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Re: [Phys-l] Reading Hestenes

I'd like to second the recommendation for Arons' book <A Guide to the Teaching of Introductory Physics>. Arons tells us, in the intro and Chapter 1, the words that we use that many entering college students simply do not understand. After reading this I began paying close attention to the students use and understanding of the words - by golly, the book was right on! I had just not put it together before.

I'll give one example, the word "ratio". I was aware that students were not doing well on an early problem where they were asked to find a ratio of two quantities. After reading Arons, I paid closer attention to what the students were doing wrong. They were calculating the difference of the two quantities, rather than the ratio.

I think that the positive lesson from investigations into physics teaching is that it is important to keep the students feeding back what they think they are learning. That feedback provides a continuing check on both the teacher and the student. But, hey, that's just what good communication is all about, isn't it?

On Tue, 5 Dec 2006, Savinainen Antti wrote:


Bob asked about Hestenes' papers and PER articles in general.
Well, here is my take but I must warn you that I'm a believer :-).
I think that Hestenes (and his co-workers) has done fundamental
work in PER so his papers might well be worth reading. If hard
pressed I'd recommend the following papers (they can be retrieved
from <>):

I. Halloun and D. Hestenes, The Initial Knowledge State of
College Physics Students, Am. J. Phys. 53, 1043-1055 (1985).

D. Hestenes, M. Wells, and G. Swackhamer, Force Concept Inventory, The Physics Teacher .

D. Hestenes and M. Wells, A Mechanics Baseline Test,
The Physics Teacher. 30: 159-165 (1992).

However, a general introduction to PER might be a good starting point. Here are a few books which I think are well suited for
this purpose:

Randall D. Knight (2004): Five Easy Lessons: Strategies for Successful Physics Teaching.

-- Perhaps the easiest choice for a newcomer

Edward F. Redish (2003): Teaching Physics with Physics Suite.
This book is available on-line in <>.

-- attached CD ROM is useful so if you like the book chapters
above it might be worth bying the real thing (it is not expensive
at all)

Eric Mazur (1997): Peer Instruction. This book can be retrieved
from <>

-- this is a classic; some people might find this quite
convincing :-)

Arnold B. Arons (1997): Teaching Introductory Physics.

-- this is worth reading for many times! Some info and opinions available in <>

Finally, I'd like to note that many if not all the above
mentioned authors have done real physics research as well as
physics teaching. Of course, they have done original PER work.
So these people are no "arm-chair theorists". It is also
worth remembering that the physics involved in the listed
sources is mostly introductory physics.

I hope this helps.



Antti Savinainen, Ph.D., B.Ed.
Senior Lecturer in Physics and Mathematics
Kuopio Lyseo High School
E-mail: <>
Website: <>

"Trust me. I have a lot of experience at this."
General Custer's unremembered message to his men,
just before leading them into the Little Big Horn Valley