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Re: [Phys-l] Another computer advance?

John, you have touched on a pet peeve of mine: the standard of rigor to sell (and I literally mean "sell") an idea as an in-service presentation is not on the same planet as the rigor it takes to convince science teachers that something is actually true. So in-service trainings are given by people who are making money selling their program, often filled with empty jargon and some completely untested (likely untestable) bold new innovation-du-jour. Lately, it's "Understanding by design" that is supposed to save the world...

-----Original Message-----
From: [mailto:phys-l-] On Behalf Of John Clement
Sent: Thursday, January 14, 2010 11:20 AM
To: 'Forum for Physics Educators'
Subject: Re: [Phys-l] Another computer advance?

A great number of people who initially got into the 'Physics Educational
Research' area seem to have had little or no formal training either--so
should we Score F for them. Having heard many presentations and read a
number of PER articles, I personally would score many hardly above F. ;-

But, the really big negative is that they do not show any results. It is
all advertising by testimonial. If they had some people with education
research credentials, then one might assume that they will eventually quote
some research results. This is typical of most things that are advertised
for education.

For products that you buy there are people who actually test them, and there
are specifications that can be looked up. There are independent testing
organizations such as Consumers Union. For medical treatments one can
actually find information about what test results showed if you look hard
enough. Good MDs will also be aware of the research, and use the findings.
But in education most folks tend to think because they are successful as an
engineer or researcher that they can just put together something that will
work well. If you ask them what sort of research they did not the
curriculum, they will usually give you a blank look, and they will usually
not even be aware of any of it.

The people who got into PER came in with research credentials and applied
research methods to the teaching they were doing. They also go out and read
the literature on the subject. But the folks on that specific web site
showed no evidence of any of these. I will agree that footnotes and
bibliographies can often be showmanship rather than evidence of research,
but nothing is nothing.

One gets this type of thing quite often in teachers inservices. People come
in and tell you about multiple intelligences, or learning styles and try to
convince you that they are valuable things to use. But the research on them
is generally negative.

I did say that it might work, but that the evidence on the website was zero.
The problem is that most things that sound logical in education do not work.
This happens in physics, where everyday logic simple does not work in
specific situations such as Newton's laws, QM, thermo... I have gotten very
tired of these people who appeal to "it stands to reason", and the great
advances in education which have no research behind them. If medicine
worked that way we would still be using leeches to cure cancer and insanity.

BTW which PER articles would rate an F? And what criteria were used to
judge this? I would say that most education articles are fairly low, but
the ones which are labeled PER are usually fairly high.

John M. Clement
Houston, TX

Forum for Physics Educators