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.

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