(7) [where one immediately
learns that Camp's "somebody" is the famous PBL'er Don Woods].

As I have written before, with near zero effect, PhysLrnR, Phys-L,
Physhare, and Biopi-L (but not CHEMED-L) are fortunate enough to
employ the powerful LISTSERV search engines, but they are seldom used
by subscribers. As a result, the same old material is discussed over
and over again with little apparent impact on the minds of the

The Etzioni's(1997) extolled the virtues of "virtual communities,"
indicating that one of their strengths is "STRONG MEMORIES." But WHAT
words of Rochelle & Pea 1999 (see also Pea 1999): "move beyond forums
for exchanging tidbits and
opinions, to structures which rapidly capture knowledge-value and
foster rapid accumulation and growth of a community's capability . .
. tools to allow contributors to share partially completed resources,
and enable others to improve upon them"?

For examples of using the web to "capture knowledge-value" see Hake
(1999, 2000).

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

"What is it that allows us to build our knowledge of physics in a
cumulative way while in physics education we seem to be doomed to
everlasting cycles of pushing the Sisyphian rock up the hill only to
have it roll down again? Why do we never seem to be able to share and
pass down to succeeding generations what we learn about physics
education? Is there anything we can do to change this unhappy
situation or is it part of the fundamental character of education and
of human beings?"
Joe Redish, Millikan Lecture, 1998

Etzioni, A. & O. Etzioni. 1997. "Communities: Virtual vs. Real,"
editorial, Science 277, 29 (1997) and (as befits the theme) on-line
at <>: "Virtual on-line communities
complement and reinforce "real" off-line communities and have several
advantages over the latter, e.g.,
(a) easy communication over national borders and time zones;
(b) inclusion of homebound (aged, ill, or handicapped) people;
(c) accommodation of more individuals than off-line meeting rooms;
(e) high safety;
(f) allowance for exploration of new relationships and identities - as
documented by MIT's Sherry Turkle (1995) - and
(g) indifference to physical appearance and off-line identity.

Hake, R.R. 1999. "What Can We Learn from the Biologists About Research,
Development, and Change in Undergraduate Education?" AAPT Announcer
29(4), 99 (1999); available on the web at
<> as [WhatLearn.pdf, 1/31/2000,
204K]. The potential of the WWW as a mechanism for promoting
interdisciplinary synergy in education reform is emphasized. The
Appendix contains: (a) "Undergraduate Physics Education Needs
Revitalization," discussing both pedagogical and
political/institutional problems, (b) 81 references relevant to the

Hake, R.R. 2000. "Using the Web to Promote Interdisciplinary Synergy
in Undergraduate Education Reform," AAPT Announcer 30(4), 120 (2000).
Soon to be on the web at <>.

Pea, R. 1999. "New Media Communications Forums for Improving Education
Research and Practice," in E. Condliff Lagemann and L.S. Shulman
(eds.) "Issues In Education Research" (Jossey-Bass, 1999); online at

Roschelle, J & R. Pea. 1999. "Trajectories from Today's WWW to a
Powerful Educational Infrastructure," Educational Researcher,
June-July 1999, 22-25, 43: "tools for learning communities must move
beyond forums for exchanging tidbits and opinions, to structures
which rapidly capture knowledge-value and foster rapid accumulation
and growth of a community's capability . . . tools to allow
contributors to share partially completed resources, and enable
others to improve upon them. A related direction is 'knowledge
mining' - discovering efficient processes for quickly aggregating and
collating the knowledge of a community on a particular topic."

Turkle, S. 1995. "Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the
Internet" (Simon & Shuster, 1995). For more on Turkle's work see her
web page at