The real meaning of common teaching phrases

by Stephanie Chasteen on July 9, 2010

The APS (American Physics Society) recently published a bit of “humor” — the “real” meaning of common teaching phrases.

I was smiling along as I read jokes like:

Peer Instruction: What is happening when 5 workers are at a construction site and only 1 has a shovel.


inquiry-based activity :  What instructors have the students do when they didn’t have time to fully prepare their notes.

But as I kept reading, I started to feel offended.  Almost all the phrases that he was “translating” had to do with education-research-based techniques, and most were poking fun at the technique.  For example:

physics education research: Double-counting teaching as research on your annual faculty activity report.

A quick google of the guy (Carl Mungan) suggests that he’s an insider making jokes about his own topic, since his own publications seem to be in physics education research journals.  But I’m still not so keen on this “let’s make fun of physics education research (PER)” piece.  It seems dangerous.  Many of these jokes are indeed what people think of PER, and making fun of it could suggest that someone else lends creedence to those objections.  I think I wouldn’t be so annoyed if this list were more balanced between general teaching terms and PER terms, but it’s maybe 75% PER.

Guess I’m getting grumpy in my old age.


tudza July 9, 2010 at 7:37 am

The one-guy-working-one-guy-watching thing may seem like a waste, but it occurred to me after doing some heavy work or other that I’d be damned glad to have an able bodied guy handy to haul me out of a hole after I took out my own leg with a shovel. Never done any hard core weigh lifting, but it seems that’s what a spotter is for.

Fran July 9, 2010 at 10:51 am

When I read the title of this post I was thinking

“emergency lesson plan” = this video about lightning I taped on VHS from NOVA in the 1980’s

Pete Talbot July 9, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Don’t be grumpy; this was to be expected. Fight fire with fire (or in this case, Schopenhauer:

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Welcome to stage one.

sciencegeekgirl July 10, 2010 at 3:38 pm

A reader privately pointed out that though Dr. Mungan publishes in physics education, those publications are very topic-based (ie., the details of teaching intro physics rather than research on pedaogy). So, I think this humor column comes across as snarky perhaps not because he’s poking fun from the inside, but because he, indeed, doesn’t think highly of PER.

@PeteTalbot — we have plenty of violent opposition as well. So, I guess we’re making progress?

Derek July 21, 2010 at 1:24 am

I think your grumpiness is justified here. How’s this?

“Lecturing: What instructors do when they don’t care if their students learn.”

Too snarky? =)

sciencegeekgirl July 21, 2010 at 7:12 am

Too snarky? =)

I [heart] Derek Bruff. What a perfect response, encapsulating all that’s wrong with that “humor”. Why don’t I think of these things?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: